Safety at Sea should become part of your sailing being. You must incorporate it in everything you do aboard. To sail safely, you need to have:
In the articles below we expose you to the thinking of many experienced skippers and sailors, and trust the viewpoints will increase your safety competence. Learn from our experiences; frequently, in safety at sea, There Is No Book to tell you a specific answer, but you can learn how others have thought through issues.
This page is an index with links to important articles and videos about safety. In part, it organizes thinking about safety by the type of sailing you do. But, as safety is a complex issue, we encourage you to work your way through all areas of this page. Because we come from cruising-racing backgrounds, this page may appear to be slanted toward offshore and coastal racer-cruiser sailboats … BUT there is valuable information here about thinking and acting safely that you can use aboard power cruisers, day sail boats and one-design racers.
For all sailors, regardless of what you sail or where.
Coastal Cruising, Typically Short-Handed: A cruise with a two-partner team, or perhaps with one or two others aboard. Sailing shorthanded means new and modified skills.
Multi-day or Offshore Passages, including Racing: The differences from coastal cruising and racing are significant. You must be more self-sufficient, as help may not be available for longer periods.
"Safety Moments": The Cruising Club of America conducts short discussions of a safety topic at all meetings, called “Safety Moments”. Handouts are frequently given out. Those handout are stored here, and are also scattered in the other sections of this website, as appropriate.
If you want to drill down in some of these area, here are detailed reports.
Courses Currently Available: Sign up for additional training at these locations.
Note: denotes newly published articles.
- Introduction to this site and how to use it A quick read to navigate your way through all the knowledge on this web page.
- Several articles are based on experience and also cover many aspects of Safety-at-Sea.
- The CCA Safety-at-Sea Committee compiled a summary of lessons from recent incidents into Ten Lessons Learned from Recent Disasters. This compilation is noteworthy because many members of the CCA Safety-at-Sea Committee have been on the review teams for the incidents in our sport. Interestingly, many of the ten lessons are really part of "Back to Basics" of Seamanship; it is important to renew our practices regularly. This significant paper is worth reading by every sailor.
- Talk about learning from experience! What about Abandon Ship from one who has had to do so twice! Mark Roye's article NO DRILL, Safety at Sea is No Accident takes you through his life at sea including abandon ship, fire-fighting, and a wonderful approach to cruising. His focus on hands-on training and regular practice makes this a must read for every skipper and crew.
- John Rousmaniere is kind enough to share his thinking about Seamanship and Safety, separately from his newly-revised book. Read A Seamanship Ethos by John to understand how sailing safely becomes part of the joy of sailing.
- Some Crew Overboard Topics:
- Crew Overboard – Prevention The best Man Overboard drill is the one that doesn't happen! There are many good habits you can use to keep your crew and yourself aboard the vessel.
- Crew Overboard – Recovery: One of the best instruction guides is the ISAF Offshore Special Regulations Appendix D.
- LifeSling Demonstration Video - A must for LifeSling owners, and you should own one
- LifeSling Owner’s Preparation Guide
- Man Overboard In the 1992 Newport-to-Bermuda race, a man fell overboard off E.Llwyd Ecclestone, Jr.'s KODIAK. It was night, just entering the Gulf Stream with the large, 160 genoa up. This amazing story shows the victory of practice using proven techniques - the Quick Stop and the Lifesling. Read this arresting story with fifteen key pointers!
- Overboard Victim Tips - If you are the one overboard, these are tips to help you be recovered safely
- MOB Devices - New electronic devices come to market to help recover a Crew Overboard. This article covers the current state of the art in MOB Devices
- Jacklines & Tethers - An extensive article about jacklines and tethers, covering all aspects of rigging, positioning and use.
- Lifejacket Recommendations for Sailboats
- Harnesses and Tethers for Sailboats Making sense of all those offerings.
- With a Caution when Fitting Safety Harnesses.
- Some Damage Control Topics:
- Water in The Boat - Prevention Some hints about how to prepare to avoid water in the boat! Prevention may stop you from sinking!
- Flooding: Planning for and Dealing with a Sinking Ship When the water comes in faster than your pumps can take it out... is not the time to guess what to do. This article shows you how and why to plan for a flooding situation.
- Fire In The Boat - Prevention Some planning and healthy habits to minimize the chances of this dreaded circumstance. Fire is hard to stop, so minimize your chances of having one.
- Steering Without a Rudder - Lost your rudder at sea? Michael Keyworth perfected a way to steer using drogues. To engineer this solution, he removed the rudder from his own boat(!), and experimented with different methods. He summarized his technique in this terrific article.
- And now see the Video of Steering Without a Rudder! Even if you read the article above, you will learn even more from this 12 minute video!
- Some Emergency Communications:
- Calling for Help: the DSC Distress Communications Form tells you how to use your radio to call for aid in an emergency.
- A Script to use for Mayday calls. All boats should have this (or a similar aid) next to their VHF radio.
- EPIRB Basics
- Sail Safe Topics:
- Preventers - Minimize risks from the boom in an accidental gybe. You should have a permanent Preventer System.
- Hypothermia – One of the best write-ups for sailors is found at the ISAF site, in the Offshore Special Regulations, Appendix E
- Sailboat Mast Safety - In your harbor or offshore, be safe going up the mast
- Safe Dinghy Checklist - Before you dinghy ashore again, read this and learn.
- Lifelines - Now you can have Lifelines of Dyneema® (also called Spectra®). A very complete review of these lifelines and their care and use is here.
Coastal Cruising, Typically Short-Handed: The normal in-season cruise is now a husband-wife (or other partner) team, maybe with one or two others aboard. Skills may range from strong to novice. Shorthanded and unskilled can be daunting. But typically coastal sailing means having help available, sometimes almost immediately but almost certainly within a few hours. Also, most trips are taken in daylight.
