Practical Tips for Survival at Sea

In the course of writing five books about accidents and survival at sea, Michael Tougias interviewed many survivors who shared with him the things they would have done differently, as well as what helped them survive. They did this to help prevent accidents and to help those who find themselves in trouble. Their tips and insights include decisions taken before the trip, actions taken when disaster strikes, and choices made during search and rescue. Add their insights to your survival-at-sea arsenal.

Practical Sailor Tests Lightweight 10-foot Rigid Inflatable Boats

Eight fixed-transom Hypalon and PVC rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) from seven manufacturers were put through their paces as testers inspected each for on-the-water performance, inflation ease, lifting, seating, storage space, transom design, and hull design. RIB brands tested were AB, Avon, Achilles, Brig, Mercury, Caribe, and Zodiac. With a 9.9-horsepower Mercury outboard four-stroke engine pushing it, each dinghy was tested for speed, ability to plane, handling, tracking, stability, comfort level, and how well it deflected spray when powering through 1- to 2-foot wakes. The test RIBs from Achilles, Caribe, and Zodiac rated the highest in the field of fixed-transom rigid inflatable boats. Testers liked the ring-type oarlocks on the Caribe L10 and the Brigs bow handle. Practical Sailor pet peeves included bad oar stowage on most of the boats and thin rub strakes. Although classified as lightweight, the average weight of these test boats was 136 pounds.

Learning to Share

For avid sailors with flexible schedules, timeshare sailing can offer a cheaper ûalternative to sailing clubs or chartering.

Fenders and Lines for Seawalls

To the lubber, tying-up to a bulkhead seems like the simplest of all docking situations. Perhaps with floating docks this is true. You just throw in a few fenders and tie a few lines. Simple. But in the world of tidal bulkheads with pilings or rough concrete facings, it is often a hammer and anvil situation, with the wind and waves hammer incessantly as the anvil moves up and down with the tide, causing fenders to slip out of position.

Mailport: 04/09

I read with interest your evaluation of first aid kits, which wrapped up with the final installment in the December 2008 issue. Id like to add a couple of points: Weekend, cruising, and bluewater sailors should invest in a good up-to-date first aid and CPR course. It is as important as a functional bilge pump. The responsible sailor can outfit a substantial and superior first-aid kit for much less money than a commercially available kit. The kit should be appropriate for the expected duration a victim will need treatment prior to evacuation. Most commercial kits contain a lot of fluff and are unnecessarily redundant-a lot of Band-Aids. I stress to distance sailors stocking a few prescription items and aggressive treatment for seasickness, beyond Bonine. I favor a solid medical text such as "A Comprehensive Guide to Marine Medicine," by Dr. Erick Weiss and Dr. Michael Jacobs, or "Medicine for Mountaineering and other Wilderness Activities," by James Wilkerson. The latter is available from Mountaineer Books. Both texts give guidance on stocking kits appropriate for your boat. Remember, the victim may be the captain or medical officer, and a novice may be the one rendering treatment. A medical guide is an invaluable resource.

PS Advisor: Can Water Tanks Be Used for Fuel?

We made the embarrassing mistake of putting fuel in one of our water tanks (built-in fiberglass tanks). The silver lining is that we were trying to figure out how to expand our fuel capacity. Can you advise me on how to figure out if the tank can serve as our new fuel tank?

Caring For Your Marine Diesel Engine

Expecting calms for most of the passage, we set out in a flat calm with 70 gallons of fuel. Six hours later, around mid-day, the engine wailed, screeched, clanged, and died. Hardly a ripple stirred the Gulf of Panama.