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Old 11-09-2015, 09:38   #31
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

To ALL:
I have added some of the points mentioned in your anecdotes or comments to the Top or Original Post of this thread in the section called "Best Practices."

One of the things Ann Cate mentioned fit very closely with my own plan to have a "Dinghy Emergency Kit" onboard the dinghy whenever it is used. When I sea kayaked or windsurfed, I always took a small waterproof container with me that held some simple items to have in case of emergency.

While dinghies will be different sizes and designs, and some will have motors and others will be human powered, I think a small but effective "Dinghy Emergency Kit onboard would be useful for anyone. I have put a few suggested items into that to give people a start, including the ones mentioned by Ann and others in the thread. If you can think of other items that would fit and be particularly smart to include, let me know in your comments and I will add them to the Original Post.

Suggested Dinghy Emergency Kit contents:
Waterproof VHF radio
Signal Mirror with Whistle and small compass
Duct Tape (for bandaging people or leaking fuel lines or inflatable tubes)
Spare Lanyard for starting motor
Spare spark plugs for the motor with appropriate tools needed to replace the plugs.
Bottle of Water
Mylar Emergency Blanket (for cold or shade)
Motor Trouble Shooting instructions on a waterproof card.
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A few responses to earlier posts:

To ANN CATE:
Thanks Ann. I also like the idea of having a "dinghy repair" kit onboard with simple but needed tools in case the motor does not start.

To POIU:
Great examples of how dinghy's or our use of them can be risky. Thanks for adding your experiences to the mix. Good story!

To STUMBLE:
Interesting. The strap. Good story!

To SAILON46:
Those were TWO very close calls! Good story!

To BULAWAYO:
Thanks for adding the link to the Milligan incident. That is the one I was thinking of earlier.
Also, thanks for adding your anecdote about being bounced out and having to swim to a reef (a far swim). And, I also like the idea of a water bottle onboard too. I will add that to my original post up top. Good story!

To SEASICK:
Pinned to the boat with jagged shards of plastic around your body. Ouch! That is an unusual incident. Good story!

To OLDSWAMPY:
Thanks for adding the tip on the compass for dinghy use in foggy areas. Good one. The impaled dinghy story is also interesting. Good story!
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Old 11-09-2015, 09:40   #32
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Great thread and truly scary stories. Thanks Steady Hand for starting thread.

My story ends well. I had just popped a Carib beer after my wife and I picked up our mooring in Leverick Bay in the BVIs when I see the neighbor couple drifting away from shore in their dinghy while the husband repeatedly tries to start their outboard. I watch them for a couple of minutes when I see the husband giving up on the motor and starting to row. A couple of minutes later... after I see him making no headway and drifting out to sea I make the decision to get in my dinghy and help them out. It turns out this was my first time towing anything with a dinghy. It was a real challenge getting the tow going and not fouling the prop while holding the painter and steering at same time. Then I had to constantly adjust speed and direction while underway. All went well but in hindsight I should have brought my wife to help me. BTW...the couple in the dinghy did not have PFDs nor a handheld VHF.
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Old 11-09-2015, 10:17   #33
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

I heard a story from a professional skipper about a tragedy two years ago in Malta. The owner with family and friends went off in their 13' Boston Whaler for dinner. The boat was anchored in Dwejra Bay and the party set-off in the tender to Xilendi, 2 miles away in the open. This was early May.

When the party of five went out in the tender at 8:00 PM the weather was fine but when they left Xilendi to return to the boat the weather had deteriorated and continued to do so in the course of the night.

They did not make it back. The battered boat and the bodies were found over he next few days.

I am not sure what went wrong here. I suspect celebratory drinks may have dulled judgement on the return.



Sea tragedy leaves two young orphans - timesofmalta.com
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Old 11-09-2015, 11:57   #34
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Steady Hand:

A really excellent thread on a very much neglected topic, thanks!

I take dinghy safety enormously seriously. Unfortunately I find that many, indeed the majority of even long distance sailors take it very lightly indeed. I find that I am in the distinct minority of sailors/dinghy users who always attach the engine kill switch to my wrist while motoring in any dinghy. This is such a basic thing to do, yet so frequently neglected, for what reason I cannot understand. The downside is being chopped to pieces by your own outboard blade, something that has occurred many times, and the inconvenience? Less than a seatbelt in a car.

