Monthly Archives: September 2010

Procedure for Abandoning Ship

Last week we posted an article about a Croation man who, while resisting rescue almost lost his life. I thought it might be appropriate to share some tips on abandoning ship. I hope no one ever has to use these suggestions, however it is better to have the knowledge and be prepared if the time comes when you have to abandon ship. – Capt Matt

Anyone who operates offshore or on the Great Lakes needs to put abondon ship procedures on their preparation checklist.  Make sure that all passengers and crew are familiar with the procedures and assign each of them a task in the process. Hold a mock survival drill if appropriate. The decision to abandon ship is usually very difficult. In some instances, people have perished in their life raft while their abandoned vessel managed to stay afloat. Other cases indicate that people waited too long to successfully get clear of a floundering boat.

Once the decision is made:

  • Put on all available waterproof clothing, including gloves, headgear, and life jacket.
  • Collect survival kit. Stay tuned tomorrow for more on survival from one of our experts.
  • Note present position.
  • Send out MAYDAY message.
  • Launch life raft attached to ship.
  • Launch dinghy attached to life raft. 
  • Try to enter life raft directly from the boat (if impossible, use minimal swimming effort to get on board).
  • Don’t forget the EPIRB (emergency position indicator radio beacon).
  • Get a safe distance from the sinking vessel.
  • Collect all available flotsam. The most unlikely articles can be adapted for use under survival conditions.
  • Keep warm by huddling bodies together. Keep dry, especially your feet.
  • Stream a sea anchor.
  • Arrange lookout watches.
  • Use flares only on skipper’s orders when there is a real chance of them being seen.
  • Arrange for collecting rainwater. Ration water to maximum one-half quart per person per day, issued in small increments. Do not drink seawater or urine. If water is in short supply, eat only sweets from survival rations.

Act Like a Captain

As a seamanship instructor, I teach my students that being a good captain involves a certain amount of acting. In emergency situations, the crew of a vessel looks to their leader in an almost unconscious way to determine their own level of anxiety. If the captain projects a calm and confident attitude, the crew will be reassured and since an anxious crew means poor judgment and performance, a captain should do all he or she can to keep the crew calm. The idea here is not to lie to your crew, and certainly not to fake a fearless, macho manner, going down with the ship is a pretty dumb plan. The idea is that, by maintaining a calm, deliberate attitude in the face of a dire situation, you can help your crew remain effective and perhaps help save lives. If you need to fake that attitude to some degree, so be it.

Emergency Communications

When trouble strikes, there are many ways to communicate your distress and seek help. Use your VHF or single-sideband radio and follow the procedures for distress.

There are three levels of priority communications: distress, urgent, and safety, identified by MAYDAY, PAN-PAN, and SECURITE. Understand the differences by reviewing the tip on radio procedures.

Panicked radio communications can confuse a rescue effort. Learn the proper procedures. Try to stay calm.

Use the acceptable distress signals as outlined in the Navigation Rules. Flares are fast and effective — red for distress.

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Coast Guard sets Port Condition X-RAY for Miami, Fort Lauderdale

MIAMI – Effective 3 p.m. yesterday, Coast Guard Captain of the Port (COTP), Capt. Chris Scraba, increased port conditions for the Port of Miami and Port Everglades to X-RAY, due to the expectation that gale force winds generated by Tropical Depression 16 may arrive within 48 hours.

Waterfront facilities should be removing potential flying debris, hazardous materials and oil pollution hazards from dockside areas. Secure all hazmat and potential sources of pollution due to heavy rain run-off.

Vessels more than 500 gross tons should make preparations to leave the port at this time or have received permission from the COTP to remain in port.  Vessels unable to depart the port must contact the COTP and submit a safe mooring plan in writing when requesting and prior to receiving permission to remain in port. Proof of facility owner/operator approval will be required.

Inbound vessels that will be unable to depart the port if Port Condition YANKEE is set, are advised to seek an alternate destination. Container terminal operators shall reduce general cargo container stack heights to no more than four high and hazardous material cargo container stacks to no more than two high, or propose alternate securing arrangements to the COTP.  The COTP may require additional precautions to ensure the safety of the ports and waterways.

Pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbor. Drawbridges may not be operating as early as eight hours prior to the anticipated arrival of sustained gail force winds (39 mph) or when an evacuation is in progress.

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Air Force Rebuts Government Auditor Concerns About GPS

GPS errors Back in November of 2009 I posted an article entitled Boating – GPS is not infallable. In this post, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) “deterioration in navigation service is likely to begin during the next decade beginning in 2010.”

Now another government report is raising questions about the future reliability of the Global Positioning System satellite network and implies that the GAO report is “overly pessimistic,” Air Force commanders said last Friday. Who do you believe?

Referring to the GAO the Air Force says: A report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said the latest GPS satellite was launched almost 3 1/2 years behind schedule, and further delays could leave the system with fewer than the 24 orbiting satellites it needs as older models wear out and quit working.

Col. David Buckman of the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., said the report’s facts were correct, but “we think it draws overly pessimistic conclusions based on those facts.”

Buckman said satellites currently in the design or construction phase are on schedule and the Air Force has 31 healthy, operational satellites in orbit.

Even if the count did drop below 24 — which Buckman said was unlikely — most users, including some military applications, wouldn’t be affected, he said.

