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Old 01-11-2013, 13:05   #1
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Lightbulb Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

In a recent discussion on the merits of SSB vis Satphone I saw the quote below and thought it was worth discussing. I am aiming for a descussion about the relevence or not of SOLAS and marine regulation not the technical merits of particular equipment!!

"As far a SOLAS I would rather have a sat phone with the preprogrammed number in memory for calling US CC or British SAR coordination that trying to access someone on an SSB with poor propagation.

I push a couple buttons on the Iridium and I have help. Critical when my task loading is maxed out in an emergency. Plus I can move the Iridium into the life raft when it's time to go.[/QUOTE]"

There are some good and valid points!

When I set up my boat for offshore passage making I used the UK coastguard regulations for small commercial vessels as my starting point. There where some things I didn't include because it was impractical or clearly irrelevant (such as carrying oxygen administration kit in the first aid box) but generally it made sense.

I get the impression a lot of skippers on yachts see these guidelines as out of date or not relevant to them (in most countries compliance is not required for non-commercial vessels).
In particular many seem to see flares as no longer relevant because they believe they will not be seen and radio is a universal and a much more reliable way of signalling for help.
The other big one is radio. I don't think may would argue that carrying a cell phone instead of a VHF would be good seamanship in coastal waters. Many do seem to think carrying a satellite link with it's ability to link to the shore-side phone system replaces HF/MF radio equipment which IS still mandatory for commercial vessels. I know full Inmarsat is allowed as a substitute but this is only relevant to larger vessels, cost, weight and space make it prohibitive for most of us. What is generally meant is a portable sat-phone.
Are there other areas you feel strongly have become outdated or should be taken seriously?
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Old 01-11-2013, 13:40   #2
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

My View
SOLAS and the marine shipping regulations are base on the idea of ships being first, self sufficient and secondly, creating a communications net bridge to bridge to enable vessels of offer assistance in emergencies. Shore support has an important role in co-subordinating response and can be called on for additional support if available. The primary route for this on small vessels is via DSC radio or EPIRB. Other equipment is seen as a useful addition but not a replacement.
Signalling, navigation and critical safety systems that require electricity should be backed up by manual alternatives. e.g. GPS/electronic nav by compass, sextant and paper charts; VHF radio by flares and other mechanical signals.
I apply the same ideas to all critical systems on board, the ship should be able to navigate to a safe harbour in the event of total electronics failure and, for sailing vessels, total engine failure (most commonly out of, or dirty fuel!)
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Old 01-11-2013, 13:44   #3
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

The few times in my life where I got the feeling that things were getting dire, mentally my world shrunk down to one objective, mitigating of the issue.

Consequently, SOLAS, USCG regulations, and requirements of other agencies may have to be paid homage to but: I want the best technology that I can afford meeting weight, space, cost, utility constraints that will get me out of a jam. I want to press the "easy" button.

Layered safety: life raft, communication, tethers, life vests, blankets for holes in the hull, etc. all backing each other up.

I can imagine that with a hull half full of water there is a lot going on, task loading maxes out. Ditch bag and life raft in the cockpit, finding the source, finding light (always happens at night), how do we stop the water/fire/etc.

The very last thing I think I would want to be doing in the kaos is spinning the dial on the SSB to find someone competent to respond correctly to an emergency. It is tough enough to use when nothing is going on.

With an Iridium sat phone I can access a preprogrammed emergency number in about 20 seconds from power on and be talking with USCG or British SAR from anywhere in the world. The technology exists. It follows me in the life raft when my yacht is sinking beneath surface.

Consequently, I am more interested in what currently makes the best sense rather than what some ponderous agency like Homeland Security thinks is best for me.
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Old 01-11-2013, 14:21   #4
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

SSBs come with big red buttons, no? So do VHFs. Surely that's the "one-stop" option, given that a boat or ship might be closer than SAR resources and perhaps even better equipped than, say, a helicopter at the edge of its range to pull you out.

