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Safe Sailing


We make our best effort in our lessons to provide a safe learning environment for all our members. During a lesson or while signed out to sail supervised, we try our best to keep an eye out for you. 

However, once you earn a rating you can sail unsupervised, which means you should keep in mind the following:

Sailing unsupervised
              • When sailing unsupervised you alone are responsible for your own safety.
              • You should not expect rescue if you run into trouble.
              • Do not attempt to swim to shore if your boat is rendered unsailable for any reason. STAY WITH THE BOAT. It is much easier to find a boat on the water than it is to find a person.
              • Use your judgment: do not go sailing or return to the docks immediately if you are in doubt of your ability to self-rescue.
              • It is your responsibility to judge the wind and weather conditions and decide if your sailing ability is adequate. Check the forecast!
              • It can take a long time to sail back to the docks--plan for the fact that sunset and darkness happen quickly and you cannot be out after dark in our dinghies.
Serious emergencies
If someone is seriously injured or unconscious:
  • Call 911.
  • Notify your instructor immediately.
In some cases, your instructor may ask you to board the whaler to be returned to shore. Do not worry about the sailboat or any equipment. People are always more important.

Lifejackets

We strongly recommend that you wear your lifejacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD), since they only work when you wear them!
  • However, you are not required to wear them unless you are under the age of 18 or cannot swim.
  • In accordance with the law, you must carry one PFD of the appropriate size and type for each person onboard any club boat.
  • Wearing a PFD can help prevent hypothermia (see below).
  • Be sure your PFD is secured correctly, as it will quickly become useless if you fall into the water with the straps undone.

Hypothermia

Exposure to cold weather and water can affect your ability to sail back to the docks and/or self-rescue. Sailors may be at risk of hypothermia due to exposure to cold, windy conditions and cold water. Severe hypothermia can lead to injury or death:
  • Cold water conducts heat away from the body many times faster than cold air.
  • It is possible to experience hypothermia in warm weather.
  • The effects of cold-water immersion and hypothermia can occur in water temperatures below 77 degrees F. Union Bay and Lake Washington rarely get this warm.
    • The water temperature in the summer sailing season (from 15 June to 15 October) ranges from 55 to 70 degrees F. The expected time before exhaustion or unconsciousness for this temperature range is 1-7 hours.
    • The water temperature in the winter sailing season (from 15 October to 15 June) ranges from 40 to 55 degrees F. The expected time before exhaustion is 3-10 minutes.
  • Signs and symptoms of hypothermia range from mild (shivering, cold hands and feet, numbness, loss of dexterity, pain from cold) to severe (shivering decreases or stops, confusion, clumsiness, slurred speech, irrational and/or irritable behaviour--victim may deny feeling cold and resist help, semiconsciousness or unconsciousness, increased muscular rigidity).
  • More information on hypothermia: http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/coastal_communities/hypothermia

Lee shores and Sailing by the Lee
When the wind is blowing onto a shore or dock, it's known as a lee shore. Sailing near lee shores can be dangerous because if you capsize or lose control and end up pinned against the lee shore by the wind, it can be considerably difficult to sail away from it.

When you are sailing downwind with the boom on the windward side you are 'sailing by the lee.' This is dangerous because it can lead to accidental jibes thereby putting the boat and the crew at risk of damage by an out-of-control boom.