Safety tips that can save your life on a long boat trip
Many things can go wrong, when you go on a long ocean voyage, in Hong Kong, usually people buy motor yachts and sail them from Hong Kong to the Philippines, which is about 600 nautical miles. Being in this business for 21 years. I have seen many things go wrong in this procedure, including people I know who lost their lives. So here are some tips, I really just wish I could help someone and possibly save someone’s life.
Here are some tips or things to understand before you think about taking a long trip that could endanger your life.
1) Know what happens when shit hits the fan
If you get stuck for whatever reason and drift, you’ve called the coastguard and you’re lucky they answer your call and understand your accent. Do you think a helicopter will show up and a Chuck Norris type guy will come and save you in a few minutes? If you believe that, you’ve been watching too much Hollywood. Knock yourself out and realize that any sensible help will arrive within 24 hours after you have successfully made contact. There are hundreds of human or machine errors that can occur. In your life, when have you ever had a smooth day where everything worked the way it was supposed to? So why do you think you’re going to be a priority for the rescue team or whoever is trying to save you? Even if you’re their priority, what makes you think they’re perfectly capable of pulling it off or not facing any problems of their own right now? So again, the point is, prepare for the worst case scenario. And let me tell you what’s going to happen when the shit hits the fan. When you’re out on the open sea and you cross that point of no return, something is going to happen to your engine. It could be anything from an injector problem to a clogged system to overheating and shutdown.
Now you’re going to need a guy who really knows how to fix things, but the open sea isn’t like your marine club, getting into the engine room to take things apart and repair or replace them is an almost impossible task. And many times even a repair that you know how to do cannot be done in the open sea.
You’ll screw everything up, especially when you find a problem that can’t be fixed on the spot, and you can’t really go on. Your only lifeline during that time will be a satellite phone that could somehow rescue you. But guess that! You will most likely have to say goodbye to your ship. Because if any coast guard or navy is going to try to rescue you. They are there to rescue people, not their property. They won’t pull your boat. But let’s say you’re not in a life-threatening situation, you’re just stuck there. You’ll still need someone to come to your rescue, and you’ll still need the Coast Guard. In this case, they will not dispatch their emergency vessels, but instead contact an underway container ship or any other commercial vessel that is close to your location and arrange for that vessel to pick you up. Even if the large vessel decides to tow your boat, towing a boat in open water will only break the boat or sink it. In a moment you will have to let it go and let it go.
If you want to have any chance of recovering the ship, you’ll need a satellite tracker on the ship, there are some cheap ones that can run on batteries for up to six weeks. Which should be enough time for you to have a tugboat or salvage boat come and take you to port.
But guess how much they charge. A salvage boat that will travel out into the open water to locate and bring your boat back will cost upwards of $12,000 per day. And they won’t be in a hurry, I assure you.
2) Have the right emergency kit
It goes without saying that you need correct and up-to-date navigational equipment and AIS (Automatic Identification System). But you also need the best emergency equipment, because now your life depends on the equipment you have on board. So if you’re still close to civilization, say 10 miles, you can use your Marine VHF and get help. That will be your lucky day. But if it is 300 miles from the port, in the open sea, where the nearest port is another 300 miles. You better have a high quality satellite phone with you. There are handheld ones, but you’ll want a better satellite phone with an antenna on top of your boat in a situation like this. The handheld GPS is also very important, because it reminds you that you are going to have to abandon ship. How long it is in a rescue boat or life raft depends on your lucky stars. So you’re still going to need your handheld satellite phone. I know I sound pessimistic, but if you’ve been in the business as long as I have and know people who have never been found, you’ll know what I mean. Also get an EPIRB system and register it. Makes emergency calls by himself. But don’t rely on just one system. Remember that when the weather is bad and things go wrong, no one else is going to come to save you. A good life raft that is positioned correctly and easy to deploy is going to be your lifeline.
3) Don’t think you know everything!
Only if I could get a dollar every time I hear things like “we had ships, we know all about them”. “We’ve done tougher boat trips than this.” “My captain is a professional, he will handle it.” Many of these guys have disappeared into the abyss. You have to remind yourself that no matter how big your boat is, you are still a speck of dust in the vast ocean and when mother nature gets angry, it doesn’t take long for a situation to go from being a beautiful sight to being simply deadly. . So the point is. Listen to the professionals, do not depend only on your captain, because a captain is not going to tell you his weakness. He needs payday from him. Listen to an experienced surveyor, a company that has made the trip many times, or an experienced broker point you in the right direction. Don’t depend on one party, get multiple suggestions from experienced people.
4) Do not do it if you have a tight budget
Yes, buying boats is an expensive business, when a customer buys a boat, plans his trip across the country to take him back to his country, he is exhausted with paying the bills. If you are in a foreign country, especially as expensive as Hong Kong, he will get angry every time he sees a bill. Everything costs a lot of money here. From a few extra days in moorings, water supply, to spare parts, fuel, food and especially labor. It’s a mentally taxing process if the boat owner is involved in the day-to-day operation. In the midst of all this, you’ll realize that if you just shipped the ship, the cost wouldn’t be much different, and when you think about that, you’ll start cutting costs on something that’s important, like quality. life raft, Epirb system, GPS maybe, or some work recommended by your surveyor. Once again, nothing is cheap when it comes to taking a long boat trip.
5) Hire a professional to check the weather and don’t make close calls
It’s easy to Google weather trends and get a general idea. But ask your surveyor (who had inspected his boat) to double check things, you can contact a government department and also ask for help understanding weather trends. Modern weather systems can pretty accurately check conditions for 72 hours, but if your trip is 2 days in open water, there’s even a small chance of bad weather after 5 days. Know that this is a close call, and this patch of bad weather is likely to be your killer. So wait until there is a good clear weather forecast. And of course have a weather receiver that can be added to the ship’s existing navigation system. Of course, having a navigation system on the boat is a must, including a decent sized head-up display with plotter, radar, GPS. Adding a weather receiver to that system could cost less than $100, with a small subscription fee you can receive weather updates throughout your journey.
6) Avoid the most common problems
Last but not least. Keep in mind that the most common engine breakdown problem is clogged systems. Could be dirty fuel. But more than that. It’s just when people buy old boats. They do not understand that after many years, there is diesel sludge that accumulates at the bottom of the tank. When the ship sails in national waters for a few hours a week, there is no problem. But when you take the boat out to sea and it gets hit by waves, eventually after hours of rough sailing, the dirt in the fuel tank will get into the pipes and start to clog it. So if you bought a used boat and took it across the ocean, be sure to clean the tanks. It is not cheap to do and can be labor intensive. But it’s necessary. Another problem is also dirty fuel. Some countries or some fuel companies may sell you dirty fuel at cheaper prices. There are some places in Asia where water is mixed with diesel. In many places, diesel is simply dirty. This must be checked very carefully.
Sometimes the drums that store the diesel. They are also dirty, reused industrial drums that must be carefully cleaned and dried before the fuel can be stored inside.
I hope these tips can be useful for those who are planning a boating adventure.