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Breamerly

What's your approach to Risk Management?

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Listened to a sailing podcast while I was making dinner, and it focused on risk management. The host was annoying and the whole thing kind of ambled a bit, but their broader thesis seemed to ring true: risk management is broadly neglected among boaters, from racers to pleasure dinkers.

And that made me wonder - what does everyone else actually *do* for risk management?

Do you have checklists? Pre-articulated (written down?) standard operating procedures? Drills?

For instance, I know that in theory we've all done man overboard drills. I also know that, in reality, for a lot of people that consisted of throwing a fender over the side on a calm day six years ago.

Do you have pre-sail/pre-transit sit-downs? Do you articulate specific thresholds for risk mitigation steps (like putting in a reef)? Do you have specific scenarios where you intentionally add risk mitigation elements?

 

Personally I don't feel like I'm great on risk, but I'm (we're) improving. Like with daysail passengers, instead of just handing them an auto-inflating PFD, nowadays I stop, explain what it is, open it up, show the jerk tab and attached strobe, and show the blow tube in case it doesn't go 'poof'. I've also started to take going on deck a lot more seriously: I climbed a fair bit at one point, and I now remind myself each time that I'm in easy territory but potentially very exposed. I've also started, even in calm water, to ask my wife to stick her head out (or at least listen for me) if I have to go up while she's below.

We've also done man overboard drills under sail pretty recently, although not as many as we should. And after a close call we keep a fire extinguisher at 'high ready' whenever we transfer gasoline or alcohol - within arm's reach, pin pulled.

Beyond that I also have been meaning to put together departure/anchoring/secure-for-storage checklists, but have lately been focusing my safety energy on setting up and implementing good safety practice aboard with our toddler (life jacket in cockpit, tether if underway, first hatchboard in if he's below so he can't climb out).

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Experience and common sense are the best risk management strategies. Some people don't seem to be able to see problems occurring until it's too late.

Legal issues have created process and check lists to cope with the inexperienced and stupid. I guess if a ran a sailing business my boats would have process and check lists.

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Mixed feelings.

I don't use a written checklist to get underway every day. Leaving for Bermuda or similar where forgetting all the food wouldn't be funny I do use a list to make sure we have everything we should have. Offshore I have written standing orders that are very simple, something like log our position on paper every hour no matter how many computers we have going. No one on deck at night without a harness and PFD. Wake me up if it looks like any traffic will be within a mile of us and you don't have a crossing worked out.

The reason I am wary of going too far down the "treat the boat like an airplane" path is I am a pilot you very much can suck the fun out of something by risk-analyzing and checklisting yourself into not moving out of the slip because something bad might happen.

 

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8 hours ago, Breamerly said:

Listened to a sailing podcast while I was making dinner, and it focused on risk management. The host was annoying and the whole thing kind of ambled a bit, but their broader thesis seemed to ring true: risk management is broadly neglected among boaters, from racers to pleasure dinkers.

And that made me wonder - what does everyone else actually *do* for risk management?

Do you have checklists? Pre-articulated (written down?) standard operating procedures? Drills?

For instance, I know that in theory we've all done man overboard drills. I also know that, in reality, for a lot of people that consisted of throwing a fender over the side on a calm day six years ago.

Do you have pre-sail/pre-transit sit-downs? Do you articulate specific thresholds for risk mitigation steps (like putting in a reef)? Do you have specific scenarios where you intentionally add risk mitigation elements?

 

Personally I don't feel like I'm great on risk, but I'm (we're) improving. Like with daysail passengers, instead of just handing them an auto-inflating PFD, nowadays I stop, explain what it is, open it up, show the jerk tab and attached strobe, and show the blow tube in case it doesn't go 'poof'. I've also started to take going on deck a lot more seriously: I climbed a fair bit at one point, and I now remind myself each time that I'm in easy territory but potentially very exposed. I've also started, even in calm water, to ask my wife to stick her head out (or at least listen for me) if I have to go up while she's below.

We've also done man overboard drills under sail pretty recently, although not as many as we should. And after a close call we keep a fire extinguisher at 'high ready' whenever we transfer gasoline or alcohol - within arm's reach, pin pulled.

