March 2011

Check, please

Boating checklists ensure your safety

Prepare for emergency and routine situations by creating and using checklists unique to your boat to ensure that equipment is ready, to brief crew and to drill for possible emergencies.

Emergency checklists

Think about the different emergencies that could occur on your boat and how you would respond. Keep the steps clear and simple. Include detailed information or sketches to reinforce critical items.

If you are incapacitated, someone will need to follow the checklist for you. So discuss the list with crew members to ensure that you have addressed all possible actions and concerns.

Emergency radio communications: Prepare a mayday checklist as well as simple instructions on radio operation.

Onboard fires: Detail the locations where fires are likely to occur, diagram the placement of fire extinguishers, and provide instructions on fire extinguisher use and alternative escape routes.

Taking on water: Discuss the likely sources of flooding. Include a diagram of through-hull locations and their operation, a reminder to “taste before panicking,” and the location of pumps and operating instructions.

Crew overboard: Include a list of what to do to rescue a victim and how to help yourself if you are the victim.

Storm prep: Prepare a list of tasks to do before the storm.

Abandon ship: Provide brief instructions on donning PFDs, preparing and launching the life raft or dinghy, and locating the ditch bag. Provide a brief list of what else to grab if there’s time.

Nonemergency checklists

Routine activities: Create instructions for routine activities such as using the head or range.

Location, location: List the location of important items such as the first aid kit, life jackets and harnesses, flares, flashlights, and fire extinguishers, as well as switches and controls for critical equipment.

Before shoving off: Other lists include topics to cover in crew briefings and pre-departure maintenance and inventory checks needed before getting under way for day, overnight or extended trips.

Find elegant drinkware and more at the USPS Ship's Store.

Mastering Marlinespike

Monkey’s fist

When you need to heave a line more than 50 feet, a monkey’s fist will help. To tie this knot, start with 6 feet of 3/8-inch nylon rope.


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