Lessons learned


Ron Trossbach, head of the US Sailing investigation into the Rambler 100 accident, offered the following lessons that sailors can take away from the capsize.

Life Jackets (inflatable PFD/preferred)

  • Always wear your own life jacket, properly fitted and secured. “A life jacket isn’t on until it’s complete with fitting/adjustment, crotch straps attached, and PLB and bright strobe on your person. The tether/harness must be attached (but not necessarily hooked on).”
  • Life jackets should be either on a person, hooked to their bunk, or otherwise immediately available.
  • Inspect your life jacket every time you put it on and conduct an air test of your inflatable annually.
  • Revisit the decision whether you want to wear an automatic or manual inflating life jacket.
  • Know how to manually inflate your inflatable life jacket. Finding the pull cord is not always easy.
  • Wear crotch/thigh straps (required by ISAF OSR 5.02.5 b on all harnesses since 2011). Know how to deploy and use your spray hood. (Splash guard/spray hoods are already strongly recommended by ISAF OSR 5.01 j.)
  • Upgrade your whistle. (Installed PFD whistles were considered useless.)
  • Many PFD strobe light sensors must be in water to work, and they are not very bright.

Stay with the Boat

  • If you can’t stay with the boat, stay with the group.

Always Carry

  • (in fanny pack, attached to PFD, or in your foul weather gear):
  • A personal locating beacon (PLB) 100 percent of the time. (Be sure that the boat’s name is included on the registration form that you submit to NOAA.)
  • An alternate to a PLB is a waterproof VHF handheld radio, preferably with digital selective calling (DSC) that has been properly registered.
  • A bright strobe light.
  • A tether/safety line.
  • One or more mini flares or a laser flare.
  • A knife.
Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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