Search and Rescue - SAR Seamanship Reference Manual

This manual presents federal SAR policy and describes the federal SAR organization and the interdepartmental structure established to provide effective SAR. It presents the common procedures, techniques, and terminology which have been developed to enhance the effectiveness of operations conducted by any combination of SAR forces.

Download the Complete SAR Seamanship Reference Manual [PDF - 6.3 MB]



This SAR Seamanship Reference Manual is published under the authority of the Manager, Search and Rescue, of the Canadian Coast Guard. Funds associated for the development of this manual were provided by a generous contribution from the National SAR Secretariat’s New SAR Initiatives Fund program. Without this financial contribution, the publication of this manual would not have been possible.


To be able to perform safely and effectively, a rescue mission involves a huge amount of operational knowledge. Most of that knowledge is already available. However, in the context of small vessels, it is dispersed under a number of specialised and individually prepared courses or, under bits of documented information. In addition, the background and theory that sustains SAR operational knowledge is in many cases developed for larger ships involved in offshore rescue. Although the information is helpful, it does not always reflect the reality of small boat operations. A prime example would be first aid where all courses are developed around a movement free stable ground, which is quite different from a small bouncing boat deck.

Another issue is standardisation. Search and Rescue is essentially a humanitarian activity with the prime purpose of saving lives. In most cases, it involves the participation of number of dedi- cated people that may not have the same background. In order to make operations more effi- cient, it is paramount to have people executing operational tasks the same way. Therefore, this manual is aiming at introducing and standardising small boat operations for SAR. In fact, the purpose is to bring together under one manual all known best operational procedures and prac- tices that usually apply to small boat involved in a SAR mission.

This manual targets two main groups of small boat rescuers. One is the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and the other one is the Canadian Coast Guard Inshore Rescue Boat Program. However, other organized response units such a local Fire Department can certainly benefit from this manual. We hope that it will incorporate and standardise the current best practices employed within the Canadian Coast Guard operations community. It is intended to be the primary reference for the above noted two targeted groups, mainly for shore based boat operations and seamanship training.

The standardised methods and procedures presented in this Manual can apply to all boat operations and crew training and, Commanding Officers, Officers in Charge or Coxswains are encouraged to ensure that personnel tasked with boat crew responsibilities are trained or familiar in all methods and procedures in the Manual.

As the scope of this knowledge is quite vast, it will be under continuous review and will be updated as necessary. In addition, errors, omissions or suggestions should be forwarded to:

Manager, Search and Rescue,
Canadian Coast Guard Department of Fisheries and Oceans
200 Kent Street, Station 5041
Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1A 0E6

People Involved


This manual would not have been possible without the co-operation of several individ- uals involved in Search and Rescue, many of whom are mentioned in the following list.

Étienne Beaulé, First aid and technical writing consultant
Allen Bilodeau, Project manager
Mathieu Vachon, Project manager

Team SAR Ottawa

Ron Miller
Mike Voigt
Steve Daoust
François Vézina
Johanne Clouâtre
Brian Leblanc
Neil Peet
Kathy Needham

Review and Consultation

Canadian Coast Guard

Kevin Tomsett
Dave Dahlgren
Greg Sladics
Herman Goulet
Charles Lever
Stephen Sheppard
Howard Kearley
Mike Taber
Deborah Bowes-Lyon
Mark Gagnon
Gaétan Gamelin
Pierre Bossé
Pierre Domingue
Chris Moller
Geoff Sanders
Bill Mather

Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary

Harry Strong
Garry Masson
Ed Bruce
Rick Tolonen
Rudolph Mulack
Guy Poirier
Ted Smith
Jim Gram
Murray Miner
Cal Peyton
Ed Fulawka
Hubert Charlebois
Duff Dwyer
Don Limoges
Jack Kennedy
Don Mertes
Marvyn Huffman
Jim Presgrave
Robert Petitpas
Sylvio Lagacé
Gilbert Léger
Jeanne Drolet
Jean Péloquin
Marie-France Lavoie
Gaétan Létourneau
Bill Fullerton
Richard Wedge
Lois Drummond
Bruce Falkins

Inshore Rescue Boat (Program)

Mike Cass
Liz Brayshaw
Jen Schnarr
Danielle Dillon
Amy Birchall
Andrew Boyd
Casey Wilson
Tina Sweet
Darryl McKenzie
Marie Tremblay
Sophie-Émanuelle Genest
Nathalie Desjardins
John Johnstone
Scott Davis
Tim Church
Heather Goodwind
David Latremouille
Aaron Macknight
Chris Evers
Steven Shea
Dana Sweeney
Steven Dickie
Gavin Moore
David Willis

Other Thanks

The Gordon Creative Group
Point-virgule, inc. (French editing)
Maureen McMahon (revised English edition)
Mario Boucher (Institut Maurice-Lamontagne)

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Note:The abbreviations are listed alphabetically in the first column, with the French equivalent in brackets. Bold characters indicate that the abbreviation is the same in both languages.

F/V (B/P)
kt (nd)
M/V (N/M)
S/V (B/V)
Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System CASARA (ACRSA) Civil Air Search and Rescue Association
Canadian Coast Guard
Canadian Coast Guard Ship
Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary
Canadian Forces
Coast Guard Radio Station
Russian for: Space system search for distressed vessels
Canada Shipping Act
Co-ordinator surface search
Direction finder
Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Department of National Defence
Data marker buoy
Digital selective calling
Eastern Canada Traffic Zone Regulations
Emergency locator transmitter
Emergency position-indicating radio beacon
Estimated time of arrival
Fast rescue craft
Fishing vessel
Global Maritime Distress and Safety System GPS Global Positioning System
International Maritime Organisation
International Mobile Satellite Organisation
Inshore rescue boat
Knot (nautical mile per hour)
Last known position
Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre MARB Maritime assistance request broadcast
Medical evacuation
Maritime safety information
Maritime rescue sub-centre
Merchant vessel or motor vessel
Nautical mile
National Search and Rescue Secretariat
Office of Boating Safety
On-scene co-ordinator
Person in water
Personal locator beacon
Persons on board
Rescue co-ordination centre
Search and Rescue
Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking
Search and rescue (radar) transponder
Sauvetage et recherche aériens du Québec
Situation Report
Survival kit air droppable
Self-locating datum maker buoy
Search and rescue mission co-ordinator
International Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea
Search and rescue region
Search and rescue unit
Sailing vessel
Co-ordinated universal time
Vessel traffic services
Very high frequency (30 to 300 MHz)

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Maritime SAR in Canada
Who is involved?
How is maritime SAR delivered in Canada?
Rescue co-ordination and alerting
Canadian Coast Guard program effectiveness
Unnecessary use of the SAR system
Partnership and team approach to search and rescue
Who should be called first
Chapter 2 - Human factors
Why spend time discussing human factors?
Profile of a good SAR team
Image and attitude
Critical-incident stress management
Chapter 3 -Personal safety
Protection in cold water
Personal safety equipment
Checklists and inspection of equipment
Maintenance and repairs
SAR equipment
Tailering a boat
On board emergencies
Chapter 4 - Vessel safety
Checklists and inspection of equipment
Maintenance an repairs
SAR equipment
Trailering a boat
On board emergencies
Chapter 5 - Seamanship and terminology
Boat terminology
Type of boats
Boat Motions
Knots, bends, hitches and related items
Wire rope
Working with ropes, lines and wires
Chapter 6 - Navigation safety
Collision regulations
Lookout procedures
Aids to navigation
Chapter 7 - Navigation
Navigating with charts
Electronic navigation
Chapter 8 - Waves and weather
Wave theory
Understanding weather
Chapter 9 - Boat handling
The art of boat handling
Environment forces acting on a boat
Propulsion and steering
Boat handling characteristics
Type of hull
Basic boat handling techniques
Advanced boat handling techniques
Heavy weather boat handling
Chapter 10 - Towing
Forces in towing
Towing equipment
Approaching a vessel in need of towing
Use of bridles
Stern tow
Towing speed
Towing alongside
Entering a marina with a vessel in tow
Docking the alongside tow
Heavy weather towing
Towing in current
Towing aircraft
Person overboard operations with a tow astern
Tandem towing
Sinking tow and a tow on fire
Towing precautions checklist
Chapter 11 - SAR operations
Awareness and initial actions
SAR stages
Emergency phases
Awareness stage: Methods for communicating distress
Initial action stage
Timing of a SAR mission
SAR communications
Basic search planning
Search patterns
Conducting a search
Grounded vessels and damage control
Rescue of capsized vessels
Removing/delivering persons from/to shore
Removing/delivering persons from/to other vessels
Aircraft rescue
Rescue operations with DND planes and helicopter
Recovering submerged victims
Mission conclusion
Chapter 12 - Emergency care and transportation of maritime casualties
Medial emergencies
Water extrication
Cold water near drowning
Diving related injuries (SCUBA, etc.)
Multi-casualty situations
Spinal injuries
Care of rescue craft survivors
External assistance
Transportation of casualty in Fast Rescue Craft

Chapter 1 - Maritime Search and Rescue in Canada

Chapter 1 - Maritime Search and Rescue in Canada [PDF 593 KB]

At the federal level, SAR policy is co-ordinated under the National Search and Rescue Program. Its primary goal is to save lives at risk throughout Canada. This national program involves federal departments, volunteers, organisations, municipalities and, provinces and territories working together. The marine portion of this program falls under the responsibility of the Canadian Coast Guard, which intervenes with its various partners in areas of federal responsibility. These areas include coastal waters, the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes and the Arctic. Other areas such as inland lakes and rivers are under provincial responsibility.

The following paragraphs will outline the role and responsibilities of the Canadian Coast Guard and its partners. An explanation of the general organisation of the search and rescue system will follow.

1.1 Who is involved?

1.1.1 Canadian Coast Guard

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and is the main civilian marine operational arm of the Government of Canada. In DFO, the Canadian Coast Guard operates all vessels and provides services in the following areas: search and rescue; boating safety; environmental response; icebreaking; marine navigation service; navigable waters protection; and marine communications and traffic services. The Coast Guard also provides marine support and services to departmental programs in science and fisheries conservation and protection, and to other agencies at all levels of government.

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is responsible for a number of SAR tasks. These include the detection of marine incidents; the co-ordination, control, and conduct of SAR operations in maritime SAR situations within Canadian areas of federal responsibility; providing marine resources to help with air SAR operations as necessary; and, when and where available, providing SAR resources to assist in humanitarian and civil incidents within provincial, territorial or municipal areas. The CCG also co-ordinates, controls, and conducts SAR prevention and boating safety programs in all waters across Canada to reduce the number and severity of maritime SAR incidents.

The Canadian Coast Guard supplements its primary maritime SAR response element with secondary SAR vessels. In addition, the CCG oversees the activities of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA), a volunteer organisation.

1.1.2 Department of National Defence

In 1976, the Prime Minister appointed the Minister of National Defence as the Lead Minister for SAR (LMSAR). The LMSAR is responsible for the co-ordination of the National Search and Rescue Program (NSP) and the development of national SAR policies in conjunction with other ministers. The LMSAR is the designated national spokesperson and is responsible for ensuring the effective operation of the national SAR system.

DND is responsible for air SAR incidents, and delivers primary air SAR services for both air and marine incidents. It also provides a high level of secondary SAR support from its aircraft fleet, and co-ordinates the activities of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA), a volunteer organisation.

Under the SAR program, DND and the Canadian Coast Guard co-ordinate the response to air and maritime SAR incidents through jointly staffed Rescue Co-ordination Centres (RCCs).

1.1.3 Interdepartmental Committee on Search and Rescue (ICSAR)

The Interdepartmental Committee on Search and Rescue (ICSAR) was established in 1976 by the Cabinet to ensure the effective national co-ordination and delivery of SAR services. The various federal departments involved in SAR are represented at ICSAR. This committee reports to the Lead Minister for SAR.

ICSAR has the following mandate:

  • identifying SAR requirements;
  • providing advice to the government on the best methods for meeting these requirements.

The following agencies are represented by senior management at ICSAR meetings:

  • Department of National Defence;
  • Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Canadian Coast Guard);
  • Transport Canada (Aviation);
  • Solicitor General (Royal Canadian Mounted Police);
  • Environment Canada (Atmospheric Environment Services);
  • Canadian Heritage (Parks Canada);
  • Privy Council Office;
  • Treasury Board Secretariat;
  • Natural Resources Canada;
  • Emergency Preparedness Canada;
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada; and
  • National Search and Rescue Secretariat.

1.1.4 National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS)

The National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) gives support and advice to the Lead Minister for SAR. NSS co-ordinates and assists in developing the National Search and Rescue Program. The executive director of the NSS chairs the Interdepartmental Committee on Search and Rescue.

1.2 How is maritime SAR delivered in Canada?

The Maritime SAR Program is a full-time program activity. Its main goal is to reduce the loss of life in the marine environment. The Coast Guard’s SAR Program includes four important elements: management and monitoring; operations; prevention; and volunteers.

1.2.1 Management and monitoring

The goal of management and monitoring is to ensure that the SAR Program operates at maximum efficiency. To accomplish this objective, SAR coverage requirements are continuously adjusted to meet changing needs, and specialised primary SAR units are deployed as required. To further enhance response capabilities, SAR Program management co-operates with other program managers in the deployment of secondary resources. These combined efforts ensure that capable emergency services will be readily available when and where they are most likely to be needed.

1.2.2 Operations

Operations, which include search, rescue and incident co-ordination, form the heart of the maritime SAR system. Canadian Coast Guard SAR units are capable of responding to the vast majority of maritime SAR challenges found in the Canadian environment. This high level capability is delivered by skilled, professional crews (full-time, volunteers or students) using specialised vessels and equipment.

1.2.3 Prevention

The purpose of the SAR Prevention Program is to minimise loss of life and decrease the rate of incidents, thereby reducing SAR resource expenditure and risk to the public. Prevention activities focus on the clientele most commonly involved in SAR incidents. SAR Prevention is a component of the Office of Boating Safety, which also includes regulatory responsibility for recreational vessels. The Office of Boating Safety provides technical services such as approval of safety equipment and the development of construction standards for these vessels.

1.2.4 Volunteers

Volunteer assistance is a key element in maximising the efficiency of SAR operations, prevention and safety-related activities. The Canadian Coast Guard supports all forms of volunteerism relating to maritime search and rescue through the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA).

1.3 Vessels

The following categories of vessels are used in maritime SAR incidents:

1.3.1 Primary SAR vessels

A primary SAR vessel is a specially designed and equipped vessel with a trained crew that has SAR as its main task. These vessels are pre-positioned in areas with a high risk of SAR incidents. They bear the common Canadian Coast Guard red and white fleet colours with the words “RESCUE / SAUVETAGE” displayed as black, block letters against the port and starboard sides of the white superstructure. Some primary vessels, such as most Fast Rescue Crafts (FRCs), will not bear the usual colours. Instead, these vessels may be orange or yellow. The identification “RESCUE/SAUVETAGE” is usually present. All these vessels maintain a maximum 30-minute state of readiness, but are typically ready to respond immediately when an alert is received.

1.3.2 Secondary SAR vessels

Secondary SAR vessels are all other government vessels.

1.3.3 Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA)

The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) is a highly effective volunteer organisation made up of five non-profit associations and a national council that assists the Coast Guard in SAR response and prevention activities. Each year, a contribution agreement covers certain expenses and insurance for the Auxiliary while it is engaged in authorised SAR operations and activities. Tax-deductible donations from the public and other organisations also help fund the Auxiliary. The Canadian Coast Guard assists Auxiliary members with the specialised SAR training necessary to become and remain a member. In return, the CCG may rely on the approximately 5,000 members and 1,500 vessels of the Auxiliary to augment its maritime SAR capability as necessary.

1.3.4 Vessel of opportunity

A vessel of opportunity is any other vessel not mentioned above, but in a location close enough to provide00 assistance to a vessel in distress. Under the Canada Shipping Act and international law, every vessel at sea is required to assist in a distress situation.

Excerpts from the Canada Shipping Act

Answering Distress Signal:

384 (1)

The master of a Canadian ship at sea, on receiving a signal from any source that a ship or aircraft or survival craft thereof is in distress, shall proceed with all speed to the assistance of the persons in distress informing them if possible that he is doing so, but if he is unable or, in the special circumstance of the case, considers it is unreasonable or unnecessary to proceed to their assistance, he shall enter in the official logbook the reason for failing to proceed to the assistance of those persons.

Ship Requisitioned:

384 (2)

The master of any ship in distress, may, after consultation, insofar as possible, with the masters of the ships that answer his distress signal, requisition one or more of those ships that he considers best able to render assistance, and it is the duty of the master of any Canadian ship that is so requisitioned to comply with the requisition by continuing to proceed with all speed to the assistance of the ship in distress.

Release From Obligation:

384 (3)

The master of a ship shall be released from the obligation imposed by subsection (1) when he learns that one or more ships other than his own have been requisitioned and are complying with the requisition.

Further Release:

384 (4)

The master of a ship shall be released from the obligation imposed by subsection (1), and, if his ship has been requisitioned, from the obligation imposed by subsection (2), if he is informed by the persons in the ship in distress or by the master of another ship that he has reached those persons or that assistance is no longer necessary.

Minister May Designate Rescue Co-ordinators:

385 (1)

The Minister of National Defence may designate persons, to be known as rescue co-ordinators, to organise search and rescue operations in Canadian waters and on the high seas off the coasts of Canada.