GPS has become nearly indispensable, with untold numbers of receivers in everything from cars and cell phones to military weapons. The receivers can determine their position, their path and the time of day using signals from the satellites, which are launched and operated by the Air Force.

Col. Bernard Gruber, commander of the GPS Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., estimated that there are 750 million GPS users worldwide.

A May 2009 GAO report cast doubt on whether the Air Force could acquire new satellites in time to prevent an interruption in service as older satellites die.

A follow-up report released Sept. 15 credited the Air Force with making improvements but warned that a delay in launching one of the next-generation satellites could still drop the number of operational orbiting satellites to less than 24.

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Buckman and Gruber acknowledged that the Air Force has no spare satellites ready to launch if an orbiting satellite fails, but they pointed to the fact that the system already has more than it needs in orbit.

“We’d like to have more in the barn, (but) we have very robust constellation on orbit right now that’s well above the minimum number that were required to have on orbit,” Buckman said.

“I think GPS is extremely strong today,” he said.

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Do You Want E-15 in Your Tank?

From the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

In the upcoming weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will make an important decision on whether to allow ethanol to comprise up to 15% (E15) of gasoline sold in the United States from the current level of 10% (E10). The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), who represents manufacturers of boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers throughout North America, and its allies have long encouraged EPA to thoroughly and comprehensively test recreational marine engines, fuel systems and components to demonstrate that higher ethanol blends will not defeat marine engine air emissions devices or pose safety risks before approving E15. The first marine tests are underway now and will not be completed before EPA makes its decision.

As many boaters and anglers already know, there are serious and well-documented safety, environmental, and technology concerns associated with ethanol blends over 10 percent in boat fuel tanks and engines. For marine and other small gasoline-powered engines that are designed to run on not more than E10, higher concentrations of ethanol in fuel pose serious problems, including performance issues; increased water absorption and phase separation (when water separates from the gasoline while in the tank); fuel tank corrosion and oil/fuel leaks; increased emissions of smog-forming pollutants; and damage to valves, push rods, rubber fuel lines and gaskets. Even with E10, many boaters are seeking out ethanol-free gas at marinas, but at a premium of $.75 to $1.50 more per gallon.

As we wait for EPA’s decision, NMMA and our partner organizations in the “Say NO to Untested E15” are encouraging concerned boaters to visit to write an email to President Obama requesting that he urge the EPA to thoroughly and comprehensively test all gasoline-powered engines, including marine engines, before allowing E15 into the marketplace. NMMA Legislative Director Mat Dunn is available for interviews to help spread the word about how concerned boaters can encourage the Administration to “follow the science.” If you are interested in speaking with Mat by phone or want to learn more about this issue, please contact me at or 202-737-9774.

Thank you,

Christine Pomorski

National Marine Manufacturers Association

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Happy Friday!

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Near Tragedy as Man Resists Rescue

Remember the old salt’s saying: You step up into the liferaft when abandoning ship. In other words, stay on the boat unless it is really, truly sinking—many boats have been found floating after a storm, abandoned by panicked sailors. One Croatian man this week took that saying too seriously and resisted rescue and was in danger of losing his life.

A Croatian man, who tried to anchor in the flooded Sava River in his home country, resisted the attempt of the member of the Croation special forces who dropped from a helicopter to rescue him.

The rescue almost turned tragic, as the rescuer had to battle the flood waters of the river, as well as the man’s reluctance, to finally rescue him at the last second as his boat disappeared into the river.

Sava River Rescue

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Can a Laser Pointer Put Your Life in Danger?

Imagine you are offshore in a boat that is taking on water. You engine won’t start and your batteries are dead so the bilge pumps are not working. You are going down.

You make an urgent MayDay call for help and the U.S. Coast Guard acknowleges your situation. Within a few minutes you see a Coast Guard helicopter approaching toward your location. Then, all of a sudden, the helicopter turns and goes the other direction. What could be happening?

The Coast Guard would like to remind people about the dangers of pointing lasers into the sky. Even small laser pointers sold to the general public, pointed at an aircraft, can have serious and disastrous effects on pilots’ vision.

There have been 10 reported incidents of aircraft being targeted by lasers between Cape May, N.J., and Ocean City, N.J., this summer, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Many of these incidents involved Coast Guard aircraft performing search and rescue and training operations. Click the photo to see the animation of how the runway disappears, then click the back button to return.

This is a significant risk to flight safety, especially for helicopters working low altitudes and aircraft taking off or landing. If any aircrew member’s vision is compromised during a flight Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort their mission. Laser pointers can cause the pilot to see a glare, afterimage, have flash blindness, or can even cause temporary loss of night vision.

Additionally, aircrew members are taken off flight duty for a minimum of 24 hours and must have their eyes dilated and be cleared by a doctor before flying again. This temporary loss of flight crews has the potential to significantly affect the unit’s abilities to conduct search and rescue, training and homeland security missions.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture of laser products and according to an FDA Consumer Safety Alert, overpowered green laser pointers may have been modified to emit more radiation than originally intended. These overpowered green laser pointers are a serious concern because they can cause permanent eye damage.

New Jersey State Law prohibits the interference with transportation vehicles including autos, aircraft, or boats. In addition, federal charges can be brought against the convicted person and can carry a sentence up to 20 years in prison in addition to fines.

Members of the public who witness someone committing this crime are strongly encouraged to immediately call 911 to report the incident.

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