Boating

Assessing crew risks on a powerboat

Should you require all crew on your boat to wear lifejackets? If so, under what conditions? Should you restrict access to some parts of the vessel when underway? Should those rules change in different weather conditions, or with different kinds of boat traffic nearby?

I suspect that many skippers make these decisions based on gut feeling and on who they side with in bar or forum arguments. Frankly, I don't think that's the best way to make critical safety decisions.

Risk assessment is a very well-developed art. Not every decision calls for a formal risk assessment, but putting a bit of logical thought into your key safety policies is certainly a prudent idea. Today, I present an informal walk-through of this process for the Starwind 860 trimaran we're currently building.

Faux pas from the launch ramp

Trailer boaters are generally a pleasant, easy-going lot.

That doesn't mean it's impossible to frustrate them, though. If you really want to be the bane of the local boat ramp, try any (or all) of these behaviours... and see what happens. (These are all real incidents from recent years, some of them disturbingly common. Names and registry numbers have been omitted to protect the guilty.)

The immortal aluminum skiff

A great many cruising sailors swear by their rigid-hulled inflatable dinghies. The cream-of-the-crop is, apparently, a 10 to 14 foot Hypalon-tubed, fibreglass-bottomed thing with a two-stroke Yamaha on the back. Some folks start with something smaller and less rigid, but the small RIBs eventually dominate.

Up in Northern Ontario, though, such a vessel would be unthinkable. Almost every lake has rocks and deadheads that would tear an inflatable apart. The docks are rough, the winters are harsh, the repair facilities are non-existent. There's lumber to carry, fish to land and young skippers to teach.

Here, the humble, immortal aluminum skiff is king.

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