Power of Rescue Co-ordinators:

385 (2)

On being informed that a vessel or aircraft or survival craft thereof is in distress or is missing in Canadian waters or on the high seas off any of the coasts of Canada under circumstances that indicate it may be in distress, a rescue co-ordinator may:

  1. order all vessels within an area specified by him to report their positions to him;
  2. order any vessel to take part in a search for that vessel, aircraft or survival craft or to otherwise render assistance; and
  3. give such other orders, as he deems necessary to carry out search and rescue operations for that vessel aircraft or survival craft.

1.4 Rescue co-ordination and alerting

1.4.1 Rescue Co-ordination Centres and Maritime Rescue Sub-Centres

The Canadian Coast Guard jointly staffs three Rescue Co-ordination Centres (RCCs) with the Canadian Forces. The RCCs are located at Victoria, British Columbia; Trenton, Ontario; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Canadian Coast Guard also operates two Maritime Rescue Sub-Centres (MRSCs) at Quebec City, Quebec and St. John’s, Newfoundland. The function of an MRSC is to reduce the RCC’s workload in areas of high marine activity. These centres are staffed by SAR co-ordinators who operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round. The maritime area for which the Canadian RCCs/MRSCs are collectively responsible covers more than 5.3 million square kilometres.

The RCCs/MRSCs are responsible for the planning, co-ordination, conduct and control of SAR operations. RCCs/MRSCs have highly trained staff, detailed operational plans and an effective communication system. Once an RCC/MRSC is notified that a person is in danger, the SAR co-ordinator begins to organise the rescue. All available information about the person in danger is gathered and recorded, and the positions of potential assisting resources in the area of the incident are determined. SAR co-ordinators are trained to evaluate various situations and send the most effective resources to deal with a particular incident. In complex and major incidents, many resources are often sent or tasked to assist.

Figure 1-1 : Search and rescue region boundaries

Search and Rescue region boundaries

Figure 1-2: MRSC Quebec operational boundaries

MRSC Quebec operational boundaries

Figure 1-3: MRSC St. John's operational boundaries

MRSC St. John's operational boundaries

1.4.2 On-scene Co-ordinator / Co-ordinator Surface Search

In major SAR operations where several rescue units respond to a call, an On-scene Co-ordinator (OSC) is normally appointed by the RCC/MRSC. An On-scene Co-ordinator is the commanding officer of a vessel or aircraft designated by RCC/MRSC to co-ordinate SAR operations within a specified area. On-scene Co-ordinator authority may be delegated to primary Coast Guard SAR vessels, DND aircraft, secondary Coast Guard vessels or other government vessels which have suitable equipment and trained personnel for the expeditious conduct of SAR operations.

If a suitable government vessel is not available to assume the duties of On-scene Co-ordinator, RCC/MRSC may ask another ship participating in the operation to assume the responsibilities of Co-ordinator Surface Search (CSS).

Where an OSC or CSS has been designated, the OSC/CSS shall be responsible for the following tasks to the extent they have not been performed by the responsible RCC/MRSC:

    • Carry out the plan for the conduct of the operations as requested by the RCC/MRSC.
    • Modify the plan as facilities and on-scene conditions dictate and inform the RCC/MRSC of any such modifications.
    • Monitor weather and sea conditions and report on these at regular intervals to the RCC/MRSC.
    • Maintain communications with the RCC/MRSC and the SAR units on the scene.
    • Maintain a detailed record of the operation, including on-scene arrival and departure times of SAR units areas searched, track spacing used, sightings and leads reported, actions taken and results obtained.
    • Issue regular situation reports to the RCC/MRSC which should include, but not be limited to, weather and sea conditions, the results of search to date, any actions taken, and any future plans or recommendations.
    • Advise RCC/MRSC to release units when their assistance is no longer required.

1.4.3 Rescue alerting, detection and communications

Visual, audio and electronic methods are used by vessels to indicate distress. Visual methods include items such as distress flares and international signal flags. Audio methods include radios and beacons. The following are a few highlights: What is GMDSS?

The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is a new international system using improved terrestrial and satellite technology and shipboard radio systems. It ensures rapid alerting of shore-based rescue and communications authorities in the event of an emergency. In addition, the system alerts vessels in the immediate vicinity and provides improved means of locating survivors.

GMDSS was developed through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and represents a significant change in the way maritime safety communications are conducted. While it is mandatory for all ships subject to the International Convention for the Safety of

Life at Sea (SOLAS) (cargo ships 300 gross tons or greater and all passenger vessels on international voyages), GMDSS will impact on all radio-equipped vessels, regardless of size. All SOLAS ships were required to comply with GMDSS by February 1, 1999. Why GMDSS?

GMDSS was developed to SAVE LIVES by modernising and enhancing the current radiocommunications system. By utilising satellite and digital selective calling technology, GMDSS provides a more effective distress alerting system. It improves the current system by:

      • increasing the probability that an alert will be sent when a vessel is in distress;
      • increasing the likelihood that the alert will be received;
      • increasing the capacity to locate survivors;
      • improving rescue communications and co-ordination; and
      • providing mariners with vital maritime safety information. GMDSS equipment

Digital Selective Calling (DSC)

Traditional marine radio (VHF/MF/HF) has been enhanced with the addition of a feature known as DSC. This feature enables vessels to automatically maintain the required watch on distress and calling channels instead of the current aural listening watch. A DSC receiver will only respond to the vessel’s unique Maritime Mobile Service Identity number (MMSI#), similar to a telephone number, or to an “All Ships” DSC call within range. Once contact has been made by DSC, follow-up communications take place by voice on another frequency.

Figure 1-4: EPIRB System Operation

EPIRB System Operation

Satellite communications

The Inmarsat satellite network provides global communications everywhere except for polar regions. In areas without any VHF or MF DSC shore facilities, Inmarsat A, B or C terminals are used for distress alerting and communications between ship and shore. Inmarsat provides an efficient means of routing distress alerts to Search and Rescue (SAR) authorities.

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)

GMDSS makes use of the COSPAS-SARSAT Satellite System, which provides global detection of 406 Megahertz (MHz) EPIRBs. These beacons are small, portable, buoyant, and provide an effective means of issuing a distress alert anywhere in the world. Float-free EPIRBs (class 1) have been required on most Canadian commercial vessels 20m or more in length since 1989, and are highly recommended for all vessels. Owners must register these EPIRBs in the national beacon database (1-800-727-9414).

Search and Rescue Transponder (SART)

SARTs are portable radar transponders used to help locate survivors of distressed vessels that have sent a distress alert. These transponders are detected by radar, and therefore operate in the same frequency range as radars carried on board most vessels. SARTs transmit in response to received radar signals, and show up on a vessel’s radar screen as a series of dots, accurately indicating the position of the SART. In the event that a ship must be abandoned, SARTs should be taken aboard survival craft. Maritime Safety Information (MSI)

Maritime Safety Information broadcasts, which include distress alerts, SAR information, navigational and weather warnings, as well as forecasts, can be received in three different ways in GMDSS:

      • NAVTEX receivers are fully automatic and receive broadcasts in coastal regions up to 300 nautical miles off shore.
      • Inmarsat-C terminals receive Enhanced Group Call – SafetyNET (EGC) broadcasts for areas outside NAVTEX coverage.
      • HF Narrow Band Direct Printing (NBDP) receivers can be used where service is available as an alternate to EGC. GMDSS Sea Areas – International

Although ship-to-ship alerting is still an important function in GMDSS, the emphasis is on two-way communications between ships and shore facilities. All GMDSS ships must be capable of communicating with the shore and transmitting a distress alert by two different means. Its area of operation and the availability of shore-based communications services therefore determine the equipment carried by a GMDSS ship.

There are four “Sea Areas” defined in the GMDSS:

      • Sea Area A1: within range of a shore-based VHF DSC coast station (40 nautical miles)
      • Sea Area A2: within range of a shore-based MF DSC coast station; excluding sea areas A1 (150 nautical miles)
      • Sea Area A3: within the coverage of an Inmarsat geo-stationary satellite; approximately 70°N to 70°S (excluding sea areas Al and A2)
      • Sea Area A4: the remaining areas outside sea areas A1, A2 and A3 (polar regions) GMDSS Sea Areas – Canada

In Canada, as a result of consultations with the Canadian marine industry, it has been decided to implement sea area A1 on the east and west coasts. Outside of A1 will be an A3 sea area, with an A4 sea area in the Arctic.

Consideration was given to the implementation of an A2 sea area, but due to budgetary constraints and the marine industry’s preference for sea areas A1 and A3, sea area A2 is not being planned at this time, nor are sea areas for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

On Canada’s east and west coasts, VHF DSC implementation was scheduled to begin in 1998 to cover the busiest areas. Full implementation, similar to today’s VHF coverage, is planned for 2002. Vessel compliance

GMDSS requirements for all SOLAS ships on international voyages have been established by the IMO. The date set for full compliance was February 1, 1999.

Requirements for Canadian commercial vessels not subject to SOLAS are currently being developed in consultation with the marine industry through the Canadian Marine Advisory Council (CMAC).

The carriage of GMDSS equipment on pleasure craft will not be mandatory; however, it is recommended that they carry GMDSS equipment applicable to their area of operation. For additional safety, vessels equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) or LORAN-C are encouraged to connect this equipment to DSC and/or satellite communications equipment capable of transmitting a pre-formatted distress alert. Communications between GMDSS vessels and non-GMDSS vessels

After February 1, 1999, GMDSS ships will be maintaining an automated listening watch on VHF DSC channel 70 and MF DSC 2187.5 kHz. During the transition to GMDSS, vessels fitted with traditional, non-GMDSS radio equipment may have difficulty alerting or contacting a GMDSS ship. The Coast Guard is addressing this temporary situation by monitoring both GMDSS and traditional distress frequencies during the transition. Although the final date for the cessation of mandatory watch-keeping on VHF channel 16 by SOLAS ships is under review by the IMO, all vessels should fit VHF DSC as soon as practicable to avoid a lengthy transition period . Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) Centres

To help ease the transition to GMDSS and bridge the communication gap between the two systems, Canadian Coast Guard MCTS Centres will continue to monitor VHF channel 16and MF 2182 kHz, the current distress and safety channels, until at least 2003. Once Canada’s sea areas have all completed the transition, lower cost DSC equipment is available, and these services are judged no longer necessary, these listening watches will be discontinued.

To supplement the broadcasting of Maritime Safety Information (MSI) on NAVTEX and INMARSAT EGC, MCTS Centres will continue safety broadcasts using the existing VHF continuous marine broadcast system. Canadian Rescue Co-ordination Centres (RCC) and Maritime Rescue Sub-Centres (MRSC)

Canadian RCCs and MRSCs will continue to receive distress alerts transmitted by vessels and relayed via MCTS or satellite. When a GMDSS distress alert is received, the centre must re-issue an “all ships” broadcast in the vicinity so that vessels in the immediate area are aware of the alert and can respond. RCC/MRSC will task aircraft and vessels at this time. If a distress alert is sent in error, the Coast Guard MCTS Centre or RCC/MRSC should be notified immediately so that these resources can be “stood-down.” Operator proficiency

A major concern for the marine community is the number of false alerts that are being experienced on some GMDSS sub-systems, especially DSC and INMARSAT-C. Since a large percentage of false alerts is attributed to a lack of operator proficiency, it is especially important that operators of GMDSS fitted vessels receive instruction in the proper operation of their GMDSS equipment. Instruction is currently available through various training institutes across Canada.

There are two GMDSS operator certificates issued by Canada:

      • General Operators Certificate (GOC) – Required on most compulsory fitted GMDSS vessels operating outside sea area A1. This certificate involves a two-week training course, including a written and a practical exam.
      • Restricted Operators Certificate (ROC) with Maritime Qualification – Basic certificate for operators of compulsory-fitted GMDSS vessels operating in an A1 sea area. This certificate is also recommended for operators of GMDSS equipment on voluntarily fitted vessels. This certificate is awarded on successful completion of an approved written exam.

1.4.4 Marine Communication and Traffic Services

Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) is the Branch of the Canadian Coast Guard that provides communications and vessel traffic services to the sea-going public. MCTS monitors for distress radio signals; provides the communication link between vessels in distress and the RCC/MRSC; sends safety information; handles public communication; and regulates the flow of traffic in some areas. MCTS is an important link in the SAR system.

1.5 Canadian Coast Guard program effectiveness

Trained professionals, vessels and equipment are important elements of the maritime SAR system. SAR in Canada works well because the network is designed to monitor, co-ordinate and respond to calls for assistance as part of an integrated system. Canada has one of the most effective SAR systems in the world.

In the international community, one of the most important ways to determine the effectiveness of an SAR system is to look at the ratio of lives saved to lives at risk in marine distress. A distress situation exists when human life is in grave danger. In Canada, on average, over 90 percent of the lives at risk in marine distress, or about 3,000 lives, are saved each year. The SAR system helps another 17,000 people each year in non-distress marine incidents. During 1998, there were 5,311 maritime SAR incidents in Canada (3,530 saved).

1.6 Unnecessary use of the SAR system

1.6.1 System of last resort

Safety at sea is a personal responsibility. If all other methods of preventing an accident are unsuccessful, the SAR system is available as a last resort. Regulations and standards are in place to cover the construction, equipping, crewing and operations of vessels. Numerous types of learning materials, courses and institutions are available to provide valuable information to operators. The Office of Boating Safety staffs a toll-free information line (1-800-267-6687) that provides front-line contact with the boating community. Knowledge and awareness are key elements of personal responsibility and reduce the risk of accident.

1.6.2 Ensure self-reliance

The program aims to consistently ensure that clients are self-reliant and that SAR incidents are prevented. Unfortunately, abuse of the system accounts for a very small percentage of cases each year. False activation of the SAR system is a serious matter and is dealt with under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Some cases involving use of the SAR system are clearly preventable or unreasonable. These cases cost the taxpayers of Canada, but more importantly, they involve resources that may be needed for genuine SAR and may place the rescuers in unnecessary danger. Currently, the Canadian Coast Guard is looking at ways to prevent the occurrence of these types of cases.

1.7 Partnership and team approach to search and rescue

As indicated in the previous section, maritime search and rescue involves the co-ordinated efforts of many players. The key words here are really “co-ordinated efforts.” Anyone wishing to become a valuable asset to this co-ordinated effort must understand that search and rescue involves a team and a system approach. Except for a few highly unusual cases, someone acting individually, no matter how qualified or equipped, will always be ineffective in a search and rescue effort. On the other hand, someone doing his or her small part of the overall job will be extremely helpful.

The following section will discuss how you can participate in this team effort. The first step is to analyse your capabilities and determine where you can fit into the system approach.

1.7.1 What is my potential contribution to a search and rescue effort?

To answer that question, you must first examine your capabilities. Your place in a search and rescue effort will greatly depend on your level of training, on the capabilities of your boat and crew, and on the equipment you have on board. Let’s now examine how these three elements can affect your place in a search and rescue effort.

1.7.2 Your level of training

Your level of training is very important, since it will determine what you can do to help in a search and rescue mission. The reason for this is obvious: emergency situations are usually not the best place to learn new skills. It is important to know how to perform the necessary tasks, since time is of the essence. In addition, lack of knowledge in an emergency situation can put someone at risk. If you become part of the emergency, you are not helping anybody. When someone (the On-Scene Co-ordinator or the Co-ordinator of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre, for example) gives a unit a specific task , it is essential for that unit to determine whether or not they have the level of knowledge required to carry out the task safely and efficiently. The following questions may help you to assess your ability to perform a task:

      • Do I know exactly what is expected from me?
      • Do I know how to do what is expected of me?
      • Do I know how to deal with any conditions that I may encounter during this task (waves, wind, darkness, currents, injured persons, etc.)?

1.7.3 The capabilities of your boat and crew

These are other very important factors. You yourself may have the knowledge required for a task, but your boat may not be adequate for the task. For example, you may be an expert in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). But if your boat does not have enough deck space to perform CPR properly (assuming that you are the only unit present), you cannot help. Alternatively, you may have a large, powerful vessel fully equipped for towing. Yet, you will be useless again if the water is not deep enough to allow you to reach a grounded vessel.

The same applies to your crew. You may be a very competent and experienced seaman or seawoman, but if your crew cannot follow you or support you, you may end up in trouble. Once again, search and rescue is a team effort. You cannot expect to do well on any search and rescue mission if you act alone as a unit or alone as an individual. Always remember that many tasks must be performed during a search and rescue mission. If, in a SAR crew, only one person is capable of performing all the tasks, that person will certainly get overwhelmed at some point. If you are an expert in CPR, to use the same example, and also happen to be the only team member capable of piloting your boat, you will have a problem if you happen to be called upon for a cardiac emergency. It is good practice to have some redundancy in the areas of expertise of every crewmember. In other words, at least two persons on your unit should be able to perform any important tasks. Examples of important tasks are piloting, performing basic first aid and CPR, reading charts, and using radios.

1.7.4 Equipment on board

The last factor determining your place in a search and rescue effort has to do with the equipment you have in your boat. If you do not have the proper equipment to perform a certain task, obviously, you should not try to take on that task. For example, if your vessel is not equipped with any kind of communication devices (radio, cellular phone, etc.) you will certainly not be able to be efficiently involved as an on-scene co-ordinator. In other situations, equipment may be present but inadequate.

These three points are emphasised for a very good reason. Many people think that any help is better than no help at all. In situations where one person is the only help available, this can certainly be true. However, in situations where other units could be available, things can be different.

