Whether you have experienced sailors on your crew or people who’ve never been on a yacht in their lives, there are certain things that need to be highlighted to them. We asked our skipper, Petr Bartos, what 7 things he considered most important.
1) The treacherous boom
The boom is one of the most essential, but most dangerous things on a boat. It is vital to warn the crew that the boom can slam across at tremendous speed, especially in an accidental gybe, and anyone in its way could get hurt. Particularly on smaller or sport boats, the boom is very low and if you’re not paying attention, you can easily get struck in the head. The same applies for the mainsail rigging and sheets, which can easily scrape you when they fly through the air with the boom.
A fun but cautionary example:
2) Gas must not escape
On almost every boat, gas is used for cooking, which means the presence of gas cylinders. From the start, teach the crew to switch off the gas supply, unless they are cooking after which they should it off as soon as they’ve finished. It is best to completely turn off the gas supply to the boat, which usually can be done in the cockpit directly on the cylinder itself. As a captain always check the gas is really off before going to bed. Leaving the gas on is a dangerous mistake that, at best, can cause poisoning, and at worst ... you probably can guess.
3) Life-saving devices
Safety is paramount, so it is essential to familiarize the crew with safe movement on board, from appropriate footwear to life jackets and harnesses. or the MOB manoeuvre, which we highly-recommend practising.
4) Hidden fire extinguishers
Sometimes not all crew know where to find fire extinguishers and face masks. Every second is critical in an emergency so it is essential to show all members of the crew where to find them, especially as they are often out of sight.
5) The toilet is different
For some, this may be a more private topic, but it is surprisingly important. The toilet on a boat is usually flushed differently than the one at home, and it is recommended to never to put anything of “unnatural” origin down it, not even toilet paper. Nobody wants to clean a clogged toilet, neither the captain, nor the crew, nor the charter company.
"A clogged toilet is one of the most common causes of losing your deposit on a rented boat," says base manager of the charter company Sailing Europe Charter.
6) Pulling on the lines
Novice sailors often have a tendency to wrap the line around their hand when they have to pull on it. They don't realise that not only can the line chafe or burn, but more importantly, the line can pull back on them causing injury, and in the worst case, dragging them into the water. We also recommend everyone wear gloves when sailing, if they don't have sailing gloves, at least work or cycling gloves.
7) Handles, winches, stoppers
Show everyone at the start of the voyage, what a winch handle is, how much it costs and how readily it falls into the water. Make it a policy on the boat that the handle is not left in the winch or lying around, but always returned to its designated place after use. Also demonstrate how to wrap the line around the drum, how it is led over the stripper arm and how the stopper works. Observe the principle that the line must be on the winch before the stopper is used.
Although we've listed the seven most important things, there are obviously more. Another essential is communicating in a clear succinct way. On board, the command "someone slacken the line" is often thrown around. As captain you must set a rule for addressing people by name and the specific task. This is especially true during regattas or in bad conditions, when a vague or poorly-understood command can cause chaos, leading to an accident. In any manoeuvre or turn it is also a good idea to explain what is expected of whom, who will have what role and how the manoeuvre will be carried out. Everyone on the crew should know in advance what is going to happen.
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