There have been a few accidents this past year resulting in personal injury while sailing. We have also had a very recent tragedy where a young sailor drown in a trapeze hook entanglement. While we express our condolences to those affected, we also hear the call to improve safety and try and prevent these incidents from happening. The fundamental rules of sailing speak about safety, helping those in danger and remind us that participation is our responsibility but we can and should do more.
Personal safety for you and your crew is your responsibility
In most cases your safety and that of your crew is up to you. The immediate response to a dangerous situation will also be up to you and your crew. The first few seconds of an incident are often critical and typically it will just be the people actually onboard determining the initial outcome. That is right, it can be seconds that determine how the events will turn out. It maybe as fast as 60 seconds before a person starts to inhale water if trapped under water. So it is critical to be able to free a person quickly. Clear thinking and some advance planning can make a big difference.
Your equipment can make a big difference. Chose carefully when considering your personal equipment and the safety equipment you carry. Trapeze harnesses are an integral part of our sport but those trapeze hooks are a safety hazard. If a trapeze hook gets inadvertently hooked onto something it can be very difficult to get yourself free and there have been some tragic accidents as a result. Fortunately there are many solutions. Several manufactures make hookless trapeze systems and some offer trapeze harnesses with releasable hooks. I have personally used releasable hook systems from Magic Marine and can tell you they work. The hook does not release accidentally but it can quickly ejected under load in an emergency.
Knives are another important safety item you may wish to carry. In an entanglement incident having a knife accessible can make the difference in avoiding tragedy. There are many inexpensive safety knives on the market. Though you need to consider on the type of knife being used. A bladed knife can be a dangerous device and must be used with caution. Knives with blunt tips are safer than those with sharp tips. Another options would be the ‘S’ blade safety knife which doesn’t have a point.
It is strongly recommended sailors use trapeze harnesses with either releasable hooks or hookless systems. It is recommend that you carry a safety knife on your boat. Below are some examples of products that you maybe able purchase locally or from the internet.
Releasable hook systems