Imagine, for example, that you are asked to provide assistance to a vessel that is sinking. You accept the task even though you do not have the equipment needed to pump the water out of the sinking boat. By the time you realise that you cannot help, the boat that you are trying to assist may be in greater distress. As a result, another better suited unit will be tasked, but the precious time that was wasted may be enough to change the initial “sinking vessel” situation to a “persons in the water” situation. In this example, any help is definitely not good enough. If you are not the only unit available, always assess your chances of success before accepting a task. Accepting a task for which you have little chance of success wastes precious time. In critical incidents, that time can mean the difference between life and death.

1.8 Who should be called first?

If you witness a marine incident, who should you call first? The answer to that question depends on the location. There are many numbers that can be dialled. Any number may get help, but the right number will ensure a faster response.

1.8.1 Waters under federal responsibility

Waters under federal responsibility include the east and west coasts, the St. Lawrence River, all the Great Lakes and the Arctic region. If you want to report a marine incident in these waters, the best way is to directly call the nearest Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) or Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC). Every rescue centre has a toll-free number and can be reached easily with regular or cellular phone. In addition, MCTS can be easily reached by cellular phone by dialling *16.

RCC Victoria, British Columbia
Toll-free number: 1-800-567-5111
Cellular phone: *311

MRSC St. John’s, Newfoundland
Toll-free number: 1-800-563-2444

RCC Halifax, Nova Scotia
Toll-free number: 1-800-565-1582

MRSC Québec City, Québec
Toll-free number: 1-800-463-4393

RCC Trenton, Ontario
Toll-free number: 1-800-267-7270



For air incidents, all areas are covered by RCCs. For maritime incidents, only the areas listed above are covered.

To report a marine emergency situation in waters under federal responsibility, 9-1-1 should be avoided whenever possible because it only adds a further link to the chain of communication. Some 9-1-1 services have an agreement with rescue centres. In the best scenario, your call will be transferred immediately to the appropriate rescue centre. In other situations, the rescue centre might become involved quite a bit later. For similar reasons, other emergency numbers should be avoided (e.g., police and fire departments).

Even if you know the phone number of Coast Guard or the Coast Guard Auxiliary units in your areas, you should call the rescue centre first. It is not a good idea to report an emergency by calling the unit directly. The reasons for this are numerous:

      • The rescue centre has more resources to organise the rescue operation. In huge operations, the rescue centre can call all the relevant units quickly.
      • All conversations with the rescue centre are recorded. This is especially important in situations where the vessel in distress is signalling its own misfortune. If the communication is weak or garbled, the tape can be used to ensure that all critical information is well understood.
      • If you call a unit to report a marine emergency situation, that unit will have to relay the information to the rescue centre anyway. Another link is added to the process, and no time is saved.

Coast Guard Radio Stations (CGRS) are yet another way to report a marine incident. If for some reason you do not have access to a phone, you can use your marine VHF radio to report the incident. To do so, just call “Coast Guard Radio” on channel 16. This is not as direct as calling the rescue centre, but it may provide an additional advantage if you are already at sea. Many boaters monitor channel 16. Your broadcast of the details of the distress situation on this channel will be heard by many. If a nearby unit can assist, it will immediately set course for the distressed vessel. In this case, an additional link is added, but the overall effect is positive.

1.8.2 Provincial responsibilities

In other areas such as inland lakes and rivers outside federal waters, rescue services are structured differently and are normally provided by either local fire or police department, or by provincial government. In the case of a marine incident, it is paramount to know who holds the responsibility for search and rescue in those areas and who will provide the service, if available. Note that there are more and more volunteer groups and associations operating search and rescue units.

The means for alerting vary according to what is available and commonly used in the area. Keep in mind that there are no RCCs or Coast Guard Radio to answer your calls and, many boaters will not have marine VHF radios, but may carry a CB radio. In case of doubt, 9-1-1 may be tried first. If 911 does not work, you may need to call your local fire or police departments directly.

Figure 1-5: Activating the maritime SAR system

Activating the maritime SAR system


Avoiding Human error among SAR Personnel, IMO LSR 26/5, 1994.
Beaulé,Étienne: Module de formation Chefs d’équipe, Canadian Coast Guard, Laurentian Region, 1998.
Bridge Resource Management – Student’s Workbook, Edition 6, Sweden, SAS Flight Academy AB, 1993.
Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, Central and Arctic region: Fundamentals of SAR, 1996.
Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, National Guidelines Respecting Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Activities, 1998.
Canadian Coast Guard, Bridge Resource Management Course, Canadian Coast Guard College, 1998.
Canadian Coast Guard, Central & Arctic Region IRB Training Manual. Canadian Coast Guard, Courtesy examination manual for small craft.
Canadian Coast Guard, Gaetan Gamelin, Mécanique préventive, Laurentian Region.
Canadian Coast Guard, Jacky Roy & Jean-Michel Boulais, L’équipage ESC devant la loi, Laurentian Region.
Canadian Coast Guard, Mathieu Vachon, Formation des équipages en embarcation rapide de secours, Laurentian Region, 1999Canadian Coast Guard, Operational guidelines for Search and Rescue units,1993.
Canadian Coast Guard Regional Manual for Marine Rescue Operations, Laurentian Region, DFO 5675/1998.
Canadian Coast Guard, René Paquet, Les effets du stress post traumatique, Laurentian Region.
Canadian Coast Guard, Robert Jinchereau, Notes de cours, Laurentian Region. Canadian Coast Guard, RHIOT Manual, Pacific Region, Bamfield RHIOT Shool. Canadian Coast Guard, SAR Skills Training Standard, TP-9224E, 1994.
Canadian Coast Guard: Small fishing vessel safety manual, 1993.
Canadian Power Squadron, Pleasure Craft Operator Course, Motor and Sail, 1990.
SAR Seamanship Reference Manual
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Coast Guard, Maritime Search and Rescue in Canada, T 31-87/1996E.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Coast Guard / Transport Canada Marine Safety: Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, 1997.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Coast Guard, Safe Boating Guide, 2000.
International Civil Aviation Organisation and International Maritime Organisation: International Aeronautical and Maritime SAR Manual, IAMSAR Vol. I, II, III.
National Defence / Fisheries and Oceans Canada / Coast Guard: National Search and Rescue Manual, B-GA-209-001, DFO 5449, 1998.
North Pacific Vessel Owner’s Association, Vessel Safety Manual, 1986
St. John Ambulance, First Aid, First on the scene, standard level, activity book, 1999.
Stanley R. Trollip, Richard S, Jensen, Human Factors for General Aviation, Englewood, Jeppesen Sanderson, 1991.
United States Coast Guard, Boat Crew Seamanship Manual, U.S. Department of transportation. World Health Organisation, International Medical Guide, 1989. Zodiac Hurricane Technologies, Technical Manual, 733 OB Rescue, British Columbia.

Chapter 2 - Human Factors

Chapter 2 - Human Factors [PDF - 538 KB]

The previous chapter emphasized that maritime search and rescue has a lot to do with teamwork. Given the importance of teamwork, a good search and rescue reference manual must deal with the vast subject of human factors. Thus, before any explanation about technical material, equipment, and the other interesting hands-on items that are important, this chapter will look at people: people in their living and working environment, the human relationship with equipment, procedures and the environment. It will also look at people’s relationships with other people.

2.1 Why spend time discussing human factors

Since search and rescue units often have to perform their duties in adverse conditions, mishaps or errors are bound to happen. Sometimes these errors have disastrous consequences. Many professional SAR crews have been lost during search and rescue missions. A look at the statistics shows clearly that technical errors are involved in less than 25% of all incidents. Thus, the problem does not seem to be whether or not the crews can do their job well. Rather, it has been shown that the leading problem is “human error.” A “human error” is committed when either the wrong action or a bad decision is not discovered and is left uncorrected. Inaction and indecision can also become “human errors.” To minimize the risk of human errors, understanding human factors is important. This section will give techniques that may help you to improve your teamwork and thus minimize the risk of human errors.

2.2 Profile of a good SAR team

Many studies have revealed the individual qualities that are required for good teamwork. Individuals that are good at teamwork:

  • Communicate clearly and precisely
  • Accept challenges and know how to respond to them
  • Use short term strategies as needed
  • Have the right balance between authority and assertiveness
  • Manage to find a balance between performanceand people-oriented styles when they are acting as team leaders
  • Know how to control their workload
  • Can maintain an adequate level of alertness
  • Have sound judgement and, usually, good decision-making skills

2.2.1 Communication

Communication is a key factor in teamwork, simply because misunderstandings are so common. Often, a clear message will be distorted in some way upon reception. This phenomenon is normal, since none of the human senses is perfect.

Figure 2-1: Sometimes, what is heard is not what was said!

Graphic of two different men on the telephone. One has an thought image of an orange and the other has one of an apple.  

The quality of communications in a team is determined by several factors. First, communications have to remain open and interactive. “Open” means that the the concerns, comments and opinions of other team members are welcome. “Interactive” means that every member of the team is participating in the communication process.

Once open and interactive communication has been established, the next step in avoiding misinterpretations is closed-loop communications. Closed-loop communications should be used every time important information is exchanged. In closed-loop communication, the sender transmits the message, and the recipient acknowledges by repeating all the important information. Then, the sender confirms the accuracy of what the recipient understood. If the recipient understood correctly, the communication ends here. If not, the sender will repeat the original message. The recipient will confirm once again and the sender will validate once more. The following figure illustrates this technique.

Figure 2-2 - An example of a closed-loop communication

Two men wearing headphones that are looking at each other in a fashion of demonstrating a closed-loop telephone communication. There are arrows from one to the other and vice-versa to accentuate the two way communication.

2.2.2 Briefings

Briefings, when properly conducted, can also minimize the risks of confusion. Briefings should be used whenever you are planning something that will involve the active participation of another team member. When conducting a briefing, be certain that everyone understands his or her tasks. To conduct efficient briefings, the following rules should be remembered: Make the time

For an efficient briefing, take enough time to avoid rushing any critical information. Every minute invested in such briefings will save significant time that would have been lost due to confusion. Be open and friendly

The members of a team are not robots. They do not await orders to dictate their behaviour. Let them contribute to the briefing by adding their personal touch to the plan. A briefing must be a pleasant activity. It should make clear to everybody that their talents will be used to resolve a situation. It is essential that everyone remain friendly throughout the briefing. Anyone can conduct the briefing

A briefing does not always have to be conducted by the team leader or coxswain. Usually, the person having the most information should conduct the briefing. It is good practice to let every member of the team conduct briefings. A briefing must be interactive

Under no circumstances should a briefing become a “one-man show.” Contributions from other team member should be welcome. Proceeding this way makes finding a solution a team effort. Chances of omitting important information are reduced considerably in this way. Define responsibilities

After a good briefing, every team member should know what his or her responsibilities are. Use closed-circuit communications

During a briefing, important information is exchanged. It would thus be advisable to use closed-circuit communications to avoid misunderstandings. Keep focused

Resist the temptation to start discussions about matters that are unrelated to the initial problem. Keep focused on the problem you have to resolve. Try not to lose that focus by dwelling on insignificant details. Define your general plan. Deal with details as needed. Ensure that no question remains unanswered

It might be a good idea to take some time to allow everybody to ask last-minute questions before ending the briefing.

2.2.3 Debriefings

Once a mission is completed, it might be a good idea to conduct a debriefing. Debriefings should be conducted as soon as possible after the mission. If the debriefing cannot be conducted soon enough, every member of the team should jot down a few notes about things they want to discuss. Here are some important points to remember for debriefings:

  • This time, the coxswain or team leader should conduct the debriefing;
  • The coxswain/team leader should indicate his or her mistakes first to set the example;
  • Everybody should remain objective;
  • Evaluate both positive and negative aspects of your performance;
  • Try to learn from your mistakes;
  • Avoid finger-pointing. Talk about team performance;
  • Keep the debriefing interesting;
  • Prepare plans for the next time you encounter a situation like the one you just dealt with. Ask yourself how you would react if you had to perform the same tasks tomorrow;
  • Keep a cordial, informal atmosphere.

2.2.4 Challenge and response

People who have a tendency to challenge are often considered a problem in a team. This is unfortunate, since challenges can be essential to improving teamwork. Of course, not all challenges are useful, but some are. As a matter of fact, statistics show that lack of challenges is involved in more than 30% of marine incidents.

Not all challenges are good for teamwork. Challenging authority or decisions is certainly not always helpful. On the other hand, challenging concepts can minimize the risk of error and thus, the risk of getting into trouble. Steps in a challenge

Challenging a concept usually involves the following steps:

  • A concept is stated and limits are set;
  • The situation progresses and moves outside the limits that were set;
  • A challenge is issued;
  • A proper response is formulated.

The following example illustrates these steps:
Coxswain: “We will turn to port at the fourth red buoy.”
Crewmember: “Port at the fourth buoy…”
Coxswain: “That’s right.”

A little later…
Coxswain: “Ok. Let’s turn to port now.”
Crewmember: “But… don’t we have another buoy to pass before we turn?!?” “Oops! You’re right! Let’s turn after we pass the next buoy.”

Here, the concept was the need to turn to port, and the limit was set at the fourth red buoy. The situation moved outside the limits when the coxswain asked to turn before the fourth buoy. A challenge was issued and a proper response was given. As you can see, in this case, the challenge prevented a potentially dangerous situation.

Note that concepts can arise from many different sources. All the on-board instruments are sources of concepts. Sometimes, what these instruments indicate is in contradiction with what one believes to be true. If that happens to you, you should challenge either what you think or what the instruments are indicating. In such situations, it is important that you find your own answers. For example, if your depth sounder indicates that you have 2 feet while your marine chart indicates that you should have at least 20 feet, you’d better find out the right answer. Taking advantage of challenges

The following guidelines may help you to take advantage of challenges:

  • Challenges should be allowed and welcomed in a team;
  • Always challenge when you believe that you are moving outside the limits of the initial concept;
  • Be diplomatic when you formulate a challenge.

The answer given to a challenge is as important as the challenge itself.

When you are responding to a challenge, consider the following guidelines:

  • Always check the validity of the challenge. Use a third source of information if necessary.
  • Be cautious, especially in emergency situations. The challenge might be valid!
  • Be diplomatic when you formulate a response to a challenge. Never laugh at someone who has issued an invalid challenge. If you do so, the person may no longer challenge. Obstacles to challenges

If you want to encourage challenges, you need to be aware of some obstacles that may occur. These obstacles can involve either the challenger or the receiver.

Obstacles can occur if the challenger:

  • is a quiet person;
  • lacks confidence;
  • is not assertive;
  • puts the team leader on a pedestal;
  • does not fully understand something;
  • does not like responsibilities;
  • is involved in interpersonal conflicts;
  • has had bad experiences with inappropriate responses to previous challenges.

Obstacles can occur if the receiver:

  • feels that his or her authority is threatened by challenges;
  • lacks confidence;
  • responds emotionally;
  • has poor communication skills;
  • has poor management skills.

2.2.5 Short-term strategies

Short-term strategies are defined as plans that are developed to solve a particular problem. Short-term strategies should be used, when time permits, to solve any problem that is not covered by standard operating procedures. Developing good short-term strategies requires the following steps:

  • Identify the problem;
  • Develop plans to deal with the problem;
  • Check plans with the rest of the team members in an interactive briefing;
  • Explain the mutually-agreed plan in a summary briefing;
  • Ensure that the plan is followed;
  • Modify and update the plan if conditions change.

Let’s now define each step. Identify the problem

Before developing a plan, you need to know why a plan is needed. Exactly what is the problem you have to deal with? To effectively identify the problem, you need to use all available resources. Involve as many people as you can. In critical situations, you may try to make some time. This usually involves slowing down. For example, if you think you have deviated from a safe course, you may stop and take the time to figure out what your position is. Developing the plans

Again, try to use all resources, and try to create time. Set your priorities and build your plan accordingly. Develop more than one plan. Once you have a few options, go to the next step.

It is essential to allow every member of a team to give their input when a plan is to be made. Each member of a team has his or her own experiences and ideas. The combined knowledge of all members of a team is thus far superior to the knowledge of individual members. By using this combined knowledge, you will probably have a very solid and very safe plan to deal with the situation at hand. Check the plans

Try to choose the best plan. Ask for suggestions and compare all the plans. Consider everybody’s input. Be sure that all issues are addressed and nothing is missing. Once you have chosen the best plan, choose some backup plans. This strategy will be useful if events do not progress as you planned. Summary briefing

Get all members of your team involved in carrying out the plan. Obtain each member’s commitment. Set monitoring guidelines for your team. Make sure that everyone knows what he or she has to do. Monitor

As you carry out the plan, problems may arise. Try to solve each individual problem as it comes up. Respond to any challenge as it is voiced. Make sure that the plan you chose is working within the guidelines (or limits) that you set.

2.2.6 Authority and assertiveness

Authority is certainly an important component in leading a team. However, finding the right dose of this ingredient is not easy. Using too much authority can be as detrimental to a team as using too little. Assertiveness is also a very important quality, but again, finding the right balance is tricky. This section offers some tools that might help to find the right level of authority and assertiveness.

Let’s start by defining the two kinds of authority: formal and personal authority. Formal authority is the authority that goes with a particular job or status. For example, a captain or coxswain is given formal authority. These people are expected to make decisions, and they are usually paid to do so.

Personal authority is quite different. Personal authority has to do with all the things that make others listen to one’s suggestions. Usually, wisdom, professionalism, integrity, honesty and diplomacy form the cornerstone of personal authority. Someone with strong personal authority does not need formal authority to command attention. Using formal authority to command attention should be avoided.

