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.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Old guys rule...

We've recently stripped down, and put back together, our wonderful Simpson Lawrence windlass, a SL500 model no less and believed to date from the early 50's. It's a massively solid and comforting piece of kit with a cast iron case, two speeds, three pawls and five grease nipples. The handle we use to operate it is about a metre long and raises the chain on both the push and pull strokes. We've never bothered with the low gear, have no idea how many feet per minute we raise but love its simplicity, ruggedness and lack of frills.

Ahead of the windlass can be seen the swivel we inserted into the system to try to get the anchor to come up toward the roller in the correct orientation. Doesn't always work and we may not keep it there but you can see, in the photo below, that the swivel is NOT attached directly to the anchor. I've lost count of the number of boats I've seen where swivels are attached in that way; despite the numerous accounts of the damage done to the swivel when an anchor, buried deep or caught on a rock is unable to move sideways and the forces splay the swivel side walls. We use a short length of 12mm (1/2")chain to connect the swivel to the anchor.

We had an "altercation" with someone on line recently who accused us of being massively over the top in terms of the weight of anchor (33kg) we use for the size of boat. Well perhaps in his terms we are; but then, unlike him, we don't have the safety net of a home - Hannah represents everything we own and the only insurance we have is for 3rd Party i.e. if we wreck your boat our insurance will cover your damage but ours is down to us. On top of this of course, Hannah is very heavy, not because she is a ferro hull but simply because this is our home and we live aboard on a full time basis. The 700 books (no exaggeration) 1,000+ paper charts, cast iron wood stove and all the provisions etc add up to a lot of weight. Although our fuel tank is small at 60 litres we carry an additional 180 litres or so in jerry cans. Likewise water. I do remember when we were last pulled out in the UK, we'd stripped the boat of most things, no books or charts for instance and both masts, booms, gaffs and all sails had been removed and we still weighed over 16 ton (35,000lbs or well over 16000 kgs) Add to all that weight the windage of two masts, served rigging, baggy wrinkles and 1500 feet of running rigging and Hannah adds up to a wonderful target for wind and waves when we're at anchor. So we use what we feel is the best insurance possible - a heavy anchor with a rock solid manual windlass. It may not appeal to everyone and, it seems, nothing brings forth the arm chair pundits as much as anchoring threads on forums but this works for us.