Emergency and Safety Procedures Guide

General Thoughts


(Just some ideas I used with my crew who knew absolutely nothing about sailing)


Embarkation/Disembarkation from dock (dk), boat (b), and dinghy (d):


  1. Help others-give them a hand, give them room to get on and off.
  2. Pass what you're carrying to someone on the other dk, b, or d.
  3. Don't leap across. The dk, b, or d should be kept within stepping distance and secured so as not to drift apart.
  4. Time your step for a "relatively quiet" time in the wave action.
  5. Remember: ONE hand for the ship and one hand for yourself. So grab something secure as you cross over.
  6. Dinghies: step quickly to the center then sit down on the gunwale (sides) keeping your weight evenly distributed. Hold on to a secure part of the dinghy so you don't get flipped out.


Man/Gear Overboard ~ teamwork is critical. Remember, you could be the one who is in the water!


  1. Spotter - point to the person or gear in the water
  2. Mark GPS - Man overboard (MOB) and throw cushion/life jacket etc, to person
  3. Life ring ready
  4. Boat hook ready
  5. Helmsman - perform either circle if life ring is in water or better yet, do a figure 8. Plan to pick up the MOB on the lee side mid-ship or stern.
  6. Start aux (engine or back-up)
  7. Dinghy manned and ready to pick up or assist.
  8. Sails set as needed by helmsman. Once we learn some basic sail handling, we must practice this drill before we need to do it for real!
  9. Ensure all sail sheets, halyards, etc. have a stopper knot (like a figure 8) 13 inches from the bitter end so sheets are not lost when sails are luffing.




  1. Take all laundry, clothing, etc. from life lines and stow below deck until we dock, anchor or moor the boat. Gear can easily be blown overboard (last year, someone lost an expensive wetsuit. Bummer!).
  2. Keep all lines (ropes used to tie boat to anything) stowed or prepared for use.
  3. Keep all sheets/halyards/down hauls/out hauls/etc. (all the "ropes" attached to the sails/boom, etc. stowed or prepared for use.
  4. NEVER step on any line/sheet/etc. You can lose a leg or get knocked overboard should something that is attached to the line suddenly move - even when docked.
  5. Trimming/easing/reefing/unfurling/hoisting/lowering sails (even when using a wench) incorrectly can cost you the loss of your fingers, hand, arm, leg, or maybe just bad rope burns.
  6. Know your Emergency Egress Route with your eyes closed. There was a case, not with the French Maid, where the crew was not aware that a previous crew had run the boat into a coral reef and cracked the keel. When it later broke off, the boat flipped and sank. Two people died because they couldn't get out. Even though BVI Yacht Charters inspects the bottom with divers, you should always be prepared.
  7. Know were your life preserver is located and how to wear it.

  8. Know how to use the head (toilet) - which valves to open/close, etc.
  9. NO FLAMES near any fuels or while fueling.
  10. All gear stowed/tied securely so it will not be tossed about when the boat moves in response to the wind and waves.
  11. Secure all port holes/hatches during rough weather/rain and when underway. Note that the wind will damage the screens and sun shades, necessitating replacement.


Docking/Getting Underway


  1. Helmsman describes which lines & fenders are to be used.Fender boards must be used every time you dock the boat.
  2. Prepare all lines and fenders/fender boards
  3. Boat hook ready
  4. Dinghy underway or shorten its painter (bow line)
  5. Drop/raise (Furl/unfurl) sails well clear of the dock
  6. Set all bow/stern/brest/spring lines after docking


Mooring: Approach/Departure


  1. Helmsman describes approach and pickup side on departure path. Ensures no strain on mooring lines while bow crew is holding the lines.
  2. Bow crew prepares mooring line.
  3. Ready with boat hook
  4. Signal mooring ball position/distance to helmsman
  5. Dinghy shorten painter (bow line)
  6. Drop/furl sails well clear of mooring area
  7. Bow crew drops line if there's any strain on the line - you can't hold a 50' boat in wind or current unless you're Charles Atlas (oh ~ that's before you were born. OK, unless you are Arnold Schwartzenegger.)
  8. Crew points out other boats approaching/crossing/etc.


Anchoring/Weighing Anchor


  1. Helmsman describes approach/departure
  2. Bow crew prepares anchor including release line if there is one available
  3. Depth finder on - read out depth
  4. GPS on - verify anchor location and chart depth
  5. Dinghy - shorten painter (bow line)
  6. Bow crew - reads out anchor chain length (scope)


Down Wind Sailing


Unplanned gybing (boom swings from one side of the boat to the other) can cause injury, death, man overboard and rigging damage. Helmsman + main sail crew must pay attention to the course/wind.


"Pirate Raids"/Drinking


Last time we were raided by the crew from ________boat wanting more booze. They managed to hold two of our ship mates hostage. After we captured one of their crew, we negotiated a truce. As long as no one gets hurt or loses any personal items, or the boat isn't damaged in any way, I don't mind you having fun, just keep it tasteful and don't be obnoxious. There are families expecting an enjoyable vacation.


Swimming/Snorkeling/Diving/Going Ashore


  1. Use the buddy system
  2. Know who is in your group and stick together
  3. Set rendezvous times and places
  4. We don't want to lose someone doing any of these activities. Last cruise we were confronted by some drunken locals trying to use the "race card" at night ashore. Try to stay in well-lit areas and in a group and try not to drink too much.


Etiquette & Common Courtesies


Adhere to the "Golden Rule", you know, do unto others before they do unto you, no, as you would want to be treated. That goes for other people's belongings, too. Dispose of your trash/food in the garbage bags, wash your own dishes, store your personal items in your cabin, etc. remember, I'm not your mother, nor is she on board!


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