Assertiveness is also an important attribute. Someone who is assertive is able to voice his or her concerns. But once again, too much or too little assertiveness can be bad. Combining different levels of assertiveness and authority results in different situations. The following examples illustrate various combinations:

Situation 1: Coxswain with strong authority and crewmembers with weak assertiveness

In this situation, the strong authority of the coxswain will intimidate the crewmembers. As a result, a crewmember will usually remain silent. All decisions and initiatives come from the coxswain. This is truly a one-person team. The following conversation illustrates this situation:

Coxswain: “Let’s go this way and take a shortcut …”
Crewmember: “But …” – to express some concern regarding the shallow depth in this area.
Coxswain: “I said we are going this way. What’s your problem?”
Crewmember: “Nothing … Sorry.”

Situation 2: Coxswain with weak authority and crewmembers with strong assertiveness

This is probably the least dangerous situation, since the strong assertiveness of the crewmembers compensates for the coxswain’s lack of authority. The problem is that most decisions are made by crewmembers. The following conversation illustrates this combination:

Coxswain: “You are leaving the channel if you go this way.”
Crewmember: “It doesn’t matter … Water is deep enough.”
Coxswain: “But … I would prefer if we could remain in the channel …”
Crewmember: “I said it’s deep enough. It’s not the first time I have been this way.”
Coxswain: “Ok, ok… If you are so sure…”

Situation 3: Coxswain with strong authority and crewmembers with strong assertiveness

This situation can cause serious conflicts among team members. The coxswain and crewmembers will argue constantly. The coxswain may have to use his or her formal authority to end altercations. This situation can become very dangerous, since emergency

situations rarely leave time to argue. A situation like this one will be stressful for every member of the team. The following conversation illustrates the situation of excessive authority and excessive assertiveness:

Coxswain: “You are leaving the channel if you go this way.”
Crewmember: “It doesn’t matter… Water is deep enough.”
Coxswain: “I don’t want you to leave the channel – is that clear?”
Crewmember: “Read my lips: IT IS DEEP ENOUGH FOR US TO GO THERE.”
Coxswain: “I am in command here, so you will do as I say.”

Situation 4: Coxswain with weak authority and crewmembers with weak assertiveness

This is the most dangerous situation, because nobody will take the necessary decisions or actions. The serious lack of challenges on this kind of team will adversely affect the quality of decisions they make. The following conversation illustrates this problem:

Coxswain: “I’m not sure, but I think we just left the channel…”
Crewmember: “Should I slow down?”
Coxswain: “I don’t know… Wait… I can’t find our position…”
Crewmember: “You got it?”
Coxswain: “Not yet… Let’s wait a bit... We should see something that will help us.”
Crewmember: “Ok…”

A little later: CRUNCH! The boat is damaged on a submerged rock.

As you can see, none of these extreme situations are ideal. As a member of an SAR team, you must remain vigilant to prevent the development of such extreme situations. Now that you are able to recognize such dangerous extremes, let’s look at ways to prevent their occurrence.

Rule number one: if you want someone to become assertive, you need to create the appropriate working environment. To do so, it may be necessary to lower the level of authority on the team. The reverse situation is similar. If you want someone to be a little less assertive, you may want to increase authority. Once again, you should try to increase personal authority rather than formal authority.

2.2.7 Management styles

Management styles of a team leader or coxswain can have a profound effect on the behaviour, performance and well-being of a team. There are many ways to analyze management styles. The following approach is based on two dimensions: performance and people. Management styles can be high or low on both performance and people. Each combination produces a different effect on a team.

Figure 2-3: The five different management styles

Figure of the five different styles of management represented by a penguin, a dolphin, a tiger, a sheep and a snail. Tiger style – high on performance but low on people
Believes in performance
Often has too much authority
Has a high opinion of himself or herself
Does not care about what others may think
Does not care about teamwork
Great leader in crisis
Takes full responsibility for his or her decisions
Is loyal to the team
Does not like challenges
May have a tendency to do or to control everything
Does not delegate easily
Effects on the team
Silent team, low level of communication
Low assertiveness of team members
No challenges
Performance may decline
Team morale may get low
Team members will not take many initiatives Penguin style - low on performance but high on people
Believes that people are more important.If people are well treated, they will necessarily do a good job
is a good listener
Likes to chat with everybody; has a tendency to accept lower professional standards so that everybody can do well
Talks a lot
Forgives easily, probably to avoid conflicts
Is always positive, even when results are unsatisfactory. Some good learning opportunities are lost because of this lack of objectivity
Effects on the team
Friendly and calm working atmosphere that performance.
General lowering of professional
False feeling of adequacy on the team
Team members that are high on performance might get annoyed standards
Little training is done within the team
Leader does not command respect because of inability to provide objective and constructive feedback Snail style - low on both performance and people
Serious lack of motivation
Is not really interested in his or her job
Has a tendency to do the basic minimum
Avoids conflicts
Has a low opinion of his or her own capabilities and of those of the team
Has low professional standards, both personally and for the team
Poor communicator
Weak authority
Does not use short-term strategies
Can often hide personal ineptitude by avoiding risks
Effects on the team
All effects are negative
Worst management style
Low team morale
Professional standards can get dangerously low
Very little training is done Sheep style - average concerns for both people and performance
Adapts quite well to surroundings
May compromise performance or team morale to achieve personal goals
Concerned by performance, but not enough
Communication is good but not excellent
Generally accepts challenges
Occasionally uses short-term strategies
Effects on the team
Promising management style
Everyone feels that something is missing
Team morale is good, but could be better
Team performances are good but not excellent
Average training Dolphin style - high on people, high on performance
Combines the best of the penguin and the tiger
Is capable of adjusting personal style to any situation
Good communications and briefings
Accepts challenges easily
Almost always uses good short-term strategies
No problem delegating
Knows strengths and weaknesses of team members
Believes that it is always possible to do better
Effects on the team
Best management style
Training is a priority
Excellent team morale
Team is confident
All members of the team have good self-esteem
Professional standards are very high
Team members are motivated Management style analysis

It should be clear that the ideal management style is the dolphin, but other styles do have some advantages. Each leader must be able to adapt his or her style to the situation at hand. In emergency situations, a tiger may be ideal for creating order out of chaos. On the other hand, in the presence of inexperienced people, it may be good to be more of a penguin at the beginning. In periods of low activity, a sheep may even be adequate.

If you feel that your team leader or coxswain is not an ideal manager, you may want to help him or her to change toward a better style. To do so, use arguments that your leader will value. For example, if your leader is a tiger, you may try to persuade him or her that performance will increase with less authority. In the case of a penguin, emphasize that you would feel better if the performances on the team were improved. A sheep will probably understand arguments about both performance and people. The snail is the most difficult style to change, because no argument may be convincing enough. Sometimes people need a strong jolt to confront them with their need to change.

2.2.8 Workload

To be efficient, you need to be able to control your workload. If you get overloaded, you will probably feel under stress, and this will adversely affect your performance. On the other hand, a very low workload will usually draw you into boredom and lack of motivation, which can also translate into a lower performance level. Your workload is your own responsibility. This section offers tools that may help you to manage your workload.

Let’s first examine the consequences of an overload situation:

  • duplication of effort (many people working on the same thing without knowing it);
  • increase in errors;
  • increase in level of authority with increasing workload;
  • tunnel vision: individuals will focus on important tasks and may miss important details;
  • generalized bad mood and impatience;
  • lowered attention to tasks;
  • delegation decreases as workload increases;
  • short term strategies are neglected;
  • decrease in communications (no one has time to talk).

The concept of workload can be explained using a formula. This formula is certainly not very scientific, but it will be very helpful in understanding ideas related to workload.

Figure 2-4 - The workload formula

Image of a note pad (representing the tasks) plus a an image of a weight (representing the task value) and under there is a clock which represents the time

This figure illustrates how to compute a workload. Now, let’s look at ways to lighten it. To lighten a given workload, you need to modify the individual components of the workload formula. There are three possibilities:

  • Decrease the number of tasks to be accomplished
  • Decrease the weight of individual tasks
  • Increase the time available for accomplishing the tasks Decrease the number of tasks to be accomplished

The best way to accomplish this goal is to delegate. Delegating not only decreases workload, it also trains people. Furthermore, when you delegate a task to a team member, you show that person that you trust his or her abilities.

There are many advantages to delegating, but you must be careful to avoid overloading when you delegate. Effective delegation includes the following steps:

  • Decide what tasks you can delegate;
  • Decide who is suited to performing those tasks;
  • Plan your delegating strategy.

To decide what tasks you can delegate, you must know the skills of your team members. It is useless to delegate tasks that nobody can do! Ideally, the tasks you delegate should become opportunities for learning. Avoid delegating boring, repetitive tasks.

Once you have chosen the task you wish to delegate, choose the person to whom you will delegate that task. Consider skills, workload and motivation for the task.

It is now time to define your delegating strategy. It is usually a good idea to delegate some of the responsibilities that go with the task you are delegating. In this way, the team member will feel a connection with the end result, and his or her motivation will increase. When you delegate a task and the responsibilities that go with it, inform the rest of the team that you are no longer responsible for that particular task. If you do not do this, other team members will continue to come to you instead of to the other person. This situation can seriously undermine your efforts!

Another important aspect of delegation is support. Be prepared to give all the necessary support to the person who is now responsible for one of your tasks. It might take a little time at the beginning, but the time will be well invested once the person gets comfortable with the new task. Sometimes, you may need to refuse to help someone who does not have a lot of self-confidence. Providing too much help to these individuals will only prove that they cannot do anything by themselves.

Last important thing to remember: progress should be rewarded! When someone does a great job, reward him or her by giving more responsibilities. For example, if someone has found the best route to an emergency situation, you may offer the reward of steering the boat. This gesture shows that you appreciate the work of others. You also show that your confidence increases as the individual gets better at his or her job.

Many people have a tendency to find reasons to avoid delegating. Most commonly evoked reasons are the following:

“If you want something done properly, do it yourself!” “By the time I showed him, I could have done it twice …”
“I like doing this job and I’m good at it, so why should I delegate?”
“What if he makes mistakes?”
“I will lose control!”

Close examination reveals that these reasons do not justify an inability to delegate. Here is why:
“If you want something to be done properly, do it yourself!”True – it takes time to learn a new job… But you had to learn – remember?
“By the time I showed him, I could have done it twice…”
Again, speed with quality won’t come right away.
“I like doing this job, and I’m good at it, so why should I delegate?”
With practice, you will also get to like the job of delegating!
“What if he makes mistakes?”
Sometimes you need to let people make mistakes. Mistakes are usually not critical.
“I will lose control!”
You will actually increase your control because you will be able to get more done within the same amount of time. Decrease the weight of individual tasks

Decreasing the weight of individual tasks is not an easy thing to do. The best way to achieve this goal involves training. With enough training, difficult tasks may become easier to perform. Checklists may be useful for tasks involving many steps. Increase the time available for accomplishing the tasks

Increasing time is probably the most difficult thing to do. When you are on your boat, the best way to increase time is to slow down. Note that when you lower the number of tasks to do, you are indirectly increasing the time available for the remaining tasks.

2.2.9 State of a team

This is another factor that may affect the efficiency of a team. If your team gets bored or inattentive, performance will suffer markedly. Stress or panic will affect your team in the same way.

There are six states in which a team can find itself. Three of these occur during low workload and low stress situations, while the other three occur in high workload and high stress situations. Optimum state (+1)

In this state, your workload and your stress level are appropriate. You do not have to fight to stay awake. You are motivated and efficient. Concerned state (+2)

Both your workload and your stress levels are going up. You are starting to wonder if you will be able to do everything on time. Your worries begin to affect your productivity. Alarmed state (+3)

You are overloaded. There is no doubt now: you will not be able to do everything on time. You are trying to figure out a way to get out of this situation. Maybe you should sacrifice a few tasks … It is hard to think about all this while you still have to work … You need all your strength to control your extreme stress level and to avoid panic. Bored state (–1)

Workload is low… You have nothing to do. Things have been this way for a while now and you are bored. Your level of attention and your motivation are getting quite low. Fatigue begins to take its toll. Inattentive state (–2)

This is the state where boredom and carelessness combine to produce an explosive mix. You are making mistakes and don’t really feel the necessity to correct them. If you don’t do something quickly, the next mistake could lead you into a critical situation. What is worse, you may not even notice that you are in trouble. Inattentive at a critical phase (–3)

You are now in trouble and you don’t even know it. Eventually, you will wake up and understand what is going on. If you are lucky enough, you may still have time to do something. If you are not, you will have to face the consequences of your lack of attention. Usually, when a team in this state wakes up, an initial phase of confusion occurs. After that, the team will shift from a –3 state directly to a +3 state.

Try to keep your team in a +1 state. In emergency situations, the state of your team might have a tendency to rise. Try to maintain it at +1 by using the techniques described above. Use short-term strategies, make some time, ensure good communications (closed-loop) and use briefings. These measures may help you to relieve pressure.

2.2.10 Judgement and decision-making strategies

Judgement is an aptitude that can be developed. To improve your judgement, you need a good decision-making process. You also need to know what factors can influence your judgement. This section will describe a decision-making process as well as some factors that may adversely affect your judgement.

This decision-making process involves 9 steps:

  • Vigilance
  • Problem discovery
  • Problem diagnosis
  • Alternative generation
  • Risk analysis
  • External influences
  • Decision
  • Action
  • Monitoring Vigilance

This is the first step in our process. Vigilance involves remaining aware that things may not go as planned. If you are vigilant, you know that anything can happen anytime and you plan accordingly. This way of thinking minimizes the risk of being caught unprepared. Problem discovery

When a problem occurs, you must discover it quickly. If you do not discover problems quickly enough, you may never get the chance to use your judgement. Problem diagnosis

Once you have discovered a problem, try to understand how and why it happened. Finding the cause of a problem will usually help you to find a way to solve it. Alternative generation

Now is time to find a way to solve the problem. At this point, any idea is good. Try to find as many potential solutions as possible. Risk analysis

In this step, you analyze the risks associated with each alternative. Once you have analyzed all the risks, you should be able to pick the best solution. External influences

When you are ready to choose a solution, you are likely to be influenced by external factors. Very often, these influences or pressures will push you toward a solution that is not ideal. Common influences include:

  • economic factors (e.g., it’s too expensive)
  • responsibilities (e.g., I promised… I have to…)
  • general attitude (will be detailed later)
  • peer pressures (e.g., everybody is doing it… I have to be like the others…)
  • physical status (e.g., fatigue, illness…)
  • hidden pressures (will be detailed later)

General attitude can seriously affect anyone’s judgement. The following general attitudes are considered dangerous:

  • anti-authority (e.g., Don’t tell me what to do… I don’t have to follow the rules…)
  • impulsiveness (e.g., Do something… QUICK!)
  • invulnerability (e.g., It won’t happen to me.)
  • excess confidence (e.g., I can do it!)
  • resignation (e.g., What’s the point… it won’t change anything…)
  • narrow-mindedness (e.g., I’ve been doing things this way for the past 3 years and I’m not about to change.)
  • lack of initiative (e.g., It’s not my job to do this.)
  • laziness (e.g., That should be enough… Nobody will notice…)

Hidden pressures: hidden pressures are simply pressures that you are not aware of. These pressures usually involve your previous experiences, your fears (conscious or unconscious) and your beliefs. For example, your fear of death may become a hidden pressure if you are called upon to retrieve a body. Dealing with hidden pressure is not an easy thing. You have to try to identify hidden pressures that might affect you at any particular time. A good way to accomplish this is to ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?” For example, if you are driving at 150 km/h on the highway, your answer to the previous question might be that you don’t want to be late. But why is that?

Maybe it is because you have a reputation of never being late. In this case, your own reputation could be a hidden pressure. Knowing what pressures are affecting you is only the beginning. You still have to do something to minimize the effect of these pressures. Decision

You have decided which solution is best and you are ready to act. Conduct a briefing at this point to let everyone know your plans and to assign tasks. Action

At this point, you simply translate plans into actions. Monitoring

You must monitor the effectiveness of the solution you chose as you are applying it. Doing so will ensure that any corrective measures are taken as needed.

2.3 Image and attitude

The image you project and the attitude you have when doing search and rescue can have a profound impact on the efficacy and safety of your unit. This section describes the importance of being professional, both in appearance and in action. Before getting into the heart of this topic, a warning about a very dangerous attitude: heroism.

2.3.1 Heroism: a dangerous attitude

First, what is a hero? A hero is usually defined as someone who has done something brave or good and is admired by a lot of people. To deserve such admiration, a hero must stand above the crowd. He or she must be brave enough to be willing to put the lives of others above his or her own. In the coordinated team effort of an SAR operation, a heroic attitude is of no help to anyone. Any individual craving admiration is likely to become a burden to the rest of the team. Anyone willing to risk his or her own life in an SAR mission should stay home. The last thing an SAR team needs is the risk of another victim on its hands.

The previous paragraph may sound a little odd. Heroism is, indeed, socially valued today. In fact, the feats of so-called heroes are the theme of many television shows, which portray ordinary people risking their lives to save another living being (human or animal). Their courage often results in a happy ending almost as ideal as the stereotyped “happily ever after” of children’s fairy tales. What these shows don’t say, however, is that for every successful hero, a dozen “ordinary people” risked their lives and lost them. The heroes shown on television swere lucky.

Many rescuers have a genuine desire to help other people. Some want to become heroes. These two attitudes are often incompatible. Imagine, for example, that you are participating in a large search operation. Each unit has been assigned to a particular search area. If the members of one unit decide that they want to be the ones to find the missing person, they will probably want to search the area where they think they have the best chances. They may be tempted to leave their assigned search sector (or to search it quickly, inappropriately) to move to the area where they want to search. Imagine now that every unit does the same thing. Obviously, the probability of detection of the missing person would fall to near zero in such a case. Given the devastating effect that heroism can have on a team effort, it is crucial to resist the temptation to try to become an individual hero. If the missing person is rescued, the ultimate goal of saving a life will be achieved. That should be reward enough.

