October 22, 2021

Storm Trysail Club hosts Safety-At-Sea Seminar at SUNY Maritime

Featured News, Safety At Sea News ,

Larchmont, NY – After last year’s pandemic cancellation, Storm Trysail Club recently held its first Hands-On Adult Safety At Sea in the New York area in over two years.  One hundred and fifty-four participants and 58 volunteers took part in pyrotechnics training (a universal favorite!), firefighting, damage control, personal flotation device activation/usage, and liferaft deployment and embarkation. Getting in the liferafts is generally the least favorite module; the moral of the story is to do everything you can to avoid the necessity of getting into a liferaft in the first place!

Rich du Moulin, Event Chair and Chair of the Storm Trysail Foundation, opened the group session with these words of caution: “No seminar is going to teach you competence. Seminars introduce you to ideas and practices. You can only achieve competence by practicing on your boat with your crew. Remember the Marines phrase: ‘Train the way you fight; fight the way you train.’”

Storm Trysail is the only Safety at Sea organizing authority that regularly puts students on boats to actually practice COB (Crew Overboard) recoveries. The event also provided the first-ever official training in a new COB recovery technique called the “Midline Lift.”

Rich explains how the concept was developed and implemented: “This approach was developed by professional sailors aboard Comanche, the Mod70 Trimarans, and other large offshore yachts. The challenge for these types of boats is their freeboard and/or hull shapes make it extremely difficult to bring the victim aboard even if they are already alongside. Once a victim is located, the biggest danger for them is being struck by the hull, or swept underneath. This technique virtually eliminates these risks.”

“By clipping the spinnaker halyard shackle to the Lifesling pennant, and then hoisting the halyard up, the victim is slowly and safely brought to the mid-beam of the boat – the safest location – and they can then be lifted over the lifelines before being lowered to the deck. The original Midline Lift concept uses specially trained and equipped rescue swimmers who swim out to the COB. Storm Trysail modified the technique to employ a bosun’s chair or harness so that vessels can use equipment that is far more common on less extreme boats.” 

Kelly Robinson, the On-The-Water-Activities Chair, added “We practiced this technique using a new ‘dummy man in the water’. These are dacron sailcloth bags with flotation devices that were devised by our own Charles “Butch” Ulmer. They fill with 180 pounds of seawater to simulate the weight of a real person in the water. This gives participants a more realistic experience than simply grabbing a lightweight pick-up stick. Participants also practiced as if the ‘dummy’ was unconscious/incapacitated, injured or hypothermic. To recover the ‘unconscious’ dummy, a Rescue Crew volunteer from each boat was placed in a bosun’s chair and lowered over the side with a tether to  attach to the dummy. Then the rest of the team onboard hoisted both the Rescue Crew and the dummy – it’s a lot of work as the combined weight is over 350 pounds! Special kudos to those who volunteered as Rescue Crew; they got dunked a few times. Thankfully the water is still pretty warm.”

The Midline LIft being practiced

The sessions in the pool are usually quite instructive. For many, it’s the only time they have actually seen their automatic personal flotation devices inflate.  Most years, there are a number that fail due to lack of maintenance, usually due to the water-sensitive “triggers” failing or the CO2 cylinders having been previously fired or not securely screwed in. Du Moulin reports that “Only 2 out of 145 failed to automatically inflate. One was very old and not maintained for years. The other was modern but had not been checked for 4 seasons. The old one was a total failure, but the newer one, while it failed to automatically inflate, did inflate when the manual tab was pulled. Two weeks earlier at our Houston Safety at Sea event, 62 out of 62 inflated automatically. So the total success rate was 205 out of 207 - over 99% - proving the value of annual inspections and the reliability of inflatable pfds when they are properly maintained.” 

The next STC Hand’s On Adult Safety at Sea seminar will be held in May in advance of the Newport-Bermuda Race. With the huge number of boats signed up for the race, there will be a massive amount of demand for a limited number of slots. Those interested in obtaining their certification for the Bermuda Race are encouraged to sign up as soon as registration opens in early November. Sign up below if you are interested in being notified when registration opens.

STC Commodore Ed Cesare stated “This very successful event is a difficult one to organize and execute. We incorporated a number of innovations and new lesson elements, and it all came to fruition flawlessly. These events take a tremendous amount of support – both financially and logistically. First, we’d like to thank our sponsors: McMichael Yacht Yards and Brokers, UK Sailmakers – especially Butch for making the dummies! - Landfall Navigation, AIG Insurance, Sea Safety International, Marine Safety Corporation, and the Storm Trysail Foundation and its generous donors. We also would like to thank Rich du Moulin and Kelly Robinson, who did the planning and organizing, all of the volunteers, Rob Crafa, Waterfront Director at SUNY Maritime, and all of the Maritime Staff and cadets who pitched in.”

For a free digital copy of STC’s Safety at Sea Handbook, download here.

Cover of the Safety at Sea Seminar Program