I always carry a dinghy self rescue kit. The emergency/self rescue kit includes:

>Two head torches and one powerful waterproof battery operated searchlight.
>Strong white vinegar for neutralising stingers.
>Supplies of water.
>Communication equipment (VHF, Heliograph, horn, a pair of hand flares)
>Antihistamine tablets.
>Antiseptic liquid.
>Lifejackets
>Extra line and second small anchor.
>Sunscreen
>Some secondary clothing
>High density food for a short period
>Basic fishing equipment

The latter list was formulated (and has been rigorously kept to) as a result of an experience years ago in a Pacific atoll whereby after a night out we ended up having to take a very long (several kilometers) dinghy ride, which ended up being in fierce squalls, on an ebb tide, with the engine cutting out just as we were passing the entrance to the lagoon. It took some time to restart the engine, meanwhile we were swept around 600 meters to the entrance to the lagoon itself. We had only minimal equipment aboard, and found that rowing with the oars provided with this particular dinghy was insufficient to counter wind and current, and the realisation became very clear that had we been swept out of the lagoon, we would be facing a dire life and death situation shortly. This same is potentially the case in almost any anchorage open to the sea. I believe that if long ranging it in remote areas in particular one should prepare the dinghy as a small self sufficient craft with at least basic self rescue equipment.

But above all I would love it if people just started wearing their damn kill cords!
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Old 11-09-2015, 12:11   #35
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

We use the following checklist as a handout for our Safety for Cruising Couples DIY seminar:
SAFE DINGHY CHECKLIST


USCG Federal Requirements - IMPORTANT NOTE: States may have additional requirements for registration of all types of boats and young passengers, including young operators of propelled dinghies
USCG Approved PFD for each person on board. Required to be worn by children under 13.
FLASH LIGHT in boat under oars – exhibited in time to prevent collision
STATE NUMBERS on hull if propelled by machinery
STATE REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE must be on board when dinghy is in use
WHITE, ALL AROUND LIGHT if propelled by machinery at night and in restricted visibility (fog, rain, haze)
SIDE LIGHTS if underway at night or in restricted visibility and max speed is over 7 knots
EFFICIENT SOUND SIGNAL - e.g. LOUD WHISTLE - for use in restricted visibility (fog, rain, haze, etc,)
VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNALS (if propelled by machinery) – Distress light or 3 day/night red flares, only if operating at night. Daytime signals are not required in protected bays & rivers.

Optional, Recommended Safety Items that vary according to the situation and planned use of the dinghy.
(What do you need for this trip, in this place, at this time?)
INFLATABLE PFDs with light and whistle - Mom & Pop to don prior to boarding and take off after debarking
TWO OARS with working oarlocks – backup for engine problems
OBEY MAX WEIGHT/NUMBER OF PERSONS - see ‘Capacity Plate’, dinghy manual or USCG matrix
USCG Type IV THROWABLE DEVICE – Throw cushion
BOW LINE (Painter) & FLOATING STERN LINE and fenders, as necessary
BAILER/BILGE PUMP and sponge
ENGINE (Be sure there is sufficient fuel plus some for your planned trip)
Spares: Spark Plugs, Oil, Cotter Pins, Shear Pins, Tools
Reflective Tape on Engine
Safety line to dinghy
Engine kill switch (Dead man’s key) and line
ANCHOR & RODE – 75-100 ft (pack rode in bag like a throw rope/heaving line)
FLASHLIGHT (does not meet ‘all around’ light requirement)
HANDHELD VHF RADIO, (with DSC, if possible) – especially in remote waters
COMPASS or PORTABLE GPS - for use in restricted visibility (fog, rain, haze, etc.)
AIS MOB locating device – if in area where other boats will have AIS operating
PLB- desirable in remote areas (satellite gives location only to Rescue Forces)
SPARE FUEL – with stabilizer, stowed only in approved containers in areas where any leaks go over the side
CHART of local area – small boat chart of any unfamiliar area in a zip loc bag
FOUL WEATHER GEAR for passing rain showers – (large trash bags with head hole work well)
BOTTLED WATER & SPACE BLANKETS – just in case
MOB MACHO STRAP – a 3 ft loop made from 2 inch webbing will act as a sling to help recover PIW
TENT PEG – holds painter when beaching a dinghy