Beyond that I also have been meaning to put together departure/anchoring/secure-for-storage checklists, but have lately been focusing my safety energy on setting up and implementing good safety practice aboard with our toddler (life jacket in cockpit, tether if underway, first hatchboard in if he's below so he can't climb out).

Geez

if you must teach everything to every crew ...you need better crew 

 certain aspects of safety such as the location of equipment, thru hulls or unique vulnerabilities ..  should always be  publicly posted were it will often  be seen by crew ... nav station bulkhead  on the back of the head door 

risk management as you sail is the job of the skipper   , he observes the skill level of each crew and formulates a plan consistent with the available  skill

hopefully your crew is staffed by  several high skill crew 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, European Bloke said:

Experience and common sense are the best risk management strategies. Some people don't seem to be able to see problems occurring until it's too late.

I don't think this is a terrible strategy, but it's worth noting its flaws. Humans routinely over-estimate their own experience and abilities, and it is a major cause of accidents. That said, sailboats are usually not terribly high-risk environments, so I don't think it's the worst idea to just say, "Hang it all, lets go, I can probably handle whatever happens." But I you can't really call that a risk reduction strategy, especially if your interest in the sport includes doing new things (IE, pushing the limits of your experience).

 

7 hours ago, kent_island_sailor said:

The reason I am wary of going too far down the "treat the boat like an airplane" path is I am a pilot you very much can suck the fun out of something by risk-analyzing and checklisting yourself into not moving out of the slip because something bad might happen.

This is exactly my interest. Over-stressing is clearly a risk in its own right. In climbing there's a saying that 'Speed is Safety' - weighing yourself down with gear for the most remote 'what-if' scenarios actually increases fatigue, exposure, and risk overall.

But I've noticed most climbers discuss risk explicitly, while in sailing it seems often just taken for granted that 'the boss has plan.' Hence, my curiosity as to how many actually do, and what the common elements are.

Of course, I fully expect the "you're the captain, you manage the risk with your years of experience, if you have to think about it you're a pussy/idiot" crowd to pipe up. Which is fine - I'm curious, not advocating, and anyway they're answering the question, too.

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5 hours ago, slug zitski said:

 certain aspects of safety such as the location of equipment, thru hulls or unique vulnerabilities ..  should always be  publicly posted were it will often  be seen by crew ... nav station bulkhead  on the back of the head door 

lol

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risk management also includes the risk of bad things happening to the Captain...

 if you are incapacitated,  what next?

  throws a new twist into the conversation. 

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Never let dockside managers/administrators/event coordinators subjugate your responsibility to evaluate the risk. 
 

no one wants to talk about it - but take every disaster in organized sailing, and there’s multiple contributing factors but in the end, it is the skipper subjugating safety to event organizers who do not have you or your crew’s best interest at heart. 

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On our boat the responsibilities primarily fall on me for judgment calls and operational issues. We do two weeks of cruising every year which is the most risky stuff we engage in such as doing overnight passages on lake Ontario, Sailing in up to 30 knots for extended periods and so on. It's me (51), wife and two younger teenagers.

#1 risk we have determined is me going overboard as I am central to much of everything so we're working on managing that element by getting everyone else trained up on recovering me or my body as the case may be. Starting with engine based MOB drills, moving onto sail based ones. The three of them are totally capable of handling the boat if I am down or out.

The big issues arise if we're out in the middle of the lake in spicy weather and more weather comes our way. We're cruising so I have no issue slipping the engine in gear, luffing, furling as required and putting in a reef or two to keep things comfortable and under control. Hell, drop the main if I have to. Standard cruising procedure, try to shorten sail before it gets to you whatever it may be. Only have two sails on the boat anyhow and the main is in a lovely stacker so its dead easy to manage that way. As a family we have dealt with 50 knot squalls so nobody freaks out in big weather.

