South Pacific Safety Lessons

I haven’t written too much about my sail training expedition aboard the Mahina in the Cook Islands and French Polynesia.  However, I thought today would be a good time to talk about safety at sea.

Crew Overboard:  This was a training expedition in the South Pacific, and you learn how to do important things like how to save your partner if they fall overboard.  This is an important skill especially for women, who may not have the upper body strength to lift their partner out of the water alone, especially if the husband is injured and cannot simply climb aboard..

I volunteered to be at the helm during our “crew overboard (COB)” drill, which is the newer term for “man overboard- or  MOB).”  We were at the French Polynesian Island of Huahine at the time and I believe crewmates Cody or Simon volunteered to jump over the side of the boat and be my “victim.”

As the helmsperson, I immediatedly followed the procedure as taught, turning the helm a half turn, walking back to let out the Life Sling, which is attached to the stern and looks like this:life sling

You then return to the helm to complete your steps for rescue.  If you do it correctly, which I did, it the lifesling line will move across the water right to the COB.  You also instruct the crew to place the lifesling under their arms and around the torso.

09c_2You then pull the COB in by hand towards the boat, or if too difficult, you use a winch to assist you.  Once alongside the boat, you use your halyard winch to lift them up and over the lifelines.  Here is an example of Cody playing the happy rescued victim partner.  Standing next to him is Simon.  It is important to practice your crew overboard skills frequently. I was happy to know I could do it successfully if Joe were to fall overboard.

Tether and Harness– Away from land, it is critical to always use your harness (yellow) and tether (blue), which is being modeled by Angela and I.  If you were on night watch alone, fell overboard and did not wear your harness and tether, it might be hours before someone realized you were missing.  Most likely, it would be a death sentence.   We also used a raised jacklines (lifelines) on the Mahina, for anyone who are into details like this.

mastclimbClimbing Harness– Speaking of harnesses, we also used climbing harness to climb the 65 ft. mast.  Sailors need to climb the mast on occasion for maintenance, repair, inspection, and other reasons.

My thumbs up and smile in the photo might have been taken before my climb- and am I trying to bravely hide my fear of heights?   Or was the photo taken after I successfully met my goal of touching the top of the mast and then getting back down to the deck safely in one piece?  Not sure, but I will guess the latter since the smile looks happy.

MaupitiTropical Medicine– While I am mentioning safety, you can see a large bandage on my right leg.  On the island of Maupiti (see photo, right), we decided to rent bikes and ride around the island.  I took a spill on a coral gravel road, and received a nasty road rash on my leg and elbow.

I cleaned and treated my injuries once I was back on the boat, but didn’t want to be a wimp and tell the team leaders that I had an injury.  However, the pain keep me awake, and by the next morning the leg was seriously infected, hot, and very painful.  Luckily, a fellow crew member was a doctor, who started me on antibiotics, and kept good watch on my leg over the next couple of days.  John, the captain, also did an excellent job tending my wounds, too, with medical ointments intended for tropical injuries.  Plus, I had a neighboring boat with a Tahitian doctor aboard, too, who checked on my leg.

I was surprised at how quickly the tropical wound became infected.  Moral of the story is if hurt in the tropics, especially injuries involving coral, do not try to be superwoman or superman and “suck it up” so to speak.  Tell someone and seek medical treatment asap.

Thanks to Cody and Angela, of the blog, Your Fins Are Showing, for letting me lift borrow some of the photos shown above.  Hugs from Carla

3 thoughts on “South Pacific Safety Lessons

  1. Were there jack lines as well? Lines that run from the cockpit to the bow so you only have to hook in once and walk around? We set those up on our boat. Looks like a great trip indeed.

    A week and a half and I get to go sailing too!!!!

    • Yes, we rigged up high jacklines on both the port and starboard sides. Are your jacklines high or low, out of curiosity? So exciting to see that you are going sailing again… off to your blog to learn more, plus an email, too…. 🙂

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