Security Considerations
STRONG CABLE or CHAIN & LOCK(s) to lock dinghy to a dock and to the yacht at night
REMOVE ENGINE KILL SWITCH/DEADMAN’S KEY from engine when leaving dinghy unattended
NO YACHT NAME ON DINGHY so thieves don’t know which boat is vacant
CELL PHONE NUMBER ON SEAT, FLOOR BOARDS OR TRANSOM to facilitate return if/when found
ENGINE LOCKED TO DINGHY
REMOVE ENGINE MARKINGS
CABLE & LOCK to lock valuables and spares left in the dinghy
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Old 11-09-2015, 12:43   #36
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Nice, a mirror image of my story.. and foreseeing the difficulties you encountered, in my case rather than try handle a painter, i had the other dinghy strapped alongside... his painter to my portside towing eye and occupant holding onto my portside webbing strap.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oslokid View Post
Great thread and truly scary stories. Thanks Steady Hand for starting thread.

My story ends well. I had just popped a Carib beer after my wife and I picked up our mooring in Leverick Bay in the BVIs when I see the neighbor couple drifting away from shore in their dinghy while the husband repeatedly tries to start their outboard. I watch them for a couple of minutes when I see the husband giving up on the motor and starting to row. A couple of minutes later... after I see him making no headway and drifting out to sea I make the decision to get in my dinghy and help them out. It turns out this was my first time towing anything with a dinghy. It was a real challenge getting the tow going and not fouling the prop while holding the painter and steering at same time. Then I had to constantly adjust speed and direction while underway. All went well but in hindsight I should have brought my wife to help me. BTW...the couple in the dinghy did not have PFDs nor a handheld VHF.
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Old 11-09-2015, 12:51   #37
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

RonT,

Interesting post. If you're going foreign, there are places where, in order to not be considered a sport boat, your dinghy has to be labeled as a tender to with the name of the mother vessel. Depends on where you are.

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Old 11-09-2015, 12:52   #38
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xlantic View Post
I heard a story from a professional skipper about a tragedy two years ago in Malta. The owner with family and friends went off in their 13' Boston Whaler for dinner. The boat was anchored in Dwejra Bay and the party set-off in the tender to Xilendi, 2 miles away in the open. This was early May.

When the party of five went out in the tender at 8:00 PM the weather was fine but when they left Xilendi to return to the boat the weather had deteriorated and continued to do so in the course of the night.

They did not make it back. The battered boat and the bodies were found over he next few days.

I am not sure what went wrong here. I suspect celebratory drinks may have dulled judgement on the return.



Sea tragedy leaves two young orphans - timesofmalta.com
That is a sad story. Two of the victims were parents of young children who were made orphans from this incident.

One of the things mentioned was that the locals knew that area was hazardous, and that the distance they traveled in the dinghy was pretty far.

The skipper of the yacht suggested that they could move the yacht, but the owner (one of those who died) did not want to do that. Also, that the group of five people left the yacht to go on their trip when the conditions were mild, but those sea/wind conditions changed while they were gone. Instead of staying in a hotel, they attempted to return to the yacht, and were lost.
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Old 11-09-2015, 13:05   #39
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Quote:
Originally Posted by korrigan View Post
I see people expose themselves to this risk all the time. It's not at all clear to me that most people who have motorized inflatables have a fall back plan if their excursion turns out badly.
Last time I was at the dinghy dock in Newport, it was pretty stunning how many tenders tied up there appeared not to be carrying oars, as best I could tell… But I bet all their owners had cell phones with them, so it's all good in the end… ;-)

My perspective on tenders is quite a bit different than most today, not having a SUV-style dinghy, myself. I get by with a small RIB, a Honda 2 HP, and a pair of real oars…

I always get a laugh when I hear folks say that inflatables "can't be rowed", or at least, rowed well… Certainly, some row better than others, but there's no excuse for not being able to propel your tender reasonably well in an emergency. That's at the heart of dinghy safety, to me…

For an inflatable, the Avon-style oarlocks are the way to go. They will allow you to use a real pair of oars of your own choosing, preferably with spoon blades, rather than the worthless crap that comes supplied with most inflatables. Pinned oars are worthless, as they do not permit being feathered, which is the key to being able to row an inflatable into difficult conditions. Tom Zydler has some excellent advice on how these can be beefed up, and real oarlocks can be employed…

