Boating Insights Blog
Entering Unknown Locations
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One of the most exciting and rewarding elements of boat ownership is that satisfaction of arriving somewhere for the first time by water. The possibilities to explore new bays, rivers and harbours are almost endless.

Did you know that we have developed the only Day Skipper online course that focuses on Australian East Coast passage planning?

It is important as part of your planning that you do not just look at the entries for the destination you are planning to go to, but also places you may need to enter as bolt holes.

The bolt holes you seek, could vary depending on the circumstance, so you may consider some only acceptable in daylight, or with a working engine. At all times whilst at sea you need to have a clear understanding of which ports or harbours you would enter, from those around you so if you have an emergency to attend to that you are already prepared.
The questions you would ask yourself before planning an entry would be:

  • Is there sufficient depth for me to enter?
  • Is there a bar - and if so what are the conditions likely to be?
  • Do the port regulations permit me to enter?
  • Are there any pilotage notes I can consult?
  • What buoyage and markers are available to guide me in?
  • Would I do this in daylight and darkness?
  • If I am sailing, where would I get rid of my sails?
  • What is the effect of any course changes during the entry going to have on my angle to the swell and apparent wind on deck?
  • If my engine failed during the entry would I be able to continue, or exit safely?
  • Is it possible to recover an MOB if one happens during the entry?
  • Is this within the capabilities or me, my crew and my boat?
  • What alternatives do I have if I get there and I am not comfortable to proceed?
Watch Systems & Fatigue
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Watch systems are a skill that is learnt and you will find that many skippers have firm views over the “perfect system”. We have some sample systems that can work well below, but would also advise the following things are critical to a successful watch system:

  1. Have a clear plan and stick to it.
  2. Build the plan for meal times into the plan
  3. On longer trips, we always build in the boat tidying up, head cleaning etc. into the plan
  4. Build routine maintenance, such as deck checks into the timing
  5. For watches with more than one person, make sure you establish who the watch leader is.
  6. Ensure there are some “standing orders”. I.e. wake the skipper for these reasons, plot a position on the chart this often, do not enter this area, do not leave the cockpit on your own etc.
  7. Ensure for people being woken up for watches, they are in control of how long they “need” to visit the heads, get dressed and be ready to take over a watch.
  8. It is really helpful to let people know what clothing they are likely to need and a fresh brew is always well received when you wake someone up at 2 am to go and sit in the rain for 3 hours!

Finally as well as making sure people know what is expected in terms of times and standing orders, watch systems also introduce two areas to consider for your domestic duties and safety.

1. Domestics
E​​​​​ven with the best of intentions the sharing of cooking and cleaning can get loaded to one of two individuals on board. The longer the trip the more problems this can create and finding ways that this is fair can be a challenge to all skippers. Over the years we have experimented with many variations on ideas but always found that if the people who cook also clean up the galley after themselves it often works best.

​​​​​​​Please remember though that if people are feeling sea sick that a warm galley, with a rolling sea, is not going to help this and likely to make them feel terrible so it is suggested that all rules are a starting point to sensible compassion and consideration and that people who can’t help with duties below are given opportunities to contribute elsewhere on board to balance these things out.

2. Safety
It needs to be clear who is responsible for the boat and safety at all times. Particularly for overnight passages there is an almost continual amount of set up and tidying to keep the boat safe and everything ready to use if needed.

Crew Briefing
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Even the smallest of trips should have a short briefing.

When you’re planning the briefing that you give, it is important to understand that there is a difference between a safety briefing, a boat induction, and a domestic/ housekeeping briefing.

Particularly when bringing new people onto your boat or chartering a boat with inexperienced people, taking the time to identify these areas, will often put people at ease, decrease the likelihood of an accident occurring and increase your confidence as the skipper that despite having inexperienced people on the boat that you can still get out and have some fun.

Safety Briefing
This should only concern matters directly related to the safety of the people on board, the vessel and other vessels you might come into contact with.

It is extremely difficult to make this relevant and brief. The information they need to know needs to have a key focus on them staying alive and not being harmed in an emergency and what to do if you are no longer around.

We use the headings of Fire, Flooding and Falling Off to identify what we will talk about. Realistically you have around 3 minutes for this if you want and engaged audience who are learning and going to be able to act on the information you give them.

For the trip you are undertaking, with the crew on board, you should work out what their need to know elements will be in the event of a fire, flooding i.e. losing the boat or falling off. Please remember with falling off that you need to make sure they know what to do if you fall off.

Finally, with your briefing remember the following:

     >    I hear I forget

     >    I see I remember

     >    I do I understand

Once you have this planned out you should ask yourself, could I make this a practical demonstration rather than just talking to people?

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