TORPOINT MOSQUITO SAILING CLUB
Safety Boat Operating Manual
Roger J Holman Summer 2004
Safety Boat Operating Manual
Roger J Holman Summer 2004
Before going to sea all Cox’ns and Crew should be in possession of RYA Powerboat 1 and Powerboat 2 qualifications.
Operating a Safety Boat may be exciting, it may also be boring and cold and wet.
Crews should be aware of the above possibilities and dress accordingly; a persons performance will decrease rapidly as he or she gets cold and wet, diminishing the amount of care and diligence they are able to provide for those for whom they are providing Safety Cover. Crew members should wear warm clothing with waterproof suit or overalls over, sailing Wellington boots or deck shoes (non-slip soles) and a hat, probably with a peak. A towel or scarf is very useful in wet or heavy weather to prevent water running down the neck. Crewmembers who wear spectacles should consider a retaining cord to prevent their loss, all crew members should consider the advisability of sun glasses, these are very useful against glare in bright conditions, they can also keep a proportion of salt water out of the eyes in heavy weather
DEALING WITH EMERGENCIES.
In dealing with any emergency Cox’n and crew go through a three stage process, these stages are;
1. Assess the situation as a crew.
2. Plan your response.
3. React; put your plan into practice.
Remember; every sound plan has an escape route.
Your activities as a Safety Boat crew member or Cox’n will inevitably bring you into contact with emergencies involving small boats, board sailors, and, typically, sailing dinghies. Never forget that your primary responsibilities are as follows;
1. The safety of your own craft and crew.
2. The safety of people in difficulty.
3. The safety of the craft in difficulty.
IN THAT ORDER.
Remember; when on duty as Safety Boat Crew, it is entirely possible that one member of the crew may be required to go into the water to assist a casualty. All crews should be prepared to go into the water to assist and therefore be dressed accordingly. All crewmembers WILL wear a correctly fitted and functioning Lifejacket.
BEFORE GOING TO SEA .
Before commencing their duty all Safety Boat crews should liase with Race Control and obtain details of the course(s) to be used, weather forecast, numbers of boats expected to race, and any other relevant information.
Before proceeding to sea Safety Boat Crews are required to carry out the following checks on Safety Boat and associated equipment;
1. Outboard Motor: visual check of exterior of engine, control cables, securing bolts.
2. Fuel Tank: visual check of fuel level.
3. Fuel Type: some engines run on fuel/oil mixture, some require unmixed fuel. Has the boat got the correct fuel tank and fuel type.
4. Fuel Water Separator (if fitted): Check for water in bowl, if water is present, drain off by means of the bleed screw until neat fuel flows.
5. Fuel Lines: connected correctly.
6. Unlock seats and lockers as appropriate, and check contents.
7. Equipment: check availability of; lines, fenders, anchor and warp, baler, fire extinguisher, engine spares and tool kit, pump (if applicable), compass, flares, torch, whistle, IC Flag ‘R’ charts (if applicable), first aid kit, VHF radio, engine kill-cord.
8. Equipment: check operation of VHF radio, navigation lights (if applicable)
9. Check inflation of tubes, pump up as necessary. (RIB’s only)
Most engines on Safety Boats are Outboards.
All engines, especially outboards, tend to have idiosyncrasies, peculiar to themselves, it is as well to acquaint yourself with the characteristics of each engine prior to attempting start-up.
1. Release tilt lock, lower engine either manually or using power tilt if fitted.
2. Check fuel, controls etc. (see above)
3. Fit engine kill-cord to appropriate kill switch.
4. Pump up fuel line to ensure carburettor is full using bulb on fuel line.
5. If a manual choke is fitted, pull out the choke button. If an automatic choke is fitted, ignore.
6. Check that the gear control is in neutral. Most outboards have ‘start in gear protection’ which will not allow the engine to start unless the gearshift is in neutral, but not all.
7. Open the throttle control; either use the static throttle control if fitted, or operate the gearchange disconnect mechanism on the control box and move the throttle to approx. half throttle.
8. Either operate the electric start (key switch) if fitted, or if a pull start is fitted, pull the starter cord two or three times. Do not snatch a pull cord, take up any slack in the mechanism before attempting to start the engine with a short sharp pull.
9. If an electric start engine does not start at once, wait a minute or so before trying again. If a manual start engine does not start after two or three attempts at pull starting, return the choke to the ‘run’ position and try again, the engine should fire.
10. If an engine fails to start, DO NOT start to dismantle the engine, the probability is that the spark plugs have flooded with fuel. A few minutes wait for the fuel to evaporate will probably cure the problem, if it does not, advise Race Control and request assistance.
11. Before getting underway, make sure that the engine kill cord is attached to the Cox’n. It must remain so AT ALL TIMES.
12. If an engine is equipped with electric start, the ignition key MUST be separated from the kill cord, so that, in the event of the Helmsman going overboard, the remaining crew are still able to drive the boat in order to recover the helmsman.