How To Modify Dinghy Oarlocks | Cruising World

In addition, as the effectiveness of the oarlocks on an inflatable are dependent upon the stiffness of the tube, a foot pump is one of the many items that should always be carried in the dink… And, a notch or some provision for lashing an oar for sculling, if it should ever come down to that ;-)

No matter where you're cruising, I think one should always be of the mindset that you're totally on your own whenever setting off in your tender. Never assume that help in the event of trouble might just be a phone or VHF call away… I have a preference for more remote places, and for that reason, what typically informs my actions with my tender, is try to avoid ranging farther away from the boat, than I would be able to row back if need be… I know, that's a rather quaint notion to many today, I'm sure… :-)

I consider anything less than 100' of rode for an anchor to be inadequate, because, well, you never know ;-) And, a Bruce or similar claw anchor that will set on a short scope is the way to go. I see a lot of folks using small aluminum danforth styles with tenders, they make sense for being set on beaches, and they stow nicely… But if you're being blown across a bank in the Bahamas towards deeper water, and you need to get a hook down quickly, the last thing you want is a lightweight Danforth sailing along behind you, or skipping along the bottom…

I imagine plenty of mishaps occur simply getting in and out of the dink from the boat. Many folks today cite the advantage of a sugar scoop transom for doing so, but again I've gotta disagree in many cases. In benign situations, sure, it can be no problem… but in a rough anchorage, I think it can usually be safer to climb back aboard from alongside, than from a dink in close proximity to a pitching sugar scoop… Unless the boat is really getting up there in size, or has a massive amount of freeboard, a step hung from the rail at the shrouds will typically offer a very secure means of making the transfer…

The means of deploying and retrieving/stowing a dinghy is certainly an important element of safety, as well. I often see others engaging in a fair amount of risk, struggling mightily in getting heavy outboard engines off the tender, and back onto the big boat… Big part of my own preference for a tiny engine, of course. And it seems to be that this operation might often be beyond the ability of the distaff cruising partner to perform safely by herself, which of course is never a great idea, as a rule...

I'm sure they work for some, but I've come to absolutely detest running boats with tenders stowed on davits… In my experience, in any kind of seaway, no matter how well they've been 'secured' in advance, they ALWAYS become problematic… One can only scratch their heads at some of the 'solutions' to offshore dinghy stowage some have come up with… This boat prepping for the Caribbean 1500 a few years ago, for instance… Seems a perfect recipe for enabling a potential MOB situation, a day or two out, once that webbing has stretched enough to necessitate re-securing it… WTF were they thinking?




Just a hunch, but I'm guessing the number of dinghy mishaps are skewed very much in favor of higher-powered, planing inflatables used as tenders, as opposed to those run at a more sedate pace… Pretty tough to do much damage at a rowing or displacement speed, the greatest risk is probably getting run down by someone in a SUV tender ;-) I can understand, for certain activities like diving, the speed and range of high powered inflatables can be very nice to have… But it's become so commonplace now, to see folks taking off at high speed through an anchorage to a destination not very far away at all… One of the most time-honored traditions in cruising, and it still lives on to an extent in places like Maine, is people simply ambling about through an anchorage, checking out other boats, and striking up conversations with neighbors… Really a pity that seems to be fading today, everybody seems to be racing off in a hurry to find a wifi hotspot, instead…

;-)
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Old 11-09-2015, 13:07   #40
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Quote:
He probably just happens to see me because over the wind I don't think he could have heard. It's one big reason I think having a proper dinghy and engine is a safety issue,
And a waterproof hand held VHF. Just think if you got swept away in the Bahamas and were single handing with no radio. People in the anchorage may not miss you for days or weeks if you are single handing.
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Old 11-09-2015, 13:26   #41
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Trying to beach my dinghy, with very small waves seemed like it would be simple. When we were close to the shore, that little tiny wave turned us sideways and the threw us all out. It did not flip, but when I looked up dinghy beach attempts later, I saw that this is a very dangerous situation. Dinghys flip on the smallest of waves. I did not learn how to prevent this, yet. Have not again tried a beach landing when there are waves of any size.
Getting back off the beach with waves is also an opportunity to flip.
And I also had my engine fail while being blown out to sea. No radio. Scary stuff. Luckily I got the motor started back up.
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Old 11-09-2015, 13:38   #42
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

I confess that proper dinghy lighting is a hot button of mine, so bear with me here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RonT View Post
USCG Federal Requirements


More than for the US, these are the International Rules of the Road so apply widely (but not on US Inland Waters - a whole other discussion).