2.3.2 Professionalism

Professionalism is a very important subject in search and rescue. Clients of the SAR system often have to put their lives or their safety into the hands of complete strangers whose competence they have only a few minutes to evaluate. First impression is thus all there is. You, readers, are these strangers. You must understand how much the clients must trust you to leave you in charge of their destiny. If you want to earn the trust of people, you must act and look like a professional. Since your professionalism will be established upon first impression, you must also work on your image. This chapter will provide guidelines that should help you to develop a professional attitude.

Everyone should now understand the need to be professional. But what defines professionalism? What are the differences between someone acting in a non-professional manner and someone acting in a professional manner? Here are some answers to these questions. The ingredients of professionalism

A brief look at the BBC English Dictionary yields the following definitions:
Professional (adj.) If something that someone does is professional, it is done well, and is of a very high standard.
Professionalism (n.) Professionalism is skill at doing a job.

These definitions make it easy to determine what is needed to achieve professionalism. To reach high standards, one needs to know everything that is pertinent to the job he or she is doing, as well as the skills that are necessary to translate the knowledge into action. Let’s now examine the knowledge and skills that are required in search and rescue. Knowledge and skills

The easiest way to define what knowledge is needed is to make a list of what (or whom) SAR personnel must work with.

People involved in SAR must work with:

  • Other people (crewmembers, RCC coordinators, CGRS personnel, etc.)
  • Boats and boat-related equipment (their own and other boats):
    • different types of propulsion packages
    • marine communication equipment
    • electronic navigation devices
    • on board safety equipment
  • Equipment:
    • firefighting equipment
    • salvage equipment
    • first aid equipment
    • rescue equipment
    • personal safety equipment
  • Aids to navigation, charts, compasses, etc.
  • People requiring assistance or in distress

This list is certainly not complete. You probably can think of other elements that could be added to the list. Nonetheless, this list is more than enough to illustrate the point that SAR personnel must know how to work with the items on the lists. They must know how to:

  • work in teams;
  • use the available equipment;
  • navigate;
  • provide first aid;
  • perform related tasks.

To identify skills, a list of the situations that may be encountered by SAR personnel is the most appropriate tool. These situations can be environmental (e.g., weather) or personal (e.g., fatigue).

Situations that may be encountered by SAR personnel:

  • cold water
  • rain
  • fog
  • winds
  • currents
  • shallow water
  • deep water
  • fire and explosions
  • lack of sleep/fatigue
  • heavy seas/waves
  • hypothermia
  • stress

Again, the list could be much longer. SAR personnel must be skilled enough to be able to work with the items on the first list under the situations on the second list. For example, SAR personnel should be skilled enough to be able to use their boat in fog, current or heavy seas. They should be skilled enough to be able to provide first aid under stress, when they are fatigued, and so on.

There are many ways to acquire knowledge. Reading this manual is one way to gain knowledge. Taking courses and training are other ways to gain knowledge. Learning from experienced people can also be a good way to gain knowledge.

Skills are usually acquired through practice. People who practice a lot will usually be more skilled than people who do not. This manual has explained many techniques. If you want to master these techniques, you must practice.

Reading will provide the knowledge, but practice will forge the skill. Do not expect to become an expert in anything if you do not practice. Acting in a professional manner

The question about the difference between someone acting in a professional manner and someone acting in a non-professional manner was asked above. Let’s try to answer that question now.

Skills and knowledge cannot be readily assessed by an observer. Evaluating level of knowledge and skill usually requires observing someone for a while. In other words, it is difficult to assess these things on first impression. Clients of SAR systems thus have to rely on other clues. Image and attitude are those clues. No matter how knowledgeable, skilled and experienced a crew may be, if image and attitude are not professional, first impression will be bad. Image

The image the SAR crew projects will have a profound impact on first impressions. Everything that is available for visual inspection should convey the image of professionalism. The image of the crew and SAR unit should thus be polished.

Crew image
Consider the following elements when polishing the crew image:
  • Any stains?
  • Appropriate?
    • Wear clothes that are appropriate for the job (e.g., no swim suits)
    • Avoid references to alcohol, drugs or tobacco.
  • Properly worn?
    • Avoid unbuttoned or untucked shirts.
    • Avoid rolled pants and sleeves.
  • Personal image
  • Do you look presentable?
Boat image
Consider the following elements when polishing the boat image:
Condition of the boat
  • Clean?
  • In good working condition (undamaged)?
  • Paint still looks good?
  • Properly placed and stowed?
  • In good condition and reliable? Crew Attitude

Attitude is also very important. The way the SAR crew behaves or responds will determine how they will be perceived just as much as image does.

  • Be polite:
    • Treat the clients with respect even if you think they do not deserve it.
  • Be positive:
    • Smile!
  • Stay calm
  • Look confident
  • Be careful with gestures:
    • Adopt a straight posture
    • Look at the person when he or she talks to you
    • Avoid hiding behind sunglasses when talking to people
  • Treat the client as an equal:
    • Wearing a uniform does not elevate you above other human beings Knowledge and skills

We said earlier that knowledge and skills cannot usually be assessed on the first impression. This may not always be true. Remember that your knowledge will be revealed any time you answer people’s questions, and your skills, any time you and your crew are put into action. If you fail to answer basic questions or to apply basic skills (docking for example) people will undoubtedly judge your knowledge or skills as inadequate. It is important to master basic knowledge and basic skills, since people can easily judge these. They can easily judge these since they all have a reference: they can compare your basic skills and knowledge with their own. Operating a boat in a professional and courteous manner

The way a crew operates its unit can also be a very efficient way to measure their professionalism. Remember that SAR units are easy to spot on the water. When you navigate, you are usually observed by many boaters. If you navigate in a reckless manner, all your efforts at trying to be professional are wasted.

Navigating in a professional manner means:

  • observing the regulations (colregs and any local regulations);
  • avoiding passing too close to other vessels;
  • manoeuvering in a way that will clearly show your intentions;
  • avoiding riding the wake of other vessels;
  • avoiding intentionally jumping waves;
  • manoeuvering at a safe and reasonable speed;
  • showing courtesy.


To earn the respect of other vessels, and to be welcome in marinas or harbours, it is essential to be courteous whenever possible. The non-written rules of basic water courtesy include:

  • slowing down when passing close to other vessels;
  • slowing down in the vicinity of marinas;
  • manoeuvering at slow speed in marinas and near docks;
  • avoiding excessive noise in marinas (especially at night);
  • letting less manoeuverable vessels proceed before you in narrow areas;
  • avoiding using the best spots at docks.

2.4 Critical-incident stress management

SAR crew can sometimes be exposed to extremely difficult situations. Critical-incident stress disorder (CISD) can result from such exposure. All regions have a counseling service to provide support to all employees, such as SAR crews, who are exposed to critical incidents. In order to increase awareness of critical-incident stress, this section will deal more specifically with this subject.

2.4.1 Critical-incident stress

Critical-incident stress is the potential reaction of an employee involved in a critical incident. The various types of critical incidents are as follows:

  • death or severe injury in the line of duty;
  • suicide or sudden death of a co-worker;
  • multiple-casualty incidents;
  • incidents in which victims are severely injured;
  • prolonged rescue or recovery operations, especially when children are involved or where the victim is known to rescue personnel;
  • situations with intensive media coverage and scrutiny;
  • situations of violence in the workplace.

The following situations, more specific to maritime SAR operations, are also part of the above list:

  • recovery of bodies;
  • witnessing a suicide from a bridge, a dock, a ferry;
  • operating in full view of public and/or media;
  • failing to succeed in a rescue attempt;
  • failing at CPR in a case where the victim still had vital signs when recovered.

Other situations can be very stressful. For example:

  • exposure for very long periods to the motion of a lifeboat in a violent storm;
  • failing to assist in cases of damage or property loss;
  • being unfairly criticized for response to an incident.

There are as many types of critical incidents as there are incidents. However, coxswains are responsible for their crew’s safety and for preventing injuries, including psychological injuries. They must monitor their own reactions to stress and watch the reactions of their crew, bearing in mind that these are only normal reactions by normal people in abnormal situations. In critical incidents where the potential psychological injury is obvious, remember that some normal emotional reactions can be expected.

2.4.2 Reacting according to experience

Often, individuals will react according to their respective experience or age, especially younger crewmembers who have a preconceived picture of SAR operations (the tendency to see SAR as saving life and forgetting that loss of life can also occur in any SAR operation). One way of avoiding stress is a short debriefing, just to check, inform and reassure. A critical-incident stress debriefing can be provided upon request. IRB and Coast Guard Auxiliary members should check their local procedures. Other crews can contact RCCs/MRSCs for more information.

An affirmative answer to any of the following questions after a critical incident may indicate that the job-related stress has reached a danger point and a debriefing is needed:

  • Do I have trouble putting the incident out of my mind?
  • Do I experience persistent nervous, jittery feelings?
  • Am I forgetful, short-tempered or fearful?
  • Do I have nightmares, sleep disturbances, or a preoccupation with death?
  • Am I withdrawn from friends or family and less interested in sex or other activities that I used to find enjoyable?
  • Do I find myself drinking too much or depending on drugs to calm my nerves or get me through the day?
  • Am I simply feeling out of sorts?

2.4.3 Countering the effects of stress

Many things can be done on the job to counter the effects of stress:

  • Plan for appropriate rest breaks, when possible (this applies equally to the coxswain: if the coxswain does not take a break, it is hard to order the crew to take a break). A rule of thumb is one 15-minute break for every hour under intense stress;
  • Rotate crew assignments, if possible, to avoid boredom due to repetition;
  • Keep everyone informed and updated frequently;
  • Provide adequate and suitable food (avoid, for example, serving anything raw or containing bones after incidents involving mutilated bodies or serving burnt food after incidents involving fires at sea);
  • Avoid excessive coffee or sugar, since both tend to increase stress reactions in the body;
  • If the crew is large enough, do not assign someone to recover the bodies of the persons he or she was previously assigned to search for;
  • Cover bodies.

Refusing to recognize a stressful situation may have a serious impact on you and your colleagues. For example, a few years ago, personnel from different services worked on a crash site in Chicago where there were no survivors. No psychological support was provided to them. A year later, only 71 of the 351 individuals involved remained in their jobs. It is cheaper to support the individual than train a new team.

To conclude, the coxswain must create a climate of open discussion where feelings and reactions can be expressed. It is not a weakness to request help from your Regional Counseling Service; it is a weakness to deny the problem exists.

Chapter 3 - Personal safety

3.1 General

SAR crews often have to perform their duties under extreme conditions (wind, waves, cold water, etc.). Personal safety is one of the most important issues to be aware of in order to avoid injuries. Many pieces of protective equipment are available for these conditions. This chapter will describe these pieces of equipment, their correct usage and maintenance.

Always remember, though, that safety equipment will not protect you against poor judgment. Leaders of SAR crews should always think about safety before deciding on measures to be taken.

3.2 Protection in cold water

It is easy to forget how quickly the water can claim a life. It removes heat from our bodies twenty-five times faster than air at the same temperature. Yet, many victims do not even have the time to get cold. The shock of the icy waters forces them into hyperventilation. In 90% of cases, water will soon penetrate into the lungs and cause drowning. For the 10% that remain, spasms in the upper airways will prevent the entry of water into the lungs, causing “dry drowning.” These people will eventually die from suffocation.

Professionals who work on the water must be prepared for the unexpected. Wearing gear suited to the job provides a survival advantage. Remember that most drownings occur in good weather, when danger awareness is at its lowest.

To increase your chances of survival in cold water:

  • Wear gear that fits;
  • Clean and maintain your safety gear (keep it looking new);
  • Pick the proper gear for the job.

3.2.1 Wearing gear that fits

Safety equipment that does not fit is of no use to you. There are countless stories of people struggling to survive and being hampered by exposure coveralls that are too big or a PFD floating above their head. Gear that does not fit is uncomfortable to work in and dangerous. If you are out in a boat often, get yourself one set of gear that fits and wear it.

3.2.2 Cleaning and maintaining your safety gear

Refer to section 3.3 for more information on cleaning and maintaining specific safety equipment.

3.2.3 Picking the proper gear for the job

Imagine having fallen overboard at night, and floating in frigid waters. What kind of safety gear would you wish for while you patiently tread water waiting for rescue? Answering that question will give you a good idea of what you may need to carry with you. Be warned that it is easy to underestimate your needs when the sun is shining at your departure. Always remember that you may know the weather when you leave, but you can never know for sure what it will be like when you come back…

Safety-conscious crewmembers organize their gear before they leave and usually leave it in a kit or equipment vest (worn over top of a PFD). The safety equipment chosen must have five essential features:

  • Flotation
  • Protection
  • Warmth
  • Ease of detection
  • Mobility Flotation

How do rescue personnel survive the first few minutes of exposure, and protect their airways from the icy salt water? Flotation will keep the head up and out of the water and reduce the physical struggle to stay afloat. A PFD or a life jacket will be essential for those dangerous first minutes in the water. Warmth

So you have made it past the first few minutes with your PFD or life jacket keeping you afloat. Now, if you are swimming in 1-15°C Canadian waters, hypothermia is your next concern. Without thermal protection, chances of survival after a long exposure to cold water are slim. An easy rule to remember is the rule of 50: “A 50-year-old man has a 50/50 chance of surviving for 50 minutes in 50°F (10°C) water” or “A 50-year-old man has a 50/50 chance of surviving a 50-yard (46 m) swim in 50°F (10°C) water.”

Figure 3-1 Chart of survival times as a function of water terperature (assuming no cold protection)

Chart that determines the time in the water that a human can stand from the temperature of the water

A multi-layer approach to thermal insulation will protect you against a chilly demise. Different materials distribute heat in different ways. Polypropylene uses heat energy to hold water away from the skin and insulates energy better than natural fibres. Wool gets wet but keeps the water suspended and keeps body heat protected. Wool stays relatively warm when wet. Cotton soaks up water like a sponge and holds it against the skin. As the water evaporates, heat energy is pulled away from your body (not a good choice).

The high heat loss areas of the body are the head, neck, torso and groin. When you are dressing for cold weather try to protect these areas first. A wool toque or balaclava on the head and a scarf or a polypropylene neck warmer can reduce heat loss by 25%.

Figure 3-2 Water survival skills

Three sketches. One from a person who is holding on to the boat to stay above the water, one about a person who is sitting in a way to keep his head and neck above the water and the third is three people who are huddled together very closely

On warm days, bring both cold-weather and warmweather gear for added safety. The weather can change in minutes, and you may be caught by surprise. Thermal underwear like polypropylene or wool long johns will help keep you warm. If you are wearing a dry suit, don a fleece liner for excellent thermal insulation. This liner can be worn underneath a floater suit as well. Do not wear any cotton clothing under a liner, because cotton will keep the cold water against your skin.

There are a number of options for keeping yourself warm. The most common are antiexposure work suits and lightweight SAR dry suits. These will be discussed in sections and 3.3.4. Protection

SAR vessels often operate in severe climatic conditions. With frequent heavy impacts due to waves, high wind chills, and excessive noise levels, a crewmember can find himself or herself in an extremely hostile environment, even when things are going well. In the event that something goes wrong, crewmembers may be at risk from head injuries and/or blunt trauma (internal lesions caused by a collision with an object that does not cut well). Protective gear is essential, given that your vessel may be engaged in SAR operations in these conditions. When there is the slightest risk that the vessel could be operating in extreme conditions, the crew must have helmets, eye protection and gloves.

Head protection is very important for survival on board any kind of Fast Rescue Craft (FRC). On board these craft, crewmembers will be exposed to strong and sometimes sudden accelerations, both horizontal (due to engines) and vertical (due to waves). Under these circumstances, the risk of head injury is high. It is imperative to wear helmets to minimize that risk. Helmets must be specially designed for use in the water: otherwise, they may fill with water and act like anchors. In addition, helmets must be lightweight to minimize stress on the neck during sudden speed change.

Eye protection is vital, particularly in extended operations. The eyes are the most vulnerable and sensitive areas of the body. They are easily damaged by glare, salt and wind. Some form of ultraviolet and wind/spray protection is necessary. The eye protection that you choose should protect you from all the elements but not interfere with vision by excessive fogging or restrictions on peripheral vision.

Gloves are a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer ski gloves, while others prefer a lightweight wetsuit glove. Gloves should allow unrestricted circulation in the fingers to ensure sufficient warmth.

Note: When it comes to gloves and eyewear, expensive is not necessarily better. Ease of detection

There are active and passive ways to be detected. Passive “detectability” means that no movement is required for visibility. All your gear should be brightly coloured and covered with reflective tape. If you have an automatic strobe or water-activated EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon), these will draw attention to you. Active signaling devices require you to use them to draw attention your way. All these devices should be inside the various pockets of the equipment vest.

3.3 Personal safety equipment

3.3.1 General

Crews in custody of personal safety equipment are cautioned that the quality of maintenance and care of this equipment may be instrumental in the saving of lives, including their own. Personal safety equipment must be considered lifesaving equipment and treated as such.

Personal safety equipment on loan to an individual must be maintained in appropriate condition in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines. Each person to whom the gear is issued is responsible for keeping the gear in proper condition. Faults or problems which are beyond the scope of maintenance by the individual are to be reported to the master or coxswain for appropriate follow-up (e.g., personal strobe-light batteries must be changed annually). It is the responsibility of the master or coxswain to ensure that every crewmember wears their personal safety equipment as needed. It is also the responsibility of every crewmember to wear their safety equipment when they feel they should do so.