Another aspect to consider is that boat crises are quite varied; it is possible that what is perceived as "imminent peril" is in fact a solvable or less severe than first judged problem. An example of this is the "Perfect Storm" Westsail 32 Satori. Panicky crew called in an ill-judged Mayday, and the boat had to be abandoned to the elements, only to beach, relatively undamaged, and to be retrieved by her owner.

The problem is that once you start the wheel of rescue in motion, you (or whoever on your crew made the call) basically have surrendered your authority as an autonomous skipper.

Hence the "step up to the raft" ideal. But in that situation, every skipper has to decide for herself how the endgame is going to best be played.

That said, I would keep a fully charged satphone and EPIRB for the ditch bag and lift raft.
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Old 01-11-2013, 14:35   #5
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

I would never rely on an Iridium phone for my single connection to a satellite in an emergency.

Twice I've had the phone provider deactivate my SIM card. Once because of a billing error, another time for some unknown reason. On both accounts I was still on shore and could call with a cellular phone to fix the issue, but it drove home for me that they are not emergency gear.

They also don't float and although the new "extreme" model is water resistant they're hardly waterproof.

An EPIRB you buy, it's built like a tank, you mount it, and it sits there waiting like a patient sentinel for years if you ever need to use it. It has its own GPS.

I also probably use my Iridium more than anyone else does (~100-500 minutes a month); they are finicky. No way are you going to sit there in some horrible storm reading the GPS position off a receiver in the life raft as your Iridium phone stays on a perfect connection and you rattle off your position. I guess it's possible but I'll stick with the EPIRB for emergencies.
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Old 01-11-2013, 14:52   #6
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Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
.

Consequently, SOLAS, USCG regulations, and requirements of other agencies may have to be paid homage to but: I want the best technology that I can afford meeting weight, space, cost, utility constraints that will get me out of a jam. I want to press the "easy" button..
Then push the button on the epirb.
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Old 01-11-2013, 14:58   #7
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

You have to wonder if the person quoted ever used a satphone. As Rebel Heart points out, there is no guarantee you are going to get a connection or a stable connection.
I really think you need to consider exactly where you are planning to have your dire emergency. If coastal your VHF radio would probably be better than a satphone. A lot cheaper, you can have several, and they are fully waterproof. Some float and I believe some even have GPS now. If offshore a EPIRB with GPS is absolutely necessary.
I just finished reading "Rescue in the Pacific" by Tony Farrington. This book describes the rescue efforts that went on during the May/June 1994 "Queens Birthday" storm north east of New Zealand. A tropical depression overtook the cruising fleet heading from NZ to Fiji/Tonga with winds to 80 knots and seas estimated to 100 feet in some cases. Seven boats were abandoned and one disappeared with crew. Both flares, VHF and SSB radios were vital instruments in getting crews rescued from boats. You can't talk to an Orion P3 or a rescue ship on a satphone.
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Old 01-11-2013, 15:10   #8
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

They also don't float and although the new "extreme" model is water resistant they're hardly waterproof.
An EPIRB you buy, it's built like a tank, you mount it, and it sits there waiting like a patient sentinel for years if you ever need to use it. It has its own GPS.
[/QUOTE]

I definitely agree with the sentiment behind this. I have had a fair bit of experience with emergency situations (as a adventure sports provider, safety adviser and trainer and nursing, not because I keep needing to be rescued!!). Certified safety kit is designed, built and tested to very demanding standards, that's why it is so expensive! You would be amazed at what people break an what fails when it all goes wrong.
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Old 01-11-2013, 15:11   #9
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

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Originally Posted by gordwedman View Post
You have to wonder if the person quoted ever used a satphone. As Rebel Heart points out, there is no guarantee you are going to get a connection or a stable connection.
Both flares, VHF and SSB radios were vital instruments in getting crews rescued from boats. You can't talk to an Orion P3 or a rescue ship on a satphone.
Used an Iridium Model 9555 sat phone with 100% connectivity extensively for two North Atlantic crossings. It was in a cradle with an external marine antenna. Waterproof bag next to the cradle. I found it to be totally reliable, with near zero dropped calls. The external antenna helped I think as the gain is probably higher.

