What every sailor should know how to do

Published on May 31st, 2018

Don’t head out to sea without knowing what to do when emergencies—both small and large—arise. To achieve this goal, Sailing Magazine details six things every sailor should know how to do.

1. How your life jacket works
Inflatable life jackets are the most common choice for offshore sailors, but because there’s a bit more to them than a traditional foam life jacket, it’s important to know how they work and how to maintain them. Details.

2. How to fire a flare
The most important part of firing a flare is to know when to do it. You want to maximize the chances of it being seen, so wait until you see a boat or plane before firing. Details.

3. How to reef a mainsail
When it comes to reefing, the rule is to do it before you need to. It’s a good plan because reefing becomes infinitely more complicated if the boat is heeled way over and the wind is whistling so loudly you can’t hear your crewmates. The process of reefing, however, is the same no matter when you do it. Details.

4. How to rescue a man overboard
Most sailors have read and practiced man overboard procedures dozens of times but guidelines for retrieving a person from the water always bear repeating. The following procedure is taught to thousands of new and experiences sailors through American Sailing Association schools every year. It is also outlined in many ASA manuals that may be purchased outside of its courses. Details.

5. What to do if you fall overboard
In this most serious of personal safety situations, it goes without saying that you must do everything possible to avoid falling overboard. Nothing good happens when you’re no longer on the boat, so be safe and hang on with every fiber of your being if you find yourself headed for the wrong side of the lifelines. Details.

6. Dealing with heavy weather
Sometimes, no matter how much you plan, heavy weather interrupts an otherwise nice offshore passage. And if you can’t avoid it or outrun it, you’ll have to deal with it. There are three strategies to use in a storm: heaving-to, forereaching and lying ahull. Which method you use depends on the specific circumstances. Details.

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