I study weather extensively before we go anywhere and let everyone know what we're in for, dress and trim accordingly. My passages are well planned and we always know our bail out options along the way. Before we go, I have extensive to-do lists that includes checking all major on board systems for functionality, having the most important spares on board and having everything stowed pretty as we leave the dock.

Next biggest issue for me is navigation, don't hit other boats or rocks being the big ones. None of that is rocket science where we play with the tools we have available. Our first serious mission however on the boat was with paper charts only as the GPS snuffed it two minutes off the dock, but we managed 1000 km and something like 27 locks big and small and only tagged one rock along the way, driving home the point that one must always pay close attention. But taught wife to navigate at night on rivers with commercial traffic all using a river chart book. no issues.

So broadly speaking, constantly educate everyone on the boat, daily briefings on what we are doing and if there are known risks involved, be proactive, if the situation is evolving quickly, communicate clearly and practice important stuff with some regularity. Make sure nobody is ever afraid to put their hand up if something feels or looks hinky. e.g "Hey Dad, is that a waterspout right behind us?", "Hey, look at that, good spotting son, what say we head up and give it some room to pass to leeward?". "Oh look, another one!" 6 in total that day.

Empower your crew to get involved. Tell stories about previous bad scenes and how you solved them or not, shared history is shared knowledge and makes the whole crew stronger.

The single best risk mitigation strategy is simply knowing when to say "no, not today". For the record I do not operate on the precautionary principal, I take plenty more risks than lots of other sailors I know. Partially because I am comfortable with my and my crew's skill sets and partially to push things a little here and there, especially with the kids. It's OK in my books to make manageable mistakes along the way and then learn / teach how to manage those. Then you are more capable and resilient when something bigger and badder happens down the road. It helps that my team totally trusts me too.

Below, Practicing MOB earlier this year while I sit quietly enjoying my beer.

549111416_MOBpractice.jpg.8ffb06c49ce41072076bf846d95d64bd.jpg

 

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49 minutes ago, Raked Aft\\ said:

risk management also includes the risk of bad things happening to the Captain...

 if you are incapacitated,  what next?

  throws a new twist into the conversation. 

If the skipper gets washed overboard the remaining crew dart down below , form a scrum , then collectively decide who will be boss 

 

one decided this new boss breaks  out his check book , starts paying the bills and gives new commands 

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My wife and have similar levels of experience but I'm better with weather.

We tend to talk scenarios out ahead of time and have multiple fall back positions if plan A goes pear-shaped. This could be a divert anchorage if anchorage A doesn't have good holding or the wind has shifted and it's too exposed. It's "that cloud is looking nasty, what sail are going to drop or reef first?". It's should we push on and see if we can make the pass in the reef before sunset or heave-to 20 miles away? (We pushed on and made it with 1/2 hr of daylight).

With weather we try to discuss my confidence in the models, the forecast and the consequences if a " let's get there" attitude is too risky.

We have a theoretical additional crew called "The Prudent Sailor". He/she casts the deciding vote when we disagree. We ask ourselves what would the PS do in this situation? The PS is pretty conservative and helps us if I'm being too risky

In my head I am ALWAYS thinking what's my plan if the ruddr fails, if we lose a shroud, if we lose the engine in a narrow channel. Having a game plan so you are not surprised is important to help decision making in a crisis, even if you haven't thought out your response in detail.

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Enshrined in legislation in my part of the world.

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Gramps says he  has a lot of insurance on all the boats. That's all I need to know. 

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Depends on the situation, low key race with mostly regulars in the bay = grab the keys and go. All new crew for a beer can = 5 minutes safety talk with run down on who’s doing what. 
 

cat 1 offshore= full drills days/weeks before with the team. Plb set off, crew in bunks kite up and ripping. Navigator in the water so the other crew have to run the electronics to find them. Day of prestart overview of conditions when pfd’s will be required and when clipping in is required.  Weather overview. 

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Generate possible scenarios, possible outcomes of each scenario, and rank the likelihood of outcomes.

