Book Review – SeaWise Emergency Action Guide and Safety Checklists for Sailing Yachts by Richard Dorner
“What ifs?” are dark questions that lurk in the minds of many sailors, and not just those new to sailing, but those new to a particular boat, signing on as crew for an ocean passage, perhaps, or just relaxing as a guest for a weekend.
Too often, “What ifs?” are questions that get left unasked, shoved aside by blind trust in the skipper or in the face of sunny reassurances and thus left to fester in the musty corners of the imagination.
Even responsible captains who plan carefully and brief thoroughly can fall prey to assuming their crew will somehow know what they need to know in the unlikely event an emergency arises.
Left unaddressed, especially for those who come aboard nervous to begin with, “What ifs…?” can lead to anxiety if not disaster.
The SeaWise Emergency Action Guide and Safety Checklists for Sailing Yachts, from Schiffler Publishing’s Cornell Maritime Press, brings all this out into the bright light of day in a handy, new flip booklet brought to reality by a duo of Israeli sailors – Zvi Richard Dor-ner and Zvi Frank – who have come together to create what they dub “action guide books” for mariners.
These action guide books – there’s a SeaWise Emergency Action Guide and Safety Checklists for Motor Yachts, too — are inspired by the aviation world’s discipline of thorough checklists for everything.
Spiral bound, tabbed, and printed on waterproof paper, the SeaWise Safety Checklist for Sailing Yachts read one direction is a collection of safety checklists divided into twelve sections.
Flipped over and read the other direction, it becomes the SeaWise Emergency Action for Sailing Yachts, with guidance addressing fourteen different emergency scenarios.
The Safety Checklist side begins with a checklist for every captain for pre-voyage planning: reminders of information that should be written down in the logbook for each specific passage.
This is followed by checklists for pre-departure safety briefings about procedures and equipment – briefings that go two ways, so that the captain obtains information about the crew as well as the crew about the boat.
The next section is on the responsibilities of the watch keeper, for both day and night passage-making, and summarizes, in a helpfully concise and accessible format, the Rules of the Road, buoyage, vessel lights and sound and distress signals.
This is followed by a checklist for heavy weather preparation, reminding crew of many small preparations to take before the bad weather hits that are all too easy to forget while worrying about the bigger preparations.
The next four sections provide boat owners a place to assemble in one place the specific specifications of their boat for the crew’s reference. This includes pages to sketch in your boat’s sail plan, deck plan and stow plan (but, unfortunately, no pages for electrical or plumbing). There’s even a page for your boat’s polar diagram, a neat graph of your boat’s potential performance in given wind speeds and points of sail, so that you can calculate if you are making the best of the conditions.
Wrapping up the checklist section are lists of materials and tools to inventory for damage control, medical needs, sail repair and engine maintenance. This last category, of course is general, and should be customized for your engine and/or generator.
Taking all the preparations recommended by the Safety Guide will reduce the chances of ever having to use the Emergency Action Guide side of this book, but bad things can happen to even the best prepared mariner.
When those bad things do happen, they require prompt and appropriate response, and the Emergency Action Guide is constructed to provide “concise and direct guidance” for dealing with each possibility, in those very moments when one can hardly think straight.
In an “If…, then…” flowchart format, the Emergency Guide addresses flooding, collision, running aground, fire, loss of steering, engine failure, emergency communications, medical emergencies, man overboard, extreme weather, rig failure, abandon ship, rescue and disabled skipper scenarios.
All this information is packed into a compact 8 ½” x 6” package that will easily find a place in the cockpit on passage, handy for constant review and reference. The pages can be marked on with pencil to customize and update lists and diagrams, and used in conjunction with a seagoing logbook to record specific information for each region travelled.