Notes and images from a safety practice session on 6th November 2011
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Shout Man overboard!
Someone has to keep visual contact and point at all times in order not to lose track of the MOB.
Cox manoeuvres boat back to MOB, preferably head to wind so the boat does not drift away from him. If at sea the best way is a tight circle to get back to the MOB.
Cox advises crew which side (s)he is bringing the MOB alongside. They are careful not to hit the MOB with their oars.
Casualty is assessed for shock and cold, put into the reflective suit in the safety bag, and kept on the floor for shelter from the wind. Treatment for hypothermia and shock is now the main priority so the boat takes the casualty back ashore a.s.a.p. If necessary ring for an ambulance or car to meet the boat so no time is lost, maybe at a nearer RV than the boat’s base if that will save time.
If the casualty is very hypothermic and the boat is far from access then a 999 call to the Coastguard may be in order.
The sequence in film:
Today we filled the boat near the shore, by putting nearly all the crew as far to one side as possible. It took nearly all of them and the filling up was gradual.
When she was full John could still sit in her with only his legs in the water and she floated upright with about 4 inches of freeboard amidships,
and more fore and aft. She was unstable with so much water in her but sitting amidships he was able to bail her with a bucket to the point where others could get in and help.
I demonstrated that if I got in the stern while she was swamped, the stern went under.
But John on his own was able to recover her. In big waves it might have been more of a struggle to bail more out than was coming in over the low sides. If all the crew had tried to sit in her she probably would not have supported them. In an emergency situation they would have to remain outside the boat but hanging on, while one crew member bailed out the first quarter or so of the water. Then the rest could get in and help bail.
It is necessary to make sure that the oars and other equipment do not float off.
Swamping is only likely in surf, i.e. heavily breaking waves. The most likely place to find surf is close to a shore, launching or landing. Otherwise in big waves one stays away from shallow places where the waves are breaking. In big waves in deep water the boat is so well behaved as we already know, she hardly takes in any water. The cox needs to keep pumping out any loose water in the boat before it starts to slosh about and threaten stability.
If the boat fills when she is on a shore she needs to be moved out of the sea very quickly before the waves hitting her pound her to bits on the beach and destroy her. Swamped boats are very heavy and can’t be pulled up when full, so need to be tipped over towards the sea to shed some of the water. Bucketing is too slow in this situation. Then they can be pulled up a bit more and the tipping repeated.
Some movie footage which illustrates just what a slow process this is:
If a boat’s crew cannot manage to make progress against the wind or tide, they may get swept on to rocks or out to sea. This may be for a broken oar, a medical emergency or just from fatigue. The anchor will allow them to park the boat safely while they have a rest, deal with the emergency, have lunch or wait for rescue.
The boat goes head to wind and the front rower unhooks the anchor and lowers it into the water, by the chain first and then the rope. (S)he lets out enough to be at least 3 times the depth of water.
Letting all of the rope out is fine (check that the bitter end is made fast to the boat). The boat will drift downwind until the rope gets taut and the anchor bites.
Then she will lie head to wind and safely face the waves, riding up and down as the waves come. The motion will be bouncy
but the crew is safe. Looking out to one side of the boat and lining up two objects on the shore will allow the crew to decide if the anchor is holding or dragging.
If it is holding, the objects will stay in line but if they appear to be moving, re-anchoring will be necessary.
To raise the anchor the boat can be rowed towards the anchor by the two aft rowers, so that the anchor handler does not have to pull the boat against the wind with the strength of their arms. When the anchor is back in the boat all the rowers can get back to rowing.