Example- one Bermuda race I navigated was a light air race, mostly upwind, a bit of spinnaker for the few hours leading up to the gulf stream and into the stream, then light and turning upwind.  This was back more than 10 or so years ago.  Was using Expedition, which was newish to me at the time.  The Expedition route had us going to the east below the stream, hitting a narrow shaft of breeze between 2 windless dead zones that would shoot us to the finish.  To the east was the larger Atlantic high, the dead zone to the west was a small high bubble slowly progressing eastward to eventually merge with the larger high.  It made me nervous trying to shoot the fairly weak wind zone between the highs, because if they merged and we were there, then we would have hours of no wind at all- total vacuum.  The other option was to head way west, around the small high bubble and stay in breeze.

Another factor, I was watching weather progress across the country for the couple months leading up to the race- the weather patterns for the most part were going faster than the long term predictions, so if that was a trend, the small high bubble could merge with the Atlantic high sooner than the long range forecast would predict, making the east route "riskier".

I progressively changed the start times in Expedition to see how the route would change through time.  At the actual start time, the route was east.  With only 45 minute delay in start, the route went out 100 miles west.  Figuring it was likely that we could lose 45 minutes of time before getting 400ish miles down the track, we chose the westerly route as the less risky option.

Expedition was fairly new to many in the fleet, and a lot of folks took it as gospel to just sail the optimal route without checking contingencies.  We were on a 40 footer.  We finished one minute behind Starr Trail (72 footer) and 6 minutes behind Nirvana (80 footer).  We got to the club and it was empty save for a handful of very large boats, and got the 1st in our class.  Of course that sort of outcome happens one out of 10 times....

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17 hours ago, slug zitski said:

If the skipper gets washed overboard the remaining crew dart down below , form a scrum , then collectively decide who will be boss 

 

one decided this new boss breaks  out his check book , starts paying the bills and gives new commands 

Good procedure!

How it works flying if the pilot dies:

1. Copilot calls for help from the cabin - "Get that son-of-a-bitch out of my seat"

2. Copilot sits in left seat.

3. A radio call is made to operations - "Move my seniority number up one right now and find me a copilot"

4. Optional step - See if any pilots are in the back, offer temp copilot job, but no pay. If they want money send them to the back again.

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Welp this appears to have petered so I'll say thanks to all (except zitsky maybe lol) for your thoughtful input. Learned a thing or two!

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Welp this appears to have petered so I'll say thanks to all (except zitsky maybe lol) for your thoughtful input. Learned a thing or two!

I especially like @blunted's idea of a tie-breaker vote from the invisible 'prudent sailor' - very clever. And @zonker's idea of discussing bail out harbors/points in advance is interesting, too - seems like a good way to empower the crew - ie, "well, where would you like to go?"

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Well not leaving a safe port is an excellent choice. Seen that wat too many times when people are bored with a place and want to move on. They leave into bad weather or ignore warning signs

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I guess it depends on your idea of what constitutes bad weather

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2 hours ago, Grande Mastere Dreade said:

i always attack Kamchatka  first in Risk

I havent played Risk in at least fifty years because The game is just too simple to be fun. 
The winner is whoever controls South America and then North America and uses the extra per turn resources to Break up any attempts by anyone else to control other continents. 

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I'll give you a risk management discussion from Hurricane Charlie long ago:

Trying to escape to the north was failing, the northerly wind was pushing so much water down the Bay we were like a salmon failing to swim fast enough to get up the rapids, every tack passed the same channel marker that was being pulled half-under from the current. The wind was increasing and the sun was setting. I told everyone we could turn around and run down towards Hampton Roads and probably make 10-15 knots over the bottom. We would be whipping around the bottom of the storm as it cleared out to the north. The problem was we would be going really fast into a busy area with no visibility at night. (pre GPS days and no radar).

The other choice was to keep going east, get into the Little Choptank, and anchor in a sheltered area. This was also going to be hard to do essentially blind, but the obstacles that were not made of sand or mud were almost none, so the worst case looked unpleasant but not all that dangerous compared to t-boning a tanker at double-digit speeds.

We took door number 2.

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It's better being in here and wishing you were out there, rather than being out here and wishing you were in there.