Remember; your boat is driven by a high speed circular saw!
Ultimately, responsibility for the management of any race rests with the Principle Race Officer (PRO) or the Officer of the Day (OOD).
The responsibility for the boat and crew remains with the Cox’n at all times.
The PRO or OOD will normally monitor all radio communications between safety boats and will therefore be aware of all situations as they develop. A diligent PRO or OOD will also consult with the Safety Boat Coxn’s by radio from time to time as to course conditions and other matters which have an effect on the management of a race.
It is the duty of Safety Boat Cox’ns to inform the PRO or OOD promptly of any issue affecting safety.
It is the duty of the PRO or OOD to request further assistance either from other Safety Boats or from outside agencies if he/she thinks fit.
It is entirely possible that a Safety Boat Cox’n will have to adopt a pro-active role in a developing situation and declare a vessel a ‘casualty.’ Some dinghy crews, especially the young or inexperienced, will not appreciate that they are out of their depth, and it may fall to the Safety Boat Cox’n to take charge of a developing situation in order that a more serious emergency does not occur.
During an incident involving a Safety Boat and a casualty, command of both vessels is vested in the Safety Boat Cox’n. Casualty helm and crew will comply with instructions of the Safety Boat Cox’n.
Command of the casualty will not revert to the helm and crew until the Safety Boat Cox’n is satisfied that the incident is completed and no further danger exists.
OPERATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS AND SAFETY.
A waterproof radio should be carried at all times when afloat and radio checks should be completed before putting to sea.
Once launched, and with radio checks completed, Race Control will normally communicate regularly with all Safety Boats. Failure to raise Race Control, or another Safety Boat, either on installed radio or on portable radio for more than 5 minutes will necessitate the Safety Boat to return to base to contact Race Control in person and obtain a replacement radio. If more than one Safety Boat is operating crews should make every effort to communicate with their opposite numbers at frequent intervals, this will not only ensure that communications are maintained, but also that all boats are continually briefing each other as to events on the water.
Overall responsibility for command and safety rests with the Cox’n but this in no way precludes the Crew from safety responsibilities. TMSC has a policy of co-operative safety that makes all crewmen responsible as lookouts, informing the Cox’n of approaching craft and other dangers long before they become imminent. It is the duty of the Cox’n to brief the crew before putting to sea, on the nature of their task and the areas to be covered paying particular attention to local knowledge of the area and the local danger spots.
Once launched, the Cox’n will instruct the crew as to what is to be stowed, where, and how, ensuring that all crew are fully briefed with regard to all equipment carried on board, and how to deploy that equipment if required urgently.
Crew weight should be distributed evenly. If seating exists for all crewmembers, then all crew must be in the seating provided. If seating is not provided for all crew then crewmembers will sit as directed by the Cox’n in such a way as to ensure safe and comfortable operation of the boat, sitting ‘sidesaddle’ in heavy seas may cause spinal injuries. Toe straps, if provided, should be used at all times, and thumbs should not be held under handholds as dislocation may be caused in heavy weather.
IF CREW IS SAT ON THE SIDES OF A BOAT the Cox’n will treat all manoeuvres with extreme care and caution; transits will be kept to slow planning speeds and NO high-speed manoeuvres undertaken.
Communications between Cox’n and Crew at high speed are difficult due to wind and engine noise so speed should be adjusted to make communications as easy as possible.
During Training and operations, crews are entitled to operate VHF Radio ‘under supervision.’ This supervision is normally provided by PRO or OOD who will carry a VHF Operating Licence. However, all crews should regard it as a necessary part of their personal development and training to obtain a VHF Operators Licence.
Safety Boats use VHF Radio to communicate with each other and with the shore base station. VHF Radios operate on a number of channels, two of which are of immediate interest to Safety Boat Crew:
1. Channel 16: International Calling and Distress Channel; this channel need
only be used in a realtime emergency to call HM Coastguard if
communications with Race Control fail.
2. Channel 37A: Also known as Channel M; this is the normal working
channel for most Safety Boat operations unless another
(normally private) channel is specified.
Most VHF radios are able to transmit at two power levels;
1. Low Power: 1Watt; normally enough for routine operations close to home, with a range of about three miles.
2. High Power: 25Watt; used if Low Power is inadequate or for realtime emergency use when communications with HM Coastguard may be necessary.
There are a few basic rules which MUST be observed:
1. Always listen before you call; if there is other radio traffic it is quite
possible that your transmission might blank out an important message.
Always wait for a break in transmissions before transmitting.
2. You must not transmit false or deceptive distress, safety, or identification
signals or transmit without identification and you must use your vessels
name or callsign.
3. You must not make unnecessary transmissions nor transmissions of
a profane, indecent or obscene nature.
4. You must not divulge the contents or existence of correspondence
transmitted, received or intercepted. The airwaves are private.