- A Short Checklist for Shorthanded Cruisers – A target checklist for safety. If both parties can do these 14 things, then you increase your safety significantly.
- Modifications CCA members heartily recommend to make your boat a good couple’s cruiser (a “perfect boat”)
- Coastal Weather Resources – There are many ways to get short and long-range forecasts in the US. Here are some of interest. (coming soon)
- Crew Overboard Recovery - Modifications to be made for shorthanded sailing
- Dangerous Squalls and Squall Lines are significant hazard, even when costal cruising. An experienced skipper shares his thinking about how short-handed cruisers should prepare for, and handle, these dangerous winds.
- Fleet Surgeon’s Memorandum for Offshore Passages provides a set of recommendations for medical issues for sailors venturing offshore.
- Seasickness is a serious issue offshore. During the 2012 Bermuda Race and return, seasickness required two rescues at sea, including one abandon ship. Read this article!
- To handle Seasickness, every crewmember should read and go over the checklist in: A List of Key Issues You Need to Address with regard to Seasickness.
- Which Inflatable PFD Should I Buy?
- Notes for a Delivery Crew - The boat may be prepared, but is the crew? Any skipper or crew going for an offshore passage or delivering a boat after an offshore race should read these Notes for a Delivery Crew before stepping aboard.
- Checklist for Delivery after a Major Ocean Race - Read (and use) this note alongside the article above and you have a complete plan to re-prep the yacht and crew for a safe delivery home.
- Abandoning Ship to your Life Raft takes pre-thinking; here a very experienced skipper shares his planning and organization.
- In the Water. A pithy note for US sailors citing critical lessons learned for crewmembers who may end up in the water, culled from the Rambler 100 incident report.
- Disaster Averted - This story deals with an almost-dismasting on Lora Ann's return from Bermuda after the race in 2012, including damage control, transferring fuel from yacht to yacht, and the value of preparedness and an experienced crew.
- A Rescue Executed Perfectly - John Jourdane watched the rescue of 14 crew from a sinking boat in the 2008 Sydney Hobart Race, in six foot seas and 25 to 30 knots of wind. Lots of good lessons in this note.
- Survival Sailing - At some point conditions cause us to go from cruising or racing to Survival Sailing. In that situation you need to understand the thinking in this very complete article about the best ways to handle survival condition.
- The US Coast Guard (bless 'em) has issued an "Alert" about preparation for boats going offshore. Read "Offshore Sailing: You Must Be Prepared" here.
- Offshore Tool Kit
- Offshore Rigging Equipment
- Helicopter Pickup - No one wants to be in this circumstance, but the Coast Guard shows how it is done.
- Helicopter Pickup: Rescues off “HMS Bounty”
- Laser Flares, are they useful in rescue situations? The CCA communicated with the US Coast Guard and found there were better choices. Read the report here.
Safety Moments: A CCA Safety Moment is a prepared 3-5 minute (max) presentation or demonstration given to members and guests at meetings and other gatherings of the Cruising Club of America with the purpose of maintaining a culture of safety and good seamanship aboard their yachts. Topics are chosen by Safety Officers in each of 13 local Stations and Posts and focus on the type of in-shore and near shore cruising (sail and power) that the audience does. The CCA Safety at Sea Committee acts as a source for topic suggestions and a clearing house for ideas and subjects while maintaining a Resource Library of Safety Moments. For additional information contact email@example.com.
- Skills List for Short-handed Crew - If both crew can perform these boat functions, your safety level will increase.
- List of Improvements for Short-handed Boats - If your cruising boat has these improvements, then sailing with just one or two more will be safer.
- Lifejacket Recommendations for Sailboats
- Harnesses and Tethers for Sailboats
- With a Caution when Fitting Safety Harnesses
- Sailboat Mast Safety. In your harbor or offshore, be safe going up the mast.
- Safe Dinghy Checklist. Before you dinghy ashore again, read this and learn.
- Special Equipment Requirements. Published by US Sailing in 2015 are not only key for racers, but provide a great asset when fitting out a cruising boat.
- Overboard Recovery Symposium- In-depth analysis of Crew Overboard Recovery Symposium on San Francisco Bay in 2005, using Monohulls, Multihulls and Power Boats, and using different techniques for returning and recovering crew. A must-read for skippers and captains.
- Special Topic: DSC from Many Aspects.
Designed for training during the 2013 CCA Cruise in Maine, these four pieces comprise a look at the installation and use of DSC capabilities.
- The Bonnell Cove Foundation: The CCA's arm to promote research and education for Safety-at-Sea and Environmental Protection.
- CCA Member Stan Honey Recounts the 2006 Volvo Ocean Race. This includes in-depth analysis of MOB recovery on ABN AMRO Two’s MOB incident, and comment on wearing harnesses, as well as some great information about the race. Also see Commentary by Fleet Surgeon E. Fischer.
- Three articles listing issues encountered during the offshore Newport to Bermuda Race. Learn from the reports of breakage and medical issues other had.
- US Sailing and other organizations write up lenghtly reports of serious incidents. Read these when you have the time, but you will learn a lot.
- Investigation of Serious Incidents (Chicago-Mackinac Race)
- Investigation of Serious Incidents (Rambler 100 Fastnet Race)
- Investigation of Serious Incidents (Farallones Islands Race)
- Investigation of Serious Incidents (Ensenada Race)
- Investigation of Serious Incidents (2013 Islands Race)
- Dinghy Entrapment, with recommendations to improve safety
If you want to give your own, try Suddenly Alone A course designed for couples cruising together. This is a "DYI" kit so you can give your own course at your local club or organization.