Plan ahead

A head in the sand attitude to potential disaster doesn’t work on a boat. You need to plan ahead. Think: What’s the worst that could happen?

What if you lose the mast? You may have to cut the rigging and you’ll find this takes some doing with stainless wire – check that your cable cutters are man enough for the job. On all but the smallest wire sizes you’ll need ratchet, or even hydraulic, cutters.

Do you have a spare vhf antenna? If so, can you rig it efficiently? A pushpit mounted vhf antenna, perhaps for AIS with a patch lead to switch from AIS engine to radio, is a simple way of providing redundancy for the masthead antenna.

What if you get knocked down? Will your batteries, floorboards, cooker and other heavy items become lethal weapons? Will lockers spring open and scatter their contents everywhere? Spend a few minutes looking around your saloon imagining what would happen if you were inverted. Lying on the cabin sole helps with this process.

Losing the engine isn’t usually a problem on a sailboat, except when you’re relying on it to get into your berth or through a cut in a reef. I once picked up a piece of nylon net around the prop as I was negotiating the entrance passage through the reef at Rum Cay, Bahamas. Fortunately we had the main up and it gave enough drive to get us through into safe water. Without it we couldn’t have carried far enough and might have been swept onto the reef. In confined quarters have a contingency plan in mind – where would you bale out to; could you execute a U-turn to get some way off; which is the least expensive looking boat to hit?

When there’s the risk of running aground have a plan in mind. If you intend to throw the engine into reverse and you’re towing the dinghy make sure the painter can’t reach the prop. Warn crew that there might be a jolt – a man in the water is the last thing you need when you’re trying to cope with a grounding.

Plan ahead, that’s the seamanlike way.