Falling overboard remains the #1 nightmare of sailors worldwide.Serious injury from the fall could render a person unconscious.Darkness and heavy seas hamper recovery efforts. If coastal sailing,you must set up the deck to aid the crew in moving about the boat.

You've probably read about wearing a pfd and harness until you're bluein the face. Fine. But what you will rarely read about are thosesubtle changes that occur the instant you move from terra firma to"tipsy" firma. You can bet newbies have no idea how to move on aboat.

Never assume they do. Veterans tend to forget too. It's easy to thinkyou are super-sailor with sea miles by the thousands under your belt.The sea will not care. One slip, fall, tumble or trip over a line,winch or fitting is all it takes. Pass these along to all hands beforeyou cast off.

1. Grasp a Handhold.

Hold onto something whenever aboard, whether at the dock, at anchor orunderway. In a flat calm lake or a raging storm. Grab lifelines,rails, sailboat mast or boom. Most production boats lack enoughhandrails below deck. Install enough handrails to provide continuoussupport from the cabin to the forward v-berth. Go topside and thinkabout ways to install more "grab 'n hold" gear for moving fore andaft.


Captain John's Sailing Tip

Handicap grab bars provide a good alternative to teak handrails at afraction of the cost. Find these at large hardware stores. Cover themwith rope fancy work for an attractive, salty look.


2. Look BEFORE You Move.

Look down, then forward before you move. Step over headsail sheets,winches, rope clutch gear, deck cleats and slippery boat sails. Keeplines coiled out of the way to prevent injury.

3. Squat BELOW the Upper Lifeline

Keep your knees below the level of the uppermost lifeline. If thrownagainst the lifeline, this offers more area to brace your body. Squatlike a linebacker to move fore or aft. This lowers your center ofgravity toward the deck. In heavy weather sailing, lower your centerof gravity even more. Crawl on your belly if necessary.

All sailors enter a unique environment whenever they step aboard asmall sailboat. Follow these sailing tips to make each trip a safe onefor you and your sailing crew.

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