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On a MCA coded boat crew will hold full in date STCWs and a sea survival cert. if you do the Rolex Fastnet you have to also take the more comprehensive survival test. Having someone onboard too with an open water PADI also buys you options.

I would venture for families thinking of TransOcean ARCs, the above would be key for parents, to attain.

Pre-serious offshore legs its critical you have a practiced plan just in case the sh#t hits the fan. All serious offshore crew teams figure this in as the pre-go for sure.

Top of the range PFDs too, hoods built in with individual PLBs is also the way to go.

Here's why:

b1.thumb.jpg.79d2574d4c0de42a7c13a502ca9549df.jpg

b2.thumb.jpg.3240182393146be6e43691caf3111a67.jpg

 

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b3.thumb.jpg.2eed01a6ea3cd23b0d1b2269ec9605e4.jpg

And finally building a resiliant team spirit onboard is also a must have for me.

"Success is measured by how high you bounce when you hit bottom..." – George S. Patton

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Thanks for sharing. Do you have access to part 2? 

All i could find was this report, in which Stuart Pederson is a fatality after becoming enmeshed in the drogue attached to a life raft. Was the raft dropped by the rescue helo? The article you posted indicated the boats raft had been torn away. 

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/116615916/bay-of-islands-yacht-rescue-paramedic-had-to-cut-victim-free-from-liferaft-lines

If true, this should occasion a major SOP rethink  concerning the use of rafts and drogues

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Nope..... P2 is in next months rag NZs Cruising Helmsman...

However, its through adversity that we all learn muchly... amen to that.

PS: Am off on an assignment... Balearics for 3months... will post it if I can.

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On 7/29/2020 at 11:12 PM, kent_island_sailor said:

How it works flying

man and dog program 

man to feed dog and dog to bite man if he touches anything .

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I spent years in risk assessment, both on the job and procedural development. 
All the while in my private time doing and enjoying as much risky things as possible as i was disillusioned by the professional bureaucracy involved in the risk assessment process. 
 Often simple mundane tasks are meticulously broken down into ergonomic and time consuming stratagem inorder to manage potential legal issues SHOULD something happen.

Legislation should be kept minimal, as OH&S is a self serving industry it is in their benifit to lobby for legislation and training..

Although there are benifits to risk assessing practically if the process becomes tiresome the benifits are often lost and rarely apply in the practicalities of an emergency. 
There are some people that just shouldnt be trusted with some tasks.


Rather than breeding zombies by installing signs everywhere saying “please do not stare at the sun”... Let practical experience, Knowledge and common sense guide your own individual sailing risk assessment process.
Smiling is still a very important part of sailing. 
 I hope you all continue to have fun. 
HSEC rant over. Lol

 cheers. 
p.s:(excellent article @Marinatrix447 )

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9 hours ago, FixinGit said:

Rather than breeding zombies by installing signs everywhere saying “please do not stare at the sun”... Let practical experience, Knowledge and common sense guide your own individual sailing risk assessment process.

This is humorous.

Like I said, I think where people find the balance is the interesting part. Especially among inshore sailors, I think a lot of people just throw the risk management baby out with the bathwater.

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On 7/28/2020 at 11:44 PM, Varan said:

 

 

perfect, use that line many times , even before the movie!

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Boating_New_Zealand_-_September_2020-32.thumb.jpg.6df9810d822191974fff979af545bdd1.jpg

Takeaways? A PLB in strom wave troughs is limited in transmitting clen/clear signalling, EPIRB in the Grab Bag a must do, if there is time.

There but for the grace of Sea Gods, go all of us...

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7 hours ago, Marinatrix447 said:

Boating_New_Zealand_-_September_2020-32.thumb.jpg.6df9810d822191974fff979af545bdd1.jpg

Takeaways? A PLB in strom wave troughs is limited in transmitting clen/clear signalling, EPIRB in the Grab Bag a must do, if there is time.

There but for the grace of Sea Gods, go all of us...

Thanks for posting this. Are you aware of a technical difference between EPIRB and PLB? The article references the PLB issue, but curious if an EPIRB would have performed better in that situation. Very interested in any into you may have on that.

 

 

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