Are your small sailboat and sailing crew prepared for the challengesthat might pop up while on a coastal cruise?  Have you thought throughthe “what if” scenarios and come up with a plan of action? Followthese ten tips for a safe and worry free coastal cruise.

1. Post “how to” instructions for marine sanitation devices(toilets); boat galley stove operation and VHF radio operation. Adddiagrams for clarity. 

2. Show your crew how to operate each device. Sure, you haveinstructions in place, but nothing beats a live demo. Make sure youemphasize that all important final safety step to preventemergencies.

For example, when done using a marine toilet, close the intake seacockto prevent flooding. When finished with a stove, shut off switches,burners, and valves as applicable. Ventilate the space to get rid of vapors. 

3. Go over the intended sailing routes with the crew. Mark your chartswith permanent, labeled magnetic compass courses. This keeps yoursailing crew “in the loop” should you become incapacitated.

4. Circle harbors or refuge along the route. If the sailing weatherturns foul, you will want a place to pull in. If your route includesstretches of barren coastline, mark emergency anchorages along theway.

5. Set up a watch schedule for overnight cruises. In fair to moderateweather, make these no longer than four hours. Rotate the watch oncean hour in extreme sea weather conditions.

6. Lash draws, lockers and hatches before you cast off your dockinglines. Use bungee cord or twine. A simple eye in one end allows youto open the fitting without much fuss. Stuff foam or clean rags in“rattle zones”, such as flatware drawers and canned food lockers.

7. Instruct your crew that they should come aboard with a full set offoul weather gear. This includes a jacket, bib overalls and sailingboots. Staying dry boosts the morale of any boat crew.

8. Rig jacklines (long lines or webbing that run from the bow to thestern). Anyone on deck at night or in heavy weather must wear apersonal flotation device and safety harness. Clip on to the windwardside jackline when outside in these conditions. 

9. Spend an hour of your time on emergency drills. Make this fun,relaxed and informative. Include man overboard recovery, how to heaveto and how to start the engine. Let each crewmember take a trick atthe wheel or sailboat tiller.

10. Reef before nightfall. It’s a lot safer and easier to put a reefinto the mainsail before sunset. In very light wind, set a largerheadsail.

Your next small sailboat coastal cruise can be a lot of fun and lessstressful if you prepare with these ten tips. Now relax and enjoy yourcruise, knowing that your crew and sailboat are taken care of!

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