Perhaps there is nothing more exciting than the time we take our place behind the cockpit, our hand pushing the throttle and the bow heading the horizon, leading us to the Big Blue.
Through our general euphoria, however, we should not forget that the sea is unpredictable and it can very easily become threatening.
Before each trip, besides the excellent condition in which our boat and engines should be, we should always keep in mind some important parameters that will help us to minimize the possibility of facing unpleasant situations:
- Watch the weather forecast
Inform about the weather forecasts in the region in which you intend to travel. For greater safety watch the weather forecast from more than one weather sites.
- Plot your course on the nautical chart
Apart from the use of GPS, draw your course on the nautical map. We need to know the degrees of our course and control the deviation of our compass. Always travel at a constant speed and note periodically your position on the map.
- Draw alternative courses
You should have already drawn alternative courses on the map, which you will follow if for any reason (sudden worsening weather, mechanical failure, fuel loss) you can not follow our main course.
- Have a spare propeller or a spare hub kit
Always store on board a spare propeller (or two spare propellers for twin engine boats), because even though we are aware of the danger points of the marine areas we will travel quite well, no one can predict when the hub will slip inside of our propeller. If you have a propeller using the interchangeable hub kit system you need only a spare hub kit.
- Check the auxiliary engine
Always check the auxiliary outboard before you start your trip. You will then be sure it will start in case of emergency.
- Control your fuel capacity
Your tanks should have much more fuel (by about 50%, as an emergency backup) than is required to cover the distance which you plan to go.
It is even wiser to share the fuel in both tanks of your boat or if there is only one tank to take on board and a second plastic one. Any obstacle to the constant flow of fuel from the tank to the engine is sure to immobilize you. It is indeed the most common cause when the engine suddenly stops or can't switch on.
- Check your safety equipment
You have to check the completeness and the good condition of all safety gear of your boat (life jackets, fire extinguishers, signal flares, VHF, ...).
If some of them have an expiration date, be sure they are current.
If in any case it has to be used, it will keep you alive.
- Inform people you know
Take care to inform your close friends, about the time and the place of departure as well as of the destination too.
- Keep a phone list
In your nautical almanac always have a list of useful telephone numbers (port authorities, engineers, nautical clubs...)
- Wear the Kill Cord
Attach the kill cord around your leg before you switch on the engine, so in a possible drop of the skipper in the sea serious accidents will be prevented and the crew will be safe.
You must always remember that as skippers, you are responsible for the boat handling and the safety of your crew too.