Quote:
FLASH LIGHT in boat under oars – exhibited in time to prevent collision


The important point about this wording is that if an accident occurs, the presumption is that the light wasn't displayed in time - prove otherwise. Of course that may be the least of the problems.

Quote:
WHITE, ALL AROUND LIGHT if propelled by machinery at night and in restricted visibility (fog, rain, haze)
SIDE LIGHTS if underway at night or in restricted visibility and max speed is over 7 knots
This means that if your RIB is capable of exceeding 7 knots (most are) then you are REQUIRED to show sidelights in addition to an all-round white light, and the white light must be 1 meter higher than the sidelights (see Annex I, Positioning and Technical Details of Lights and Shapes). (Most outboards powerful enough to move a RIB at 7 knots can also be fitted with a generator for lighting - there is really no excuse for not doing it.)

The exception is for vessels that cannot do 7 knots. The specific wording is:

"a power-driven vessel of less than 7 meters in length whose maximum speed does not exceed 7 knots may in lieu of the lights prescribed in Rule 23(a) exhibit an all-round white light and shall, if practicable, also exhibit sidelights."

These days with LED lighting and lithium batteries there is no excuse for not showing proper sidelights - they certainly are "practicable" - in any dinghy. And again, the burden of proof will be on the operator to argue that they are not "practicable" - good luck with that. But do note that the all-around white light is required: your flashlight does NOT meet the requirements if you are under power of any kind.

These rules have been on the books for a very long time, and have seldom been observed by cruisers on their dinghies - or enforced in the popular cruising grounds of the world. I have found that it is very unusual to find another cruiser with proper lights on their dinghy. Along with defeating kill switches and not wearing PFDs, we cruisers are directly responsible for many of these accidents.

Greg
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Old 11-09-2015, 14:03   #43
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Quote:
It was a very scary and salutory lesson and I now wear the kill cord around my ankle (never my wrist).
I'm sure you have a good reason, but Ive never heard that wearing the kill cord on the wrist was a bad thing.
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Old 11-09-2015, 15:16   #44
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

Sorry to correct you Ann, but Australian safety requirements around safety, and of safety in dinghies, is standardised.
(1) owners of tenders are required to carry a bailer and WEAR a PFD.
(2) capacity limitations are also clear viz., "up to 3 m, max 2 people" , "3 m to 3.49 m, max 3 people"
(3) once the tender is more than 0.5 nm from the mother ship, additional requirements come into play depending on whether it is in sheltered or us sheltered waters. These include but are not limited to : anchor, rope and chain, fire extinguisher, oars, flares and more.
The point is, of course, that some operators blatantly disregard these requirements. If stopped by the water police this would attract a fine, as it should. Ultimately, of course, the skipper is legally responsible for the safety of his/her passengers and crew.
These requirements are well publicised and, in some areas, well enforced.
Only fools disregard them.
For me, and based on personal experiences of the unpleasant type, I would also advise yachties, and others, NOT to tow a dinghy, and to have a securing device which attaches the dinghy to the mother ship in a firm way, eg. davits (of the Weaver variety). These allow the dinghy to be loaded or unloaded while safely attached.
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Old 11-09-2015, 15:43   #45
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Re: Death by Dinghy : Risks and Best Practices

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Originally Posted by RaymondR View Post
I am not sure if they still do but the WA regulations used to state that the tender must only be used to go between the parent vessel and the shore and for no other purpose which totally ignored all the other lifesaving functions for which a tender might be used.
Many too-clever cruisers try to claim their dinghies do not need to be registered as they are the ship's tenders - a rule that originated with tenders for merchant and naval ships. Quite reasonably IMHO law enforcement responds that if it is just used as a tender for the ship's business that may be allowed, but any other use puts the lie to it and registration is required. In practice, cruising in foreign waters I have never heard of a problem with a dinghy being identified as a tender - it is only when it is used as a dodge to registration in home waters will this attract unwanted attention, AFAIK. In that case just pay up and register. YMMV

[Edit: Of course you can use a tender for life-saving - that is very definitely ship's business!]

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