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13 Key Seamanship Skills

13 seamanship skills you should know before leaving the dock.
Boating Safety

Operating In Heavy Seas

I wouldn't dare try to explain running in heavy seas within this short article. But the point is you can't rely on textbook explanations to pilot your boat in heavy weather. Learn your boat's capabilities and its specific handling characteristics while the conditions are still manageable. The trick is finding your boat's sweet spot in a specific set of conditions, and this will take a little experimentation. And be aware, boats can break. Flying off the top of a wave at 35 knots may make for a nice picture in an ad, but if you're not kind to your lady, don't be surprised to find various forms of protest. You do have to drive your boat.



Be Able To Read The Clouds

Even with a sophisticated navigational suite, you need to be aware of what is going on around your yacht. Clouds are among the most visible indicators of weather and can often help predict thunderstorms, an approaching front, rain, or a squall.

Start by learning to identify cloud forms and how they may affect weather. This may feel like your kid's eighth-grade science project, but it's a necessary first step. Although there are infinite shapes a cloud can take, the common classification system includes 10 types: cumulonimbus, cumulus, stratus, stratocumulus, nimbostratus, altostratus, altocumulus, cirrostratus, cirrocumulus, and cirrus. It's important to learn the characteristics of each cloud type. Books such as Chapman Piloting offer a good overview and helpful pictures. Next, watch how clouds form in your area, determine whether they are increasing or decreasing in amount, and understand what shape they are taking. As a general rule, lowering or thickening cloud formations indicate wet weather is on the way. Then, begin to combine this information with other items such as barometric pressure and wind velocity.

First Aid And CPR

There's nothing worse than seeing a loved one wounded or sick-except maybe being unable to do anything about it. First of all, I shake my head at people who have $100,000 worth of flatscreen televisions on board, but are only equipped with a basic first aid kit that can barely mend a scraped knee. Buy the best kit you can afford, then ensure you and your mate take a first aid course. Even if you're within sight of land, knowing how to dress a wound to stop bleeding, or brace somebody until help arrives, will make a crucial difference. I also strongly believe in equipping a boat with an AED to address cardiac arrest. For about $1,400, you can equip your boat to save somebody's life. And it only costs about as much as one TV! Make sure you also sign up with your local Power Squadron or firehouse and take a CPR course. Next steps: Check out the first aid kits at and log onto to order your Charles Industries Heart-Sine AED.



Action Steps Before The Weather Turns Foul

The basic goal of any yachtsman is to avoid foul weather, but as we all know, it's bound to find us sooner or later. if you cannot make it into a safe port, you'll need to take some action. We'll assume that you already took the time to go through the boat with your crew for a proper safety briefing before you left. also, if you have a properly maintained boat, you'll fare better. (That's the subject of many books!) if you find yourself with an approaching squall, or sustained gale-force conditions, you can take steps ahead of time that will improve the safety and comfort of your crew.

Mar 3, 2012

SeaTow has established automated VHF radio check systems in many locations. In Long Island Sound they are on channel 24 or 28.

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