Category Archives: Recreational Vessels

Proceedings: Improving Mariner Situational Awareness

The Summer 2015 issue of the Coast Guard publication Proceedings is now available at this link. This issue is titled “Improving Mariner Situational Awareness” and addresses the growing role of technology on the bridge of a vessel and the various skill levels found on the many types of vessels found on our nation’s waterways. This publication will provide you with insights into the Coast Guard’s vision for improving navigational safety in the United States.

Cold water kills – QUICKLY

This past weekend a passenger of the dinner cruise NORTHERN SPIRIT fell into Lake Ontario when he was leaning over the railing.  The individual involved in this casualty was a trained lifeguard and expert swimmer. According to press reports, the police estimated that the water was approximately 9o C (48o F). Witnesses were watching him – until they could not see him.

Most people immediately think of hypothermia in cases such as this – but there are dangers that can occur far more quickly than hypothermia.

According to RADM Alan Steinman (USCG Ret) the cold shock response of the human body includes:

  • Gasp Reflex
  • Hyperventilation
  • Difficulty holding your breath
  • Tachycardia
  • Hypertension (elevated blood pressure)

Quick response is vital in situations such as this.  Dr. Steinman’s summary of cold water risks indicates the following parameters for risks in cold water:

  • Cold shock – (0-2 minutes)
  • Functional disability (2-30 minutes)
  • Hypothermia (greater than 30 minutes)

Dr. Steinman’s presentation on Hypothermia, Drowning, and Cold-water survival is at this link.

A more detailed article from CTV NEWS Toronto titled ‘I blinked and he was gone’: Lifeguard missing after falling overboard is at this link.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has announced (see link) they are deploying a team to gather information and assess the situation.

Ten things I have learned about the sea

The film “Ten things I learned about the sea” was made by Lorenzo Fonda during a voyage he made in 2008 from Los Angeles to Shanghai on the container ship PORTLAND SENATOR.  Whether or not you have ever sailed the sea, you will enjoy this tranquil video in which he expresses the enduring and powerful nature of the ocean.



Licenses required for commercial water jet devices

The Coast Guard has issued a Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB Number: 04-15) to advise the public and commercial operators of water jet devices “for-hire” that their personnel on the attached Personal Watercraft (PWC) must have an Operator of an Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) license.

In case you haven’t seen a water jet device – here is a video of one called a “ Jetovator”.

The Coast has a clear explanation of the procedures that must be followed under this license including:

  1. Emergency procedures for injuries, drowning, loss of vessel control, retrieval of conscious persons in the water, inadvertent dragging of passengers,
  2. Assessment of adequate gear quick release(s), power shut offs, and other disengagement mechanisms.
  3. A safety briefing is provided to the passenger by the vessel operator or crew
  4. Adequate communications including a clear two-way communication arrangement between the vessel operator and
  5. Establishment of safe environmental operating conditions such as weather, sea state, and operating area
  6. Assessment of the need for an additional person(s) and/or a chase boat to provide assistance and maintain situational awareness of the WJD operation and surrounding/oncoming traffic, particularly in congested areas.
  7. Assessment of PFD flotation adequacy, particularly when any equipment worn could overcome the PFD’s buoyancy. Some WJD backpacks are designed with built in positive flotation and some are not.

The Coast Guard also recommends that operators of water jet devices for purely recreational purposes (not for-hire) develop and follow these 7 procedures.

FLOAT PLANS – so friends will know what to do if you’re missing

For vessel operators, either recreational or commercial, that do not have the ability to download and use the Coast Guard’s new APP that includes a float plan feature – there is another alternative.

The Coast Guard has created a PDF file for float plans – all you need to do is type in your information, print it out, and leave it with a reliable individual. If you don’t return as planned or report in on schedule they can provide this vital information to the Coast Guard.

You can “save” this document with information that remains constant about your vessel – and then just update it with voyage information.

The FLOAT PLAN PDF is at this link.

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

gCaptain has an excellent article that they publish every Memorial Day weekend titled “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning”. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 3,900 people drown in the United States each year. Many of these people are just yards from people that could save them.

The major risk factors in drowning are:

  • Lack of Swimming Ability
  • Lack of Barrierssuch as pool fencing
  • Lack of Close Supervision
  • Failure to Wear Life Jackets
  • Alcohol Use
  • Seizure Disorders

The gCaptain article discusses “Instinctive Drowning Response” – which is a medical term used to describe how an individual acts when they are drowning – they cannot waive their arms, they cannot yell, there is very little splashing. This is in stark contrast to the image that most people have – so they don’t recognize the signs of someone that is in the process of drowning.

As we begin the summer swimming season, I highly recommend that you read this article so that you can be aware if someone is in danger of drowning. If you see it – try to get a trained lifeguard to respond. If there isn’t a lifeguard available – then remember the American Red Cross priority – Reach – Throw – Go.  Reach the drowning victim with a pole, oar, or other object. Throw an object to them such as a PFD tied to a rope. As a last alternative – Go yourself if you are a strong swimmer.  You don’t want them to make you an additional victim by pulling you under.

The gCaptain article is at this link.

Have a safe summer.

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On June 8, 2014 off the coast of England a dredge vessel SHOREWAY ran over and sank the 32 foot recreational sailboat ORCA resulting in the death of one of the 2 individuals on the ORCA.  Commercial vessels and recreational vessels need to safely share the same waterways. The investigation of this casualty by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) of the British Government found that the operators of both vessels in this casualty should have been more aware of each other on the water.  The SHOREWAY did not see the ORCA and the ORCA misjudged the speed of the ORCA.

MAIB has published a 2 page flyer to help recreational vessel operators better understand these challenges – including photographs showing how fast a commercial vessel can overcome their position. The flyer is at this link.

The key findings of their report are as follows:

  • “It is essential that all vessels maintain a proper lookout at all times. Had the crew of either SHOREWAY or ORCA done so, this collision could have been avoided.
  • “Leisure boat users should never assume that they have been seen by other vessels, nor should they assume that the other vessels will always take avoiding action. Due to the good visibility, the officer on watch on SHOREWAY was not using his radar and had not seen the target of ORCA that had been visible on his screen for 11 minutes before the collision.
  • “Leisure sailors need to be particularly aware of closing speeds between their own vessels and other vessels. In this case, SHOREWAY was travelling at 12.9kts but many types of vessels, including ferries, cruise ships and container ships, regularly sail at speeds over 25kts and, as a result, distances that initially appear sufficient can be reduced surprisingly quickly.”

There are lessons in this report for all mariners.

The complete MAIB report can be found at this link.

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