In our ditch bag was a fully charged VHF handheld radio for when the P3 gets close.

We had two EPIRBs onboard a new and an old both registered. However, the sat phone serves many purposes.
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Old 01-11-2013, 15:16   #10
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Are there other areas you feel strongly have become outdated or should be taken seriously?
couple of points.
first, as mayday events are thankfully quite rare and each one has so many variables I doubt it's possible to draw any firm conclusions regarding usefulness of a sat phone against an SSB from actual real world data.

Second, one area which I do feel quite strongly about is a tendency to spend more time and energy on systems to deal with emergencies at the expense of doing everything possible to stop bad things happening in the first place or dealing with events alone by being self sufficient in all areas possible.
I think the thought process should be "I'm completely on my own out there, no one is coming to help so I better be able to look after the boat and crew come what may."..instead of "how many ways can I shout for help?"

Maybe a bit exaggerated but hopefully that gets the point across.



And I do have an Epirb. But day to day try to forget it's there


So let's get back to the Internet and argue that whatever system happens to be on our own boat is best.
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Old 01-11-2013, 16:12   #11
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

I don't think it should be an either/or discussion...

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Old 01-11-2013, 16:36   #12
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

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I don't think it should be an either/or discussion...

-Chris
People do have limited funds you know. Decisions have to be made on what to spend it on.

One situation where a satphone might be the best choice would be in trying to get medical advice. You probably can't speak directly with a doctor using an SSB, maybe not initially with the satphone but probably at some point. You might also have a better chance of getting through.
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Old 01-11-2013, 19:04   #13
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Originally Posted by roland stockham View Post
My View
SOLAS and the marine shipping regulations are base on the idea of ships being first, self sufficient and secondly, creating a communications net bridge to bridge to enable vessels of offer assistance in emergencies. Shore support has an important role in co-subordinating response and can be called on for additional support if available. The primary route for this on small vessels is via DSC radio or EPIRB. Other equipment is seen as a useful addition but not a replacement.
Signalling, navigation and critical safety systems that require electricity should be backed up by manual alternatives. e.g. GPS/electronic nav by compass, sextant and paper charts; VHF radio by flares and other mechanical signals.
I apply the same ideas to all critical systems on board, the ship should be able to navigate to a safe harbour in the event of total electronics failure and, for sailing vessels, total engine failure (most commonly out of, or dirty fuel!)
Just to clarify things and I don't know what context the OP is using the term " SOLAS" . The only part of the SOLAS convention that applies to small leisure yachts is SOLAS chapter V.

Furthermore under GMDSS , the rescue concept that replaces the old SOLAS Convention, A ship is meant to have TWO independent methods of distress alerts , reaching the SHORE . GMDSS places the requirement that you notify the MRCC first. They then coordinate with any rescue assets nearby. This is based on the objective , that the closest asset may not be the most suitable. Hence under DSC altering , either VHF or MF/HF , Epirb or Inmarsat , the distress signal is Designed to reach the shore. Only if and after waiting a reasonable time , does shipping nearby intervene and acknowledge the distress alert.

This is the change from SOLAS. Convention ships to GMDSS. the shore station is the primary destination of a distress alert. And mandatory carriage ships contain communications equipment to meet that requirement.

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Old 02-11-2013, 04:31   #14
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Re: Ship safety, SOLAS and national regulation - are they relevant to yachts

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People do have limited funds you know. Decisions have to be made on what to spend it on.

Sure, fair enough.

Although we are talking about voluntary travel (at risk) by people who voluntarily own yachts...

Not an argument, just an observation.

I like having Plans A, B, C, D, E...



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