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Procedure for Abandoning Ship

Since I am in the process of planning two offshore passage-making and celestial navigation classes in the next couple of months, I thought it might be appropriate to share some tips on abandoning ship. I hope no one ever has to use these suggestions, however it is better to have the knowledge and be prepared if the time comes when you have to abandon ship. - Capt Matt

The decision to abandon ship is usually very difficult. In some instances, people have perished in their life raft while their abandoned vessel managed to stay afloat. Other cases indicate that people waited too long to successfully get clear of a floundering boat.

Once the decision is made:

Act Like a Captain

As a seamanship instructor, I teach my students that being a good captain involves a certain amount of acting. In emergency situations, the crew of a vessel looks to their leader in an almost unconscious way to determine their own level of anxiety. If the captain projects a calm and confident attitude, the crew will be reassured and since an anxious crew means poor judgment and performance, a captain should do all he or she can to keep the crew calm. The idea here is not to lie to your crew, and certainly not to fake a fearless, macho manner, going down with the ship is a pretty dumb plan. The idea is that, by maintaining a calm, deliberate attitude in the face of a dire situation, you can help your crew remain effective and perhaps help save lives. If you need to fake that attitude to some degree, so be it.

Emergency Communications

When trouble strikes, there are many ways to communicate your distress and seek help. Use your VHF or single-sideband radio and follow the procedures for distress.

There are three levels of priority communications: distress, urgent, and safety, identified by MAYDAY, PAN-PAN, and SECURITE. Understand the differences by reviewing the tip on radio procedures.

Panicked radio communications can confuse a rescue effort. Learn the proper procedures. Try to stay calm.

Use the acceptable distress signals as outlined in the Navigation Rules. Flares are fast and effective -- red for distress.

Related Articles:
Be Prepared with an Abandon Ship Bag by Doug Ritter
Marine Radio Procedures
Distress Signals by Chief Warrant Officer Jim Krzenski Commanding Officer, U.S.C.G. Station Fort Pierce, FL
Graphic Chart of Distress Signals

 

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