I got an email from a reader, Peter Stewart, that made me really stop and take notice. And, with his permission, I wanted to pass it on.
Good point, Peter. It is so easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everything works. Or to check one part of a system and not another.
When I followed up with him to ask permission to reprint his note, he replied that I was welcome to use it and said:
I’ve written before about discovering that the Lifesling had been incorrectly installed by previous owners on both of our boats. Had there been a real crew overboard situation, the problem could have had tragic consequences.
A few of the systems to verify as part of your pre-trip checklist:
- Bilge pumps working (not just that you “hear them” running, but look overboard). Dump a bucket of water in the bilge if necessary to ascertain that they are pumping water. Make sure than manual bilge pump works.
- All MOB gear works and can be used as intended (nothing is stuck open or shut, lines are in good shape and tied on, etc.)
- Communications gear works — VHF, sat phone, SSB/ham, inReach, Spot, IridiumGO! and/or whatever else you have.
- Primary and backup electronic charting
- Nav and anchoring lights
- Windlass and all ground tackle, including that snubbers aren’t chafed
- Jack lines, tethers and PFDs are in good condition; make sure that quick release on tether works and that lights on PFDs work
- Do PFDs, throwables, MOB poles and so on actually float (we once discovered that our throwable didn’t)?
- EPIRB battery test
- PLBs work
- Check status of all fire extinguishers; turn upside down and tap to make sure the chemicals are loose inside
- “In case of holing” gear — know where it is and be able to access it in seconds
- Check ditch bag contents and make sure it’s easily accessible
- All seacocks work and can be closed
- Check first aid gear and know where it is (especially if you have more than one container)
- Liferaft in an accessible location
If you use your boat seasonally, be sure to check everything at the beginning of the year and periodically during the season — particularly a few days before leaving on a trip. If you find a problem, it’s best to have a little bit of time to fix it before you’re planning to leave.
Even if you are full-time cruisers, don’t assume that all of your safety gear continually works simply because you’re always on the boat. Make it part of your monthly checklist to go over everything and doublecheck items before heading off on anything more than a daysail.Learn more.