3.3.2 Buoyant Devices General

Buoyant devices should be thoroughly dry and stored in well-ventilated spaces. They should be kept clear of the bottoms of lockers or stowage boxes where moisture may accumulate, and they must be stowed away from excess heat. SAR crews should wear some kind of buoyant device at all times when on board. Buoyant devices will not protect those who do not wear them.

Figure 3-3 Various flotation devices

There are 5 different flotation devices shown on this picture. a marine anti-exposure work suit, a small vessel life jacket, a floater coat, a personal flotation device and a standard life jacket.

Buoyant devices are made from either kapok or unicellular foam. Despite the mildew inhibitor treatment required for the cloth, the webbing tapes, tape threads and certain areas of the envelope will occasionally rot. Seriously affected areas will appear aged, stained or otherwise discoloured. Kapok buoyant devices will frequently become waterlogged and unserviceable. This is most common with old devices exposed to oil vapours or new devices whose plastic pad covers have been punctured or remain wet and difficult to dry.

The regulations state that all boaters must carry buoyant devices to fit the persons on board. SAR units should carry some additional devices to accommodate the occasional passenger (injured, rescued persons, etc.).

A manufacturer seeking approval of life jackets and PFDs must receive approvals from the Ship Safety Branch, Transport Canada and the Underwriter’s Laboratories of Canada (ULC). Life jackets are submitted to Ship Safety for initial design approval and then forwarded to ULC for testing; however, PFDs are initially submitted directly to ULC to begin testing. If the PFD meets all tested standards, it is then forwarded to Ship Safety for final approval and the issue of a certification number.

Three prototypes are required for laboratory testing; one is tested to destruction to determine suitability of material, workmanship and performance. If the tested sample meets the requirements of the relevant standard, the remaining two are stamped “Approved”; one is returned to the manufacturer for comparison with production models, and the other is retained for departmental records. A numbered certificate appears on the label of marketed items.

More than 20 models of life jackets and more than 100 different styles of PFDs, manufactured by 15 different companies, have been approved.

Recommendations on the best products available are not given because all approved models must meet the required standards. Users should purchase the most suitable for fit and comfort to satisfy the law and accommodate intended use. For example, a PFD suitable for paddling a canoe would probably be different from the device appropriate for merely sitting in a motorboat or sailboat, or for sailing. The boater should try out the device in the water to become familiar with its feel and capabilities. Since SAR personnel should wear PFDs at all times when on board, the only necessary recommendation is to chose PFDs that are comfortable and visible (red, orange or yellow). Standard life jackets

The approved standard life jacket is mandatory equipment on all commercial vessels subject to Ship Safety Inspection and on all small fishing vessels under 15 tonnes G.R.T. (Gross Registered Tonnage).

The standard life jacket may substitute for any other personal buoyant device permitted on pleasure craft. The life jacket is manufactured to Transport Canada Specification TP 7318. This specification contains the Coast Guard Board of Steamship Inspection Requirements for standard life jackets, incorporating the basic provisions in the International Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), of which Canada is a signatory. These provisions cover such features as:

  • workmanship and materials;
  • buoyancy capabilities and wearability;
  • head support, face and body position for an unconscious person in the water;
  • effect of petroleum products; and
  • colour.

Life jackets are manufactured in only one style – keyhole – but are available in two sizes. The adult size is designed for a body weight of 40 kg (90 lbs) or greater, and the child size for a body weight of 40 kg and under. All jackets should be fitted with whistle, retro-reflective tape and light. As of July 1991, owners of older type jackets should fit a whistle, reflecting tape and light to their jackets.

The main feature of a standard life jacket is its ability to turn an unconscious person in the water from face-down position to face-up, with the mouth and nose clear of the water. However, the bulkiness of the life jacket makes it quite uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Life jackets are to be donned when immersion is imminent (e.g., boat is sinking). SAR crews should use smaller but more comfortable PFDs. Small vessel life jackets

Approved small vessel life jackets are for use on all pleasure craft and certain classes of small commercial craft (excluding fishing vessels) not subject to inspection by Transport Canada Ship Safety. They are designed and manufactured to Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Specification CAN 2–65.7–M80, drawn up and maintained under the auspices of the CGSB Committee on Life Jackets. This committee consists of representatives from the boating industry, safety organizations such as the Canada Safety Council, manufacturers, distributors and various government departments.

Small vessel life jackets are designed in two styles, one-piece (keyhole) and open-front (vest). They are also manufactured in three sizes: A for body weight over 41 kg, B for body weight between 18 kg and 41 kg, and C for body weight up to 18 kg. These devices have less buoyancy and righting moment than a standard life jacket, but must be able to turn the body to a safe flotation position once it enters the water. They must also support the head so that the face of an unconscious person is held above the water with the body inclined backward from the vertical position. There must be no tendency for the jacket to turn a body from any other position to face-down.

As for the standard life jacket, small vessel life jackets tend to be relatively uncomfortable. PFD’s remain the best alternative for SAR crews. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) may be used in lieu of standard or small vessel life jackets on all pleasure craft, regardless of length, and are really designed to be worn constantly while boating. They represent the best balance of flotation, mobility and comfort.

PFDs are manufactured to CGSB Specification 65-11-M88 for adult sizes and to 65-15-M88 for children’s. PFDs have less buoyancy and turning moment than life jackets. They must not have a tendency to turn the wearer face down in the water.

There are two approved types:

  • Type I has inherent buoyancy capabilities due to its construction from unicellular foam or macrocellular elements.
  • Type II has two buoyancy media: inherent features and inflatable capabilities. The inflatable section has an oral inflation device and a manual device consisting of a cylinder of compressed CO2 operated by a manual trigger.

It is important that the PFDs be worn with straps and zippers fully fastened, and that the PFD be in good condition. Personal flotation devices are designed to offer padded protection for the front and back of the body during high-speed operations: their straps and buckles will stay fastened on impact with the water. A snug fit and slim design give the wearer comfort and mobility to work. Remember that PFD flotation foam will deteriorate after heavy use and exposure to the elements.

Recently, Transport Canada approved new colours such as blue and purple for PFDs used by recreational boaters. Some of these colours are not as visible as the standard red, yellow and orange PFDs. Those who work on the water usually choose the more visible colours to increase their chance of survival if they fall overboard. It is important to note that the approval for PFDs is valid only if the PFD is intact (no tears or holes) and unmodified (nothing has been glued, sewed or written on the PFD). Any PFD that has tears or holes should be replaced. Anti-exposure work suits

Anti-exposure work suits (often referred to as flotation suits) are a good choice for operations in colder weather conditions or when water temperature may cause hypothermia. The flotation suit is one of the most common pieces of safety equipment being used by rescue personnel today because it offers warmth and protection as well as many pockets for carrying safety equipment. Flotation jackets can also be a good choice for warmer days. Some even have a beaver tail that straps between the legs to protect the groin area from heat loss. Both these flotation garments offer at least fifteen pounds (6.8 kg) of positive buoyancy, and some models incorporate an inflatable flotation collar that can be activated by an oral inflation hose. The flotation collar provides additional buoyancy about the head and shoulder area to keep the wearer’s head clear of the water. Heat loss is greatly increased if water is allowed to circulate freely throughout the suit. Many designs have straps located on the arms and legs that restrict the water flow when pulled tight. Maximum hypothermia protection is ensured when the hood is on the head, all zippers are fully closed, and all straps are fully tightened.

The most common designs of anti-exposure coveralls and jackets are not waterproof. These items can deteriorate rapidly if not properly washed and maintained. The foam flotation can break down and become matted and lumpy after a few years of use. When this occurs, the suit will no longer offer the positive buoyancy required to keep the head out of the water. Suits and jackets that are worn often should be replaced when the material begins to deteriorate. These garments will increase survival time in cold water, but do not offer the protection that a dry suit or a survival suit would. The full-exposure coveralls can severely limit swimming and movement, especially if they do not fit properly.

Suits that are damaged by small tears, broken zippers, open seams, or small burns may be repaired by sewing or patching. Suits that are more severely damaged should be removed from service.

After use, suits should be rinsed with fresh water and hung in a ventilated area to dry; do not expose to direct sunlight. Zippers should be periodically lubricated with paraffin or beeswax, which both lubricate and retard corrosion.

Flotation suits should not be dry-cleaned. Areas that become soiled may be washed with a mild soap solution, rinsed with fresh water, and then hung to dry in a ventilated area. Do not wring the suit. Do not attempt to use solvent or thinner to clean suits exposed to a substance containing acetone. Testing the floating capability of PFDs and flotation suits

Vest pockets can be used for a wide variety of equipment, depending on the nature of work to be done. Pockets soon become full and the equipment vest becomes heavy. Fifteen pounds of buoyancy on your PFD will quickly become useless if you carry 30 pounds of equipment.

Weigh all your gear that you would wear on the heaviest day. If you are involved in enforcement, weigh the bulletproof vest with trauma plate and full gun belt. If you are a surveyor, weigh your survey vest and other necessary equipment. Rig a diving weight belt to the equivalent weight and put on your PFD. Now jump into a swimming pool and see how many minutes you can tread water. If you sink to the bottom like an anchor, you should re-evaluate the equipment you carry with you and/or your flotation.

The weight test can also be used to determine whether a flotation device is still in good condition. For this test, look at the label to find out how many pounds or kilograms the device is supposed to support. Rig a weight belt to that weight and attach it to the flotation device. Drop everything in a pool. Does the flotation device float or sink? Small variations between the rated buoyancy and the actual buoyancy may be acceptable, but any significant difference would suggest that the flotation device needs to be replaced.

3.3.3 Abandonment immersion suit

An abandonment immersion suit is a heavy rubber abandonment suit that is somewhat similar to a diver’s dry suit. The suit provides excellent thermal protection and flotation, especially when the inflatable bladder is activated. These suits are designed as abandonment devices and should NOT be viewed as working flotation devices such as a standard life jackets or anti-exposure work suits.

Figure 3-4 An immersion suit

Image of a person wearing an immersion suit from head to toe with gloves

These suits must be checked periodically for holes, punctures, rips, etc., and to ensure that the teeth of the suit’s zipper are aligned and that the zipper works all the way up and down. The zipper should be periodically lubricated with beeswax or a bar of soap.

Owners of abandonment immersion suits are encouraged to practice donning their suits in all kinds of conditions (at night, in rough weather, etc.) to simulate actual emergency conditions. A device to assist with pulling the zipper can be used. Whistles, strobe lights, flares, etc. should be stored with, or attached to the suit. Suits should be stored in an accessible location for quick and easy access in an emergency situation. Many manufacturers of survival suits recommend factory servicing of the suits every five years, but owners of these suits can try them on at least once a year in the water to check for small leaks.

An immersion suit is truly the best thing one could wish to be wearing while floating in cold water. It keeps dry and it is very well insulated. The only problem is mobility. With big floppy arms, feet, and thick neoprene rubber, the immersion suit is almost impossible to walk or move in. It is solely designed for survival in case of immersion.

3.3.4 Dry suits General

The most effective way to keep warm is to stay dry. A lightweight dry suit offers the best balance of dryness and mobility in cold weather. The dry suit is ideal for extended missions in severe climactic and marine conditions. SAR dry suits are usually similar to diving dry suits, but they have no valves. Hoods are not attached and the suit is worn with a thermal liner. Wrist and neck seals can be made of latex or neoprene. The choice of seal is a often a matter of personal preference. Refer to the manufacturer for specific information regarding the choice of seals. Some dry suits also have integral work boots or soft-shoes. Dry suits are not approved as flotation devices; consequently, they must always be worn with a PFD. Dry suits can be punctured. When this occurs, the inherent buoyancy provided by the suit will be lost. This is why an approved PFD must be worn over the dry suit.

Figure 3-5 A SAR lightweight dry suit

An image of a person wearing an example of a SAR lightweight dry suit

Dry suits alone do not provide adequate insulation or hypothermia protection. Thermal underwear must be worn beneath the dry suit to provide insulation. In areas of very cold water temperatures, layering of underwear is recommended. Always use underwear that is specifically designed to keep you warm in a wet environment.

Dry suits are among the most expensive items of personal protection for SAR crews. To perform their function of providing protection from the elements, they do require some specialized maintenance routines. With proper care and maintenance, they can fulfil their purpose for extended periods of time. Always refer to manufacturer’s guidelines in order to make proper usage of the dry suit in matters such as donning and removing the suit. Dry suit maintenance

To prolong the life of the dry suit and ensure that it is ready for your next use, the following steps should be followed after each use:

  • Close the zippers and rinse the suit thoroughly to remove salt or other contamination;
  • Pay special attention to folds and creases;
  • Clean the zipper teeth and outer zipper guard (if fitted) with a soft wet brush, such as a toothbrush, to remove dirt and salt;
  • Thoroughly wash all seals, inside and out, using a mild soap-and-water solution to remove body oils or other contaminants;
  • If required, turn the suit inside out and rinse with fresh water;
  • When cleaning is completed, hang the suit on a sturdy wooden or plastic hanger to dry. The inside of the suit should be dried first, and then the outside. Do not expose the suit to bright sunlight or excessive heat. Do provide adequate circulation;
  • Once a month or as required, lubricate the zippers with paraffin wax or beeswax on both the inside and the outside of the teeth. Do not use hand soap or silicone spray;
  • Protect the seals in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Unscented talcum powder can be used on seals. Do not use baby powder. Do not apply lubricants of any kind to seals. Dry suit storage

Dry suits should be stored with the entry zipper completely open. They should be folded with the zipper on the outside and stored in a protective bag. Repairs

Dry suits cannot usually be repaired in the field. Many suits come with a manufacturer’s warranty for repair of defects. Always contact the manufacturer if your dry suit needs repair.

The only temporary repair that can be done in the field is replacement of a defective latex wrist seal when used with dry gloves and wrist rings. Note that this is useful only when the leak is located somewhere above the ring. If it is located between the ring and the sleeve, you will have no other choice but to have the seal replaced. Thermal underwear

Thermal underwear constructed of polypropylene fibres provides good insulating value in a marine environment. Maximum protection from hypothermia can be achieved by layering thermal underwear. Polypropylene tends to keep moisture away from the wearer, increasing comfort and aiding in reduction of heat stress. The best wicking characteristics are obtained when the fabric is worn next to the skin.

To achieve maximum cold protection, it is a good idea to use layering. Tight polypropylene or polyester light underwear will keep the moisture away from your skin, and additional heavy underwear will provide insulation.

Cleaning routines for thermal underwear are limited to laundering after use. Polypropylene underwear should be washed by machine in warm water up to 38°C, and rinsed in cold water. Air-drying is recommended, but a dryer on permanent-press cycle may be used.

3.3.5 Equipment vest

Equipment vests are made of lightweight material and are designed to be worn over a PFD. The following pieces of equipment can be stored in the equipment vest: Strobe light

A small waterproof strobe light can also be used to attract attention. Strobe lights are especially useful if you need to be seen at night. Some models will activate automatically in contact with water. This is a useful feature since it will increase your chances of being detected even if you are unconscious in the water and unable to use whistles, flashlights or voice to assist in detection. Other models need manual activation.

The personal emergency strobe light emits a high-intensity flashing white light of 40-60 flashes per minute, visible for two miles. It may be used to attract the attention of aircraft, ships, or ground search parties. A lanyard must be fastened to the light and to the wearer’s clothing to prevent loss of the light during use. The lanyard should be of sufficient length to allow the arm to be extended to the maximum reach with the light held in the hand.

Personal strobe lights should be worn by all individuals engaged in SAR operations in periods of low visibility. The strobe light should be activated and checked at least once every patrol. This check includes:

  • a physical examination of the body, clear light cover, and switch, including protective boot cover, for damage;
  • a check of the battery date for expiry (generally one year from manufacturing date);
  • a check of the lanyard for security and condition of cord; and
  • activation of the light to check functional operation.

When donning safety gear for use, you should check the strobe light by activating the switch for a couple of flashes before proceeding with the task. Personal distress flares

It is highly recommended that a minimum of three personal distress flares (type B) be carried by all crewmembers embarking on small SAR vessels during hours of darkness. Flares are normally carried in a pocket of the equipment vest, flotation jacket or dry suit or in a fanny pack with other items of personal safety gear.

The type B distress flare produces at least two red stars at intervals of not less than 15 seconds. The stars are projected to an altitude of not less than 90 m (300 ft.). The stars burn with a luminosity of not less than 5,000 candela for a period of not less than four seconds, and burn out before touching the sea. The type B distress signal may contain a firing device capable of throwing the stars automatically or may use a cartridge-firing device that requires loading for each star.


SAR crewmembers should not be asked to carry and use cartridge-fired devices as personal flares. Firing these devices by a crewmember in the water requires a degree of coordination and dexterity not needed for self-contained devices. Coordination and dexterity may be depressed by the effect of hypothermia, causing the act of firing the cartridge type to be very difficult. It is recommended that SAR crews use the compact type of flares to allow easy fitting and comfort in pockets of work suits and clothing. All SAR personnel should be well informed regarding the firing procedure for these flares. Seek training if necessary.

All distress flares approved for marine use in Canada have an expiry date of four years from the date of manufacture. Check the dates on your flares regularly and take steps to procure replacements before the expiry date.

Flares should be inspected weekly by the individual to whom they are issued, outside the vessel or buildings in an open area. Handle flares with care, and be particularly careful not to pull on the launch cord or chain while conducting the inspection.

