Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Sometimes you need a little bit of luck...

Prompted by a series of posts on  here I was reminded of my recent experience of going overboard. The posts concern the sensibility of being either harnessed or wearing a life jacket at all times; not a philosophy we either share or agree with but each to their own. But it got me thinking, looking at where on the boat it had happened and whether a harness and or life jacket would have made a difference. You can read about what happened here if you haven't already but the conclusion I came to is this. Well OK lets first rule out the life jacket as we have never worn them ever on Hannah but we do, if we think conditions dictate, wear harnesses and on that occasion we did not feel conditions warranted harnesses. That's our decision, others may, and do, adopt a very different approach and that's fine by us. So thinking about what happened this is what I feel may have occurred and what a possible outcome may have been had I been wearing a harness.

When the boom swung back toward me I was moving to my left and I probably caught my left heel against the running backstay which is stretched taught between a block and a winch (not a good arrangement which we are now taking steps to change) It was this stumble, coupled to trying to dodge a swinging boom, that began the process of tipping me upside down over the side. Had I been wearing a harness it would have been clipped on to a jackstay and thus dangling vertically from chest level to the deck. Somersaulting backwards would have, probably, meant my legs passing either side of the harness as I went over the bulwarks. As I see it I would have been suspended upside down with my head underwater with my legs at 90 degrees to my body ( head at 6 o'clock, legs at 3o'clock) effectively trapping me in a prime drowning position. As those who have read the update know, plus the fact that I'm still writing is a bit of a give away, I simple fell off the boat and with two pieces of luck came back on board.

Well the conclusion I draw from this is not that wearing a harness is bad for your health but simply that there are no hard and fast rules. People fall over board and are drowned wearing life belts and or harnesses. People are saved because they have been wearing life belts or harnesss. Neither is right or wrong, it's just a choice. Hopefully you make the right one.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Mick. I would add that a harness is great if it is arranged such that it would prevent you from falling over the side but otherwise can be a serious safety issue.

    For example, we clip on at the mast using a short tether meaning the boat can buck and kick all it wants, we can slip but never go over the side or over the guard wire because of the short tether to a mast fixture.

    But on the side decks using a jackstay and harness, there's a good chance you will end up as you described, or with broken or severely bruised ribs which will prevent you aiding in your own recovery.

    We wear lifejackets at night and in severe weather but not otherwise. We only use the type that needs inflating (either automatic or manual) on entry to the water so as not to hinder movement although these are not foolproof.

    Each to their own as you say