One of the major appeals of joining an ocean going rally like the ARC is the added level of safety, something we at World Cruising take pride in being able to provide. While it is true that the safest thing to do with your boat is never to leave the dock, that just isn’t quite as epic as reaching on the trades with no land in sight and a pod of dolphins breaching along your bow.
When hundreds of miles from shore and completely exposed to the elements, risks do exist, but there are ways of making them more manageable. Travelling with a fleet of boats certainly helps – as does buying the right boat (although that’s a debate for another time). Another key part is making sure your vessel is properly equipped.
After joining a rally participants are given a rally handbook, basically a guide to every aspect of the event covering local information, boat preparation and a safety checklist, all of which is put together by our expert team over decades and continually updated. This is not so much a specific shopping list but a list of things to consider and some requirements that ensure participants would have everything they need to deal with any hairy situation.
Upon arrival at the starting port, our safety team goes to work, inspecting every boat in the fleet to make sure they are up to spec on our requirement and talking to skippers and crew about how to handle emergency situations. One of our inspectors is Roger Seymour, a familiar face for many participants. Roger is a seasoned skipper and World Cruising Club’s safety team chief, a position he earned through his truly extensive sailing background.
I joined Roger on a safety check today as he was aboard the Lagoon 58 Recipe. While it can seem a bit intimidating at first having someone aboard what is for many their home and private space, it is all smiles as the owner Rebecca McGurran and her family’s two seagoing pugs welcome us aboard. The check is quite straight forward, at first Roger chats about paperwork and ensures that all the safety documentation looks good (EPIRBS in date, satellite communication email addresses correct). Questions are posed and answered, jokes are made, EPIRB HEX codes are read off. As far as anyone is concerned it is just another beautiful day in Las Palmas (albeit with a lot more life rings). Before long we’re up and about, being shown around the spacious cockpit. Emergency tillers are produced, lifejackets are opened up and checked. Roger and Rebecca chat away about different scenarios, how the life raft is deployed, could her daughters do it in a emergency and so on. For the most part it is stuff that would cross the mind of any boat owner and the atmosphere is relaxed.
As we move about the boat closer inspection of the lifebouys reveal they are missing reflective tape that would make them move visible in the dark and Rebecca is quick to make note. It’s a small and very common issue but one Roger assures her is important. If someone goes overboard any spotting advantage is critical.
The inspection moves up to the foredeck and jackstays are discussed. A 58 foot catamaran has quite the beam so several lines ensure coverage across the deck, even allowing access to the boats forward seating area. With the exception of a jackstay leading the mast on the upper deck everything checks out and we circle back to the cockpit.
Inside we are joined by Rebecca’s husband Colin and everything from fire prevention to escape hatches is covered. Roger is happily surprised by a list of todos as well as ARC seminar dates listed on a whiteboard in the saloon and all three remark how they are ‘list people’ – a common trait with sailors. All is well so Roger begins to wrap up the inspection, checking his paperwork as everyone chats away.
The atmosphere is friendly and fun and just over an hour since it began, the inspection is complete. All that is required is a quick trip to the chandlery for reflective tape and a new life jacket tether for a perfect pass. Speaking to the couple after the test I asked how they felt having us come aboard to check out their floating home, and about how they find WCC’s safety requirements. For something that is at the end of the day a test, it is fair to say some owners are stressed about making sure the boat is up to par. That wasn’t the case today, and Rebecca, Colin and their crew are happy with having guidelines that ensure they have decent equipment to hand and perhaps more importantly the plans to use them, if needed.