  • Check the manufacturing date on the flares to ascertain whether they are still within the four-year period of approval. If expired, replace the flares with fresh ones and dispose of the outdated flares in the manner approved for your region;
  • Check the flares for splitting, cracking, loose caps or any other signs of deterioration;
  • Check the waterproof wrappings on your flares to ensure that they are still watertight. If the wrapping is not watertight, replace it with a new zip-top bag;
  • Replace the flares into their designated stowage pouch or pocket. Whistle

The whistle is a sound-signaling device that can be heard at distances greater than 300 m at sea. It is an effective and inexpensive item of personal protective equipment that has been instrumental in locating and saving many lives at sea. Yet, care and maintenance of this simple piece of equipment are often ignored.

A whistle should be attached to every crewmember’s equipment vest zipper. Units that do not have equipment vests may attach the whistles to the zippers of PFDs, jackets and flotation suits.

Whistles should be of a type intended for marine use, such as standard life jacket whistles. Choose a unit that has no moving parts (peas), is compact and break-resistant and, above all, produces a loud piercing tone during use.

Whistles should be checked frequently for cracks, breaks, or deterioration. Ensure that the whistle remains securely fastened to the item of personal flotation and that it can be brought to the wearer’s mouth without removing it. In addition, if the wearer is immersed in water, the whistle must reach his or her mouth without the need to put the face into the water. Test the whistle by blowing into it. Replace any whistle that fails the physical examination or fails to sound a loud shrill tone. Heliograph

In addition to flares, strobe lights, and whistles, some SAR units issue an emergency-signaling mirror. The emergency signaling mirror is a compact unit that is used to attract the attention of passing aircraft or boats by reflecting light at them. The reflected light may be seen from two to four miles from the point of origin. The signaling mirror is used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. A weekly inspection of the mirror should be conducted to ensure that the surface is clean and polished, and the lanyard secure and in good condition. Dye marker

This device releases into the water a green dye that greatly increases visibility from the air. Flashlight

A flashlight can be used to attract attention on the water and serve as an effective tool at night on the boat. Waterproof flashlights are preferable for obvious reasons. Check the batteries once a week and lubricate the o-rings with silicone grease or spray before closing the flashlight. Rinse your flashlight with fresh water after exposure to salt water. Portable VHF radio

Many crew are also carrying a waterproof portable VHF radio in their vest. The portable radio can be used to call for help when needed or anytime one crewmember gets separated from the rest of the crew. Note that some new models are compatible with GMDSS (a useful feature). Knife

A knife is always handy. It is a good idea to have one in one of the pockets of the equipment vest. A lanyard should be used to keep the knife attached to the vest. Choose a blade that is designed to cut lines and that has good resistance to corrosion. Knives designed for scuba diving and kayaking often provide adequate resistance to corrosion. Always rinse your knife with fresh water after exposure to salt water. Dry your knife before putting it into storage. Keep your knife sharp and lubricate the blade once in a while with a fine layer of oil to increase resistance to corrosion.

3.3.6 Additional gear

Some extra equipment is advisable for spending long hours on the water. Extra gloves and an extra hat are always a good choice. High energy snacks like granola bars or peanuts will get the crew through long hours at night or long patrols.

3.3.7 General cleaning routines for protective clothing

Salt, corrosion and grease are the main enemies of safety gear. Given time, salt can cut material like a knife, transforming a dry suit into a wet suit and a rain jacket into a wellventilated jacket. The salt molecules penetrate the fibres while in solution and crystallize when they dry. These crystals then cut the fabric during normal motion. Rinse your gear thoroughly with fresh water.

Grease should be washed out with a mild non-abrasive detergent and all zippers, metal buckles, and brass snaps or buttons should be protected with silicone spray or glycerin (hand soap). Keep your gear like new.

Chapter 4 - Vessel safety

Checklists and inspection of equipment

It is very important to inspect your vessel and equipment regularly. For a vessel that has to maintain daily or frequent SAR standby, a thorough inspection should be performed at the beginning of each week, and daily routine inspection should then be performed. In this section, you will find descriptions of how and what to inspect and examples of inspection checklists.

4.1.1 How and what to inspect

The following table gives a list of items to inspect and the way to inspect them:

Table 4-1: Description of items that should be inspected and how they should be inspected
Description of items that should be inspected and how they should be inspected
What to InspectHow to inspect
PFDs or other flotation devices
Ensure that you have one for everybody on board, readily accessible;
Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, away from oil, paint and greasy substances;
Check all closures, straps, etc.;
Check general condition (tears, mildew, discolouration, etc.);
Check that retro-reflective material (required on all PFDs) is in good condition;
All PFDs in service shall be outfitted with a whistle and a distress signal light secured to the PFD (battery operated strobe light or the Personnel Marker Light chemical light);
If a PFD requires cleaning, wash it in fresh, warm water with a mild detergent; then rinse in clean, fresh water.
Survival knife
Stowed properly in sheath, and may also be carried or worn by crew members;
Not corroded and sharp (sharpen if necessary);
Diver’s knife is the best choice for a survival knife – it should be double edged and corrosion resistant;
Easily accessible.
Distress flares and illuminating flares
Check date of manufacture, ensure 4-year validity and approval;
Ensure you have enough for the length of your vessel;
Container is watertight;
No traces of external damage;
Readily accessible.
Ensure that rope is firmly attached to the vessel. The rope is the line from the boat to the anchor and is usually made up of a length of line plus a short length of chain. Large boats may use an all-chain rope. Each element of the system must be connected to its neighbour in a strong and dependable manner. The most commonly used line for rope is nylon. The line may be either cable laid or braided, and must be free of cuts and abrasions. Foot or fathom markers may be placed in the line to aid in paying out the proper amount of anchor rope;
Check the rope (chafing, knots, etc.);
Ensure that the shackle.
Ensure you have one available;
Check for accessibility and condition.
Bilge pumps
Ensure they are in working order;
Ensure that input in bilge is free from obstructions;
Ensure discharge hose does not leak, especially connections at discharge port through hull;
Ensure that discharge hoses of manual pumps are long enough to pump outside the vessel.
Vessel markings
Ensure that all markings are visible;
Ensure that all characters are present.
Fire extinguishers
Ensure that you have enough to comply with regulations;
Check for powder leakage at the nozzle;
Condition of the cylinder (no deformation, rust, etc.);
Seal is present;
Pressure gauge indicates full;
Easily accessible.
SAR pumps (portable, gasoline-powered drop pump)
Read and follow the manufacturing instructions for usage and maintenance;
Secured in an aluminum floatable watertight container, stowed on deck or in a properly ventilated locker;
Centrifugal and self-priming;
Suction hose with strainer and discharge hose;
Test weekly and before moving to another boat;
Do not use a drop pump to dewater a boat with fuel contamination in its bilges;
Flush pump and hoses with fresh water if they have been used in saltwater environment;
Always ensure that gasoline is fresh.
Ensure that it works;
Check intake pipe and ensure it is at the appropriate level;
Place your hand near the output and ensure that you can feel the air coming out.
Life buoys
Stowed so they can be quickly thrown overboard in an emergency;
Transport Canada approved;
Attached to a buoyant line not less than 15 m (49 ft.) in length;
Look for any sign of damage, wear and tear;
Ensure that grab lines are well secured;
Ensure that they are easily accessible;
Check retro-reflective tape and light (if present).
Throwable devices
Check the line and ensure that if floats;
Coil line properly (if applicable);
Ensure that they are easily accessible.
Fixes searchlights         Ensure that light is working and easy to move.
Navigation lights and blue flashing light
Ensure that all are working;
Ensure that all lights are visible (not covered by anything).
Radar reflector
Check general condition;
Ensure that attachment points are solid;
If possible, test efficacy with another vessel equipped with a radar.
Horn         Sound it to ensure that it works.
Batteries and electrical connections
Ensure that they are secured and protected;
Check wires (clean, no chafing, etc.);
Ensure that all connections are tight and clean;
Ensure that there are no breaks in insulation in wires.
Electrical distribution panel         Ensure breakers are in normal position; if not, check for potential short-circuits.
Oil system
Fill oil tanks;
Check system for leaks;
Ensure that ports are tight and clean.
Fuel system
Fill tanks;
Inspect lines and hoses for leaks and free movement.
Tow assembly
Tow reel tightly attached to vessel (deck fitting);
Line is properly secured;
Reel is not loose in holders;
Inspect towlines on a regular basis to detect damage from cuts, chafing, flattening, fusing (caused by overheating or over-stretching), snags and hardening (heavy use will compact and harden a towline and reduce its breaking strength);
Check messenger (heaving line or heaving ball), drogue and skiff hook.
Cage and engine bar are tightly bolted to the vessel;
No cracks or deformations in welds or pipes;
All structural bolts are tight;
No delaminations or cracks in metal/fibreglass joints.
Antennae and radar scanner
Tightly secured to mountings;
Coaxial connections and wiring secure and not chafing.
Self-righting system
Check bag for proper storage;
Cylinder and firing head secure in mounting;
Lanyard tight, not chafing;
Handle clipped to transom.
Personnel recovery line
Bag tightly laced to cage or engine guard bar;
Line properly stowed and bag closed properly.
Marine VHF radio
Connections are tight;
Test with another radio for reception and transmission.
Global Positioning System
Connections are tight;
Can read satellite signals and provide reliable position;
Secure in mounting.
Proper acquisition of picture;
All functions working properly.
Depth sounder         Gives an appropriate reading.
Tube of inflatable boats
Tube must be rigid and fully inflated;
Inflate if necessary;
Check valves for leaks and proper operation.
Propulsion and steering systems
Check tilt and trim system (if applicable);
Check propellers and skegs for signs of damage;
Turn wheel completely to both sides, and ensure that it works well;
Start engines, check water cooling system telltales (if applicable);
Engage forward and backward while docked to ensure that everything works smoothly (no chatter noise);
Check RPMs at idle.
Rescue and survival raft (6-person raft to rescue others)         Properly stowed and certified.

4.1.2 Sample inspection checklist

The following table is a good example of a daily inspection checklist. This checklist is intended to be used on an RHIB, but it can certainly be easily modified for use on your unit.

Table 4-2: Daily inspection checklist covering an entire week
Daily inspection checklist covering an entire week
Tube pressure              
Electrical connections              
Oil levels              
Fuel levels              
Tow assembly              
Antennae (VHF, Radar, GPS, etc.)              
Self-righting system              
Personnel recovery line              
Radio (Radio test)              
Navigation lights              
SAR strobe              
Instruments (including gauge lights)              
Bildge pumps              
Search lights              
Tool kit and spare parts              
Sea anchor              
Anchor and rode              
Datum marker buoy (DMB)              
SAR pump (fuel and oil)              
Buoyant heaving line              
First aid kit              
Fire extinguishers              
Tighten all loose bolts              
Tilt/trim (port/starboard)              
Propellers, skegs (P/S)              
Engine hours (P/S)              
RPM at idle (P/S)              
Telltale (P/S)              
Kill switches (P/S)              

4.2 Maintenance and repairs

4.2.1 General

This section will provide some information on maintaining and conducting small or temporary repairs to certain kinds of vessels. Since it is impossible to cover the specifics of every kind of vessel that can be engaged in SAR, the reader is encouraged to seek complementary information in the owner’s manuals that accompany the boat and engine(s) they are using.

It is important to perform a complete inspection of the vessel any time damage is suspected to have occurred. Reasons for this are numerous. First, small damage can become huge when not repaired in time.

All CCGA members are reminded that in the event of an accident or damage to their vessel during authorized activities, regional procedures MUST be followed. It is essential that all claims be reported immediately to the appropriate Coast Guard authority. Except for emergency measures needed to stay afloat, no insured repairs may be undertaken until approval has been obtained from Coast Guard and/or insurers. Claims should be reported in the first instance by telephone, and the Collision Wreck and Injury Report should then be submitted. CCGA members are encouraged to carefully read the brochure entitled “National Guidelines Respecting Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Activities” for additional information on their insurance coverage.

4.2.2 Routine maintenance

“Life Saving Vessels fulfill their function under conditions which, for other craft and equipment, are regarded as extreme – to be avoided, if possible. Thus, the concept of ‘Acceptable risk of failure’ cannot apply. It is when other vessels have failed that the life saving vessel must work.”

Per G. Klern, Senior Research Engineer,
Norwegian Ship Research Institute

The above quotation stresses the importance of maintenance. Vessels engaged in SAR should have a rigid maintenance schedule. Everything should be in full working order, and daily checklists should be used for daily vessel inspections. Vessels engaged in SAR that are not well maintained are quite likely to fail, thus becoming part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

4.2.3 Boat mechanics and troubleshooting General

Mechanical failures are always a big problem for vessels engaged in SAR; they can adversely affect the state of readiness of the unit and even jeopardize the safety of the crew. This section should provide adequate information on how to deal with mechanical failures.

A description of the basic concepts pertaining to hulls, tubes and engines will be followed by a look at engine and equipment troubleshooting. The discussion on engines will focus on outboard engines, since these are widely used. However, the troubleshooting section will address both inboard and outboard engine mechanical problems. Hull

Many vessels engaged in SAR have fibreglass hulls. The core of fibreglass hulls can be made from balsa wood, foam or other manmade fibres. Some core material will absorb water if the protective gel coat applied on the outside of the hull is cracked or damaged. To prevent water absorption into the core, it is essential to repair cracks in the gel coat as soon as they are discovered. Small cracks above the waterline can be easily repaired. To repair deeper scratches or cracks that lie below the waterline, removing the boat from the water, and possibly to a shop, will be necessary.

Before attempting any gel coat repairs, be sure to wear the proper protective clothing. Repairs should be done in a ventilated area and a controlled environment. Remember that large holes or deep damage will need to be repaired in a shop. The following figures illustrates the procedure for repairing gel coat damage:

Figure 4-1a: FRP Repair Procedure - Type 1

FRP Repair procedure

Figure 4-1b: FRP Repair Procedure - Type 2

FRP Repair Procedure

Figure 4-1c: FRP Repair Procedure - Type 3

FRP Repair Procedure Tubes

The tubes of inflatable boats usually consist of a three-layered fabric. The centre layer is some kind of heavy canvas. Kevlar threads are often woven into the fabric to provide resistance to tearing. The inner layer really provides air integrity, while the external layer provides both air integrity and strength (UV and abrasion resistance). The strength of the fabric is usually expressed in terms of denier rating. The denier rating is measured by stretching a piece of fabric on a tube. The pressure in the tube is then raised to the point where the fabric bursts. The pressure at which the air begins to go through the piece of fabric represents the denier rating for that particular fabric. The inner and external layer can be made from natural rubber compounds (e.g., hypalon and neoprene) or from synthetic polymers. It is important to determine the type of fabric before attempting any kind of tube repair, since procedures differ with fabric type.

Figure 4-1d: FRP Repair Procedure - Type 4

FRP Repair Procedure

Threads of the tube canvas are aligned in a perpendicular fashion. The threads in a longitudinal axis are called warp, while the threads that encircle the tube are called weft. The thread material that composes the warp and the weft is the same.

Repairing a tube

First, test the tubes for air retention if no damage is found. This testing will identify the leaking chamber. Inflate the chamber and brush a water/soap solution on the fabric. The leak is identified by a growing chain of bubbles or, if large enough, by a slight whistling sound. The leak will be in one of the following categories: valve leakage, cover patch leakage, seam leakage, wide spread leakage, hole or tear.

Some holes can be patched by a cautious crewmember, while others will need to be repaired in a shop. The following CANNOT be repaired by a crewmember:

  • any hole or tear with a diameter or a length exceeding 2.5 cm (one inch) at any point;
  • any hole or tear that is within 5 cm (two inches) of a seam;
  • any seam leak.

All these will usually require both an inside and an outside patch. The inside patch can only be done by professionals. A temporary patch can be attempted by following the procedure described below. However, this patch must be redone properly at the first opportunity.

Small holes on the tube of inflatable boats can be patched easily. However, there are some important guidelines for ensuring maximum patch life. These guidelines must be followed to the letter. Any compromise will result in diminished patch life.

All patches must be applied in a controlled environment (relative humidity less than 70% and temperature between 18° and 25°C (64° to 77°F). Avoid gluing when the tube is not protected from the sun. Heat will affect the strength of the chemical bonds. Humidity is also a crucial factor during the gluing process. Avoid breathing directly over the glue coatings. Some chemicals used in the repair process (glue or solvent) can be quite toxic.

The following safety precautions should be followed:

  • Do not smoke or use glue or solvent near an open flame. Both are usually quite flammable;
  • Repairs should be done in a well-ventilated area, because glue and especially solvents (MEK or toluene) can be very toxic;
  • Accelerator (for glues that need to be mixed) is also very toxic. Wash any accelerator spilled on your skin immediately with soap and water.

If accelerator is spilled in your eyes, rinse immediately with water. Consult a physician or call the nearest poison control centre before you stop the rinsing process.

General guidelines:

  • Tubes of glue that require mixing must be entirely emptied. Once opened, accelerator cannot be kept. Using the whole tubes will also ensure proper mixing ratios and thus good bonding capacity. The quality of your patch depends on accurate mixing; do not compromise at this step;
  • Use the appropriate glue! Some glues will work on hypalon or neoprene but not on synthetic material (or vice versa). Choose the right glue for the job;
  • Choose a brush with short (1 to 2 cm) and stiff bristles to apply the glue. Avoid plastic brushes. A brush with natural hair bristles bound in metal and a wooden or metal handle is ideal;
  • The threads of the patch must be aligned with the warp and weft of the tube. Failure to align will weaken the patch;
  • The patch should exceed the hole’s contour by two inches. Smaller patches are less likely to resist the pressure of the tube.