The need for clear speech on a radio transmission should be obvious. Before you speak, have an idea of what you are going to say, and how to say it. Keep the microphone a short distance from your mouth and speak slowly at normal conversation level.
Remember to press the ‘Press to Transmit’ switch BEFORE saying your first words, if you do not, the first syllables of your transmission will be lost, this will probably be the identity of the station you are calling.
As the calling station;
1. Always call the station to which you wish to speak:
“Mosquito Control this is Searider, over’’
(This call advises Mosquito Control that you wish to speak to them and the expression ‘over’ invites a reply.)
“Searider this is Mosquito Control, over’’
(This reply establishes communications between the two stations, both know that they can hear each other, and other users will be alerted to the fact that radio traffic is about to take place.)
2. Pass your message:
“Mosquito Control this is Searider, can you confirm the number of boats competing in this race please, over.’’
3. Listen for the reply:
“Searider this is Mosquito Control confirm 21 boats
competing in this evenings race, over’’
(The expression ‘over’ invites confirmation that the message has been
4. Confirm receipt:
“Mosquito Control this is Searider, understand 21 boats
competing, thank you, out.’’
(The expression ‘out’ advises the caller that no reply is necessary or
expected and terminates the transmission.)
If at the initial attempt to establish communications, a station does not answer when called, callsigns may be repeated up to three times to attract the attention of the called party:
“Mosquito Control, Mosquito Control, Mosquito Control, this is
Searider, Searider, Searider, over.’’
Once communications have been established, revert to the shortest possible callsigns, try to keep all transmissions as short and to the point as possible. Once you have finished speaking, make sure your finger is removed from the ‘press to transmit’ switch, if it is not all other transmissions are liable to be blanked out.
If after calling, a called station does not answer for whatever reason, the calling station transmits an end of transmission message:
“Mosquito Control, this is Searider, nothing heard, out.”
This message signifies, by using the expression ‘out,’ that the transmission is terminated, and frees the airwaves for other users.
Under normal circumstances there will be no requirement for Safety Boat crews to summon outside assistance from either HM Coastguard, Lifeboat or Ambulance, this task can be better performed by Race Control once alerted of the need by the Safety Boat crew.
If it is ever necessary for a Safety Boat crew to call for outside assistance there is an Internationally recognised format for distress messages.
The preface to a message “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday’’, which MUST, legally, be transmitted on Channel 16, indicates to all listeners that a vessel, aircraft or person is threatened by serious and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. On hearing a ‘Mayday’ call all routine traffic will cease to enable the emergency to have free access.
Preface “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.”
The calling (Distressed) station must:
a. Identify itself. “This is Searider, Searider, Searider”
b. Confirm Status. “ Mayday, this is Searider”
c. State Location. “ In Plymouth Sound, between Queens
Ground Bouy and Picklecombe Fort”
d. State the nature of the difficulty.
“Providing safety cover for dinghy race
have disabled dinghy in tow and
injured crew on board, suspect fractured
skull, have lost engine power, being
driven quickly onto a lee shore’’
e. State the assistance required.
A call of this nature will probably result in a reply from HM Coastguard who will assume control of the incident and will instruct all other traffic to stop pending the satisfactory completion of the incident. HM Coastguard will co-ordinate rescue operations.
Incidents which do not warrant such a degree of urgency may be prefaced with the call ‘Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan.’ Such a call indicates to all who hear it that a very urgent message is to be transmitted which concerns the safety of a vessel, aircraft or person.
All vessels hearing a ‘MAYDAY,’ or ‘PAN, PAN’ transmission are obliged, by Law, to respond if within range. Such a transmission may result in many, even very large, vessels diverting to assist.
A call containing the prefixes ‘Mayday,’ or ‘Pan Pan’ should never be made unless the circumstances warrant the action which will result from such a call.
The purpose of a Safety Boat is to provide Safety cover for vessels involved in racing or other water borne activities. A Safety Boat is required to be in a position where it can reach a casualty within two minutes, Safety Boat Cox’ns need to position their boats to achieve this objective.
Whilst attending a casualty it will clearly be necessary to operate within the racing area, however, whilst observing, and after rendering assistance, the interests of all will best be served if the Safety Boat stands a considerable distance off from the fleet. From a distance the angle of observation will be decreased and a greater number of boats can be observed at any one time.
Crews should be aware that it is impossible to observe anything directly into the sun. Cox’ns should position their boats so that the sun is behind them. This is particularly important when the sun is low, i.e. early morning or late evening.
Cox’ns and Crews should be aware of the objectives of small boat sailors and the effects that the close operations of Safety Boats may have.
Safety Boats cause a wash at speed which may upset the sometimes delicate balance of a small sailing dinghy. This is particularly important when operating with young or inexperienced sailors, or with some high performance dinghies with trapezes and asymmetric headsails.
In general, unless involved in assistance to a casualty, stay as far away from sailing dinghies as is practical.