To patch a small hole:

  • Cut a patch of the appropriate size. When cutting the patch, hold the scissors at an angle. Patches cut in this way are less likely to snag on other objects. Circular patches are usually better than rectangular ones. The corners of rectangular patches have a tendency to lift too easily and must be rounded (a quarter makes a good template for that purpose);
  • Use a pumice stone or a proper tool to sand both the patch and the corresponding area on the tube. Do not sand an area on the tube bigger than the patch. Draw the contour of the patch on the tube and sand this area only. Draw a few guide marks to ease the alignment process. This step is essential to providing the rough area that will make the glue hold;
  • Clean the areas that you have just prepared with methyl-ethyl-ketone (MEK) or toluene. Solvents should be handled with appropriate protective equipment (gloves, mask and goggles). Do not touch the cleaned areas with your hands. Oils on your hands may affect the efficacy of the glue;
  • Repeat the cleaning process twice if you are patching a hypalon or neoprene tube and wait 10 minutes between the solvent washes;
  • Repeat the cleaning process 3 times if you are patching a synthetic tube and wait 5 minutes between the solvent washes;
  • Before mixing the glue with the hardener, ensure that the “best before” dates of these products have not yet been reached. Remember to use the exact ratio of glue and hardener. Be very precise, as any deviation from the usual ratio may result in weaker glue and thus, a low life expectancy patch. Using glues that do not require mixing can prevent the problem of inaccurate mixing;
  • Apply THIN coats of glue on each surface. The coats should be applied first vertically, then horizontally. Always wait for the first coat to dry before applying the second. Leave a little bit of glue outside of the patch contour on the tube. This will allow you to test for dryness without contaminating the glue that will hold the patch. Test for dryness with the “knuckle test”;
  • Apply 2 coats of glue if you are patching a hypalon or neoprene tube (drying time is about 20 to 30 minutes);
  • Apply 3 coats of glue if you are patching a synthetic tube (drying time is about 5 to 10 minutes);
  • Once the last coat is applied, let the glue dry for 10 minutes and then apply the patch (remember to align the threads!);
  • Use a J-roller or another smooth tool (the back of a large metal spoon would work fine) to remove the air trapped between the patch and tube;
  • Press as hard as you can;
  • Start at the centre and work toward the edges;
  • Once the patch is applied, allow at least 24 hours (ideally 48 hours), if possible, for the glue to dry before using the boat;
  • The chemical bonds will continue to strengthen over the next seven days;
  • Be careful with the patch until then.
Figure 4-2: Soap test

Soap test

Figure 4-3: Patch application

Patch application

Figure 4-4: Inside out patch

Inside out patch

Inflating a tube

Many RHIBs have cones inside their tubes. The main function of these cones is to allow the pressure to equalize between the compartments and to prevent total tube deflation when tearing occurs. For these cones to perform properly, the tube should be inflated by starting at the bow.


Accumulation of dirt in a valve can cause it to leak. Some valves can be checked in the field. Ensure that the valves on your unit can be opened in the field before attempting the following procedure. Plastic valves cannot be serviced in the field. When you need to check a leaking valve, proceed as follows:

  • Deflate the tube by opening the valve;
  • Once the tube is deflated, close the valve. If the valve remains open, the nut and spring of the valve may fall into the tube when you disassemble it;
  • Use a cloth to clean the two metal surfaces of the valve. If you have valve lubricant, you may also lubricate the valve. Never use a petroleum-based lubricant on valves;
  • Replace the spring and nut into their respective positions. Screw until the nut blocks, and then unscrew for six complete turns. This step is important, as it provides overpressure safety. Unscrewing will allow air to escape if the pressure in the tube gets too high;
  • Inflate the tube and check to determine whether the valve still leaks. If it does, the valve may need to be ground or replaced. Have a professional check the valve as soon as possible.

4.2.4 Outboard engine systems

This section details the basic components of outboard engine systems, with a focus on the things that can easily be temporarily repaired in the field. It should be noted that engines that undergo frequent routine maintenance are unlikely to fail often. Fuel and oil

Outboard engines may have one or two oil tanks. Small outboards will have only one tank located on the engine itself. Larger engines will have another tank, usually located somewhere outside the engine.

Single oil tank engines

These engines have an oil tank directly on them. Hoses conduct the oil from the tank to inner parts of the engine. An oil filter can usually be seen somewhere in the hose. At one point, the oil hose will meet with the fuel line. This is where oil and gas will be mixed before entering the combustion chamber of the engine (2-stroke engines).

Dual oil tank engines

On dual oil tank engines, the main oil tank is the one that is located outside the engine. A hose coming out of the engine brings pressurized air into the tank, while another hose will bring the oil to the smaller (secondary) tank located on the engine. Since this system is driven by air pressure, all caps must be tightly closed; otherwise, air will escape and the pressure generated will not be sufficient. An oil filter is found at the base of the intake hose. An oil-level sensor is attached to the cap of the secondary tank. From the secondary tank, the usual tubing brings the oil to the engine.

Important notices regarding oil:

  • Always use oil recommended by the engine manufacturer. Using other oils may void your warranty.
  • In some engines, the quantity of oil that gets mixed with the gas is a function of RPM (rotations per minute). Consequently, it may be advisable to pour some oil in the gas tank when towing another vessel to ensure that the engine gets enough oil. Check with the engine manufacturer to find out whether this procedure is necessary for your engine(s).

Fuel tanks

Fuel tanks are usually located below the deck, near the middle of the boat. Hoses will bring the fuel to the engine. A valve somewhere along the hose is recommended. This valve can be closed in case of engine fire, thus reducing the risk of explosion. A primer bulb is also present somewhere on the hose. The engine has fuel pumps and filters. Hoses will allow the fuel to travel between these engine components. Clutch, throttle and gears

This system controls the speed and direction of the propeller’s rotation. A remote control located near the wheel allows the pilot to command this system. Wires will relay the movements of the handle to the corresponding engine parts. Although the same handle (on the remote control) commands both throttle and clutch, two different systems are activated on the engine each time you use that handle. The first system to be activated is the clutch. It will engage and the propeller will start to turn. Then, as you continue to push or pull on the remote control lever, the throttle will be activated and the engine will turn faster.

The gear system of an outboard engine is quite simple. The engine’s movement is brought to the leg of the engine by the driveshaft. When the engine is running, the drive shaft turns continuously, always in the same direction. In the leg of the engine, gears (forward and reverse) are driven by the driveshaft. As for the driveshaft, both these gears will turn when the engine is running. The dog clutch is responsible for coupling the driveshaft movement to the propeller shaft. The dog clutch can slide forward or backward, attaching itself to the forward or reverse gear and thus making the propeller shaft turn clockwise or counterclockwise. Sometimes, when the touch on the remote control level is too gentle, the dog clutch will not engage completely toward the gear. When this happens, a very characteristic chatter is produced and the dog clutch may be damaged. Power tilt and trim

The power tilt and trim system is driven by electricity and is usually protected from power surges by a fuse that can be easily replaced if necessary. The power tilt and trim system has various functions. First, it allows the boat operator to modify the trim of the boat. This will affect the way the boat handles in various conditions (for details on this subject, consult the chapter on boat handling). Then, it allows the engines to be raised for shallow water manoeuvering or for putting the boat on a trailer. Lastly, it provides some impact protection to the leg of the engine. At slow speed, if the leg hits the bottom, the tilt mechanisms will allow the engine to move upward and thus reduce the risk of severe damage.

The engine’s two speeds can be seen when the engine is lifted. The slower speed is mainly for trim adjustment, while the fastest speed allows the engine to be completely tilted. The fastest speed does not provide enough power to raise the leg of the engine out of the water during motion. Be aware that some systems do not have the second speed and that the engine may rise out of the water if not used properly.

The solenoid of the power tilt and trim system can be short-circuited to adjust the tilt of the engine when the switches are damaged. This manoeuver obviously cannot be performed while the boat is moving. The engine cover and the solenoid cover must be removed to access this solenoid. Propellers and attachment system

There are several kinds of propellers. Propellers usually have two to five blades: some are made of aluminum and others are made from stainless steel. The advantages and disadvantages of the various kinds of propeller are beyond the scope of this manual. One thing might be worth mentioning however: aluminum propellers, because of their relative fragility, may prevent excessive damage to the engine if one happens to hit the bottom. Internal components of the engine are usually stronger than the propeller; thus, in this situation, the damage is more likely to be limited to the propeller.

Figure 4-5: Parts of a propeller

Parts of a propeller

In the case of a stainless steel propeller, things might be different. Units that often work in shallow water should consider this when choosing propellers. The pitch of the propeller is also an important characteristic. The pitch of a propeller represents the theoretical distance the propeller would travel in one turn in a solid medium. Choosing a properly-pitched propeller for your engine is important.

The last important thing to mention about propellers is the following. Inside the body of the propeller is a bushing made of rubber. The goal of this bushing is to provide an elastic joint between the propeller shaft and the propeller. If the propeller hits the bottom while still turning, that bushing will absorb some of the impact. In some cases, it may also allow the propeller shaft to spin while the propeller is immobilized. Obviously, this bushing will eventually wear out. During attempts to move into planing mode (planing hull) or to rapidly build speed, worn out propeller bushing may fail. If this occurs, the RPM of the engine will rapidly rise without any noticeable speed gain.

Vessels equipped with two engines may need a counter-rotating propeller. On such vessels, the starboard propeller turns clockwise and the port propeller turns counterclockwise during forward movement. Two different propellers are thus needed.

The propeller is attached to the propeller shaft by a simple nut. This nut is blocked so that it cannot unscrew by itself. Pins or special washers are used to block the propeller nut. A thrust bushing prevents the propeller from being driven into the gear case during forward motion. Batteries and electric systems

Batteries are needed to start the engine and to provide electricity to the spark plugs, to the tilt and trim system and to other engine or boat components. The engine produces alternating current (AC) when running. A current rectifier is used to convert that current into direct current (DC), which is used to recharge the batteries. That rectifier is likely to be damaged if the batteries are disconnected or if the battery switch is turned to “off” while the engine is running. If the circuit is interrupted between the running engines and the batteries, the current that is normally utilized to charge the batteries will be redirected to the other energy-consuming devices. The resulting surge will most likely cause significant damage to all electric and electronic devices on board. If you want to avoid costly repairs, never ever disconnect the batteries or turn the battery switch off while the engines are running!

Another safety rule is to always leave the navigation lights on to prevent overcharged batteries. This rule is especially important when the engines are at high RPMs. Be warned that an overcharged battery may explode. Finally, all batteries used on all self-righting vessels should have aviation caps installed to prevent spillage of battery acid after capsizing.

When the engine is started, electricity is used to make the flywheel turn. Usually, after a few turns, the engine will start and fuel will be then used to drive the engine. An electric starter is used as to drive the flywheel into the initial turns. This starter is really a small electric engine. When the key is turned, electric current moves into the starter, a gear engages on the flywheel and the engine starts to turn. A solenoid controls the whole process. An engine can be started without keys by short-circuiting that solenoid with a metal wire of the right size. Engine cooling system

The engine is cooled by water. The water intake and the water pump are located in the gear case. The water pump is driven by the driveshaft. The pump consists of a rubber impeller that turns and propels the water. That impeller is relatively fragile and can easily be damaged. The most frequent causes of impeller failure are:

  • running the engine with the water intake out of the water. Excessive heat will be produced by friction and the impeller will be burnt within seconds;
  • manoeuvering in shallow water. If anything enters the pump with the water (sand, mud, small rocks, etc.), the impeller blades can be damaged. Short exposures will not result in immediate damage. Repeated exposures, however, will significantly reduce the life expectancy of the impeller. Salt crystals (for engines running in salt water) may also form and damage the impeller;
  • starting the engine at sub-zero temperatures. The water present in the water pump may freeze under some circumstances. Starting the engine when the water in the water pump is frozen solid will result in immediate damage to the impeller;
  • any obstruction of the intake inlet. Kelp, salt crystals, sand and small rocks can obstruct the intake inlet and prevent the water from entering the impeller.

A telltale on the side of the engine indicates whether the water pump is working properly. However, this is not the only exit point. Only a small fraction of the cooling water comes out of the engine by this telltale. The telltale may get obstructed, so it may be necessary to use a pin or a wire to remove the obstruction. Note that if the telltale is obstructed, it does not necessarily mean that the engine is not cooled properly. Remember that there are other exit points. If water is not coming out of the engine by the telltale, always investigate to determine the cause of the problem. Engine alarms

Most engines have alarms that warn the operator when something is wrong. Usually, two alarms are present: one is to warn of a problem with the oil (usually low level) and the other warns the user that the engine is overheating. Usually, the oil alarm consists of rapidly repeating beeps, while the excessive heat alarm is a continuous beep. The alarm will beep briefly as the engine starts to tell you that the engine is active and functioning.

The oil alarm is activated by a sensor attached to the cap of the oil tank located on the engine. The sensor has a floater that will trigger the alarm when it reaches a certain point. It is important to understand that this sensor will be activated only for problems occurring between the primary or secondary tank. Any problem occurring between the secondary tank and the engine (e.g., disconnected oil hose inside the engine) will not be picked up by this sensor. In that particular case, the secondary tank may be full (so the alarm will not ring) and the engine may not receive any oil.

The heat alarm is controlled by a temperature sensor. When the temperature gets to a certain level, the alarm will ring. Often, the information from the temperature sensor is relayed to a visual indicator located on the boat’s instrument panel. Problems at the level of the engine cooling mechanism (damaged water pump or obstructed water intake) are the main cause of overheating. Running the engine at a speed just below what would be required to get a hull in the planing mode (planing hull only) can also cause the engine to overheat (especially on a hot, sunny day). This problem often occurs during towing.

Remember that the water pump is driven by the driveshaft. The effectiveness of the pump is thus proportional to the RPMs of the engine. Moving at high speed (planing mode) for a while may help the engine to cool down. The other option is to shut down the engine for a while. This may be less effective (and thus take more time) than the previous option since water is tremendously more effective than air for conducting heat.

4.2.5 Troubleshooting basic mechanical problems Introduction

Troubleshooting for mechanical problems is typically the responsibility of the vessel’s engineer, when he or she is part of your complement. In vessels that do not carry an engineer, crews should be able to provide basic help to themselves and those vessels that they are tasked to assist. Often, a simple mechanical fix can avoid a long tow or eliminate “down time” on your own vessel. This section will discuss troubleshooting diesel engines, problems common to both gasoline and diesel engines, troubleshooting the outboard motor and troubleshooting steering gear failure. Troubleshooting diesel engines

Diesel engines are very common power plants for larger vessels. They are extremely reliable when properly maintained. Typical problems, their possible causes, and potential solutions are outlined below.

Engine will not turn over when starter button is pushed
Main power switch off;
Battery cables loose or corroded;
Starter motor cables loose or corroded;
Batteries are low or dead;
Engine seized hydraulic lock (fuel or water in cylinders);
Misalignment of controls, neutral safety switches;
Chattering solenoid switch.
Turn main power switch on;
Tighten, clean, or replace cable terminals;
Tighten, clean or replace cable;
Charge or replace batteries;
Remove injectors, bar engine over by hand (to relieve pressure and prevent internal damage);
Make appropriate adjustment, realign controls;
Replace, repair cable; Replace solenoid. Check battery voltage.
Irregular engine operation; (Engine runs unevenly or stalls.)
Strainers and fuel filter clogged;
Lines and fittings leaking;
Insufficient fuel / aeration of fuel;
Binding fuel control linkages;
Insufficient intake of air.
Clean, replace and purge air (bleed);
Check fuel lines and fittings for leaks. Tighten or replace;
Sound tanks, shift suction, refuel if necessary;
Inspect and adjust;
Inpect air intake for obstructions. Check emergency air shutdown for possible restrictions.
Engine overspeeds or overruns
If engine RPMs increase, an internal engine malfunction has occurred. A clutch that slipped into neutral, a lost propeller could be the cause. It is most important that the operator assess any problem promptly. When the engine overspeeds, always follow the procedures in the next column.
If an engine appears to be operating normally at cruising speed but fails to slow down as the throttle is being returned to neutral, do not place the throttle in neutral until it is determined that the engine is in fact out of control (i.e., check for detached throttle linkage). Keeping the engine in gear will prevent it from being destroyed. Secure the engine by following the steps below;
Pull engine stops (kill switch);
Shut down fuel supply;
Stuff rags into the air intake.
Engine oil pressure high
Incorrect grade of oil;
Oil filters dirty;
Cold engine not up to operating temperature;
Relief valve stuck;
Worn or damaged engine parts.
Monitor pressure. If it becomes too high, secure engine;
Change oil filters;
Warm up engine;
Adjust, remove or clean;
Secure engine;
Monitor, add oil, and secure engine if excessive consumption continues.
Engine surges
Air in fuel system;
Clogged fuel filters;
Aeration of fuel (from heavy weather);
Governor instability;
Loose throttle linkage.
Secure engine. Bleed air out of fuel system;
Switch / change fuel filters;
Shift to lower fuel suction;
Adjust, check free movement of fly weights;
Tighten linkage.
Reduction gear fails to engage
Loss of gear oil;
Strainer / filter clogged;
Loose, broken, linkage out of adjustment.
Add gear oil. Check and correct leaks;
Clean strainer, change filter;
Inspect and correct as necessary.
Unusual noise in reduction gear
Loss of gear oil;
Worn out / misalignment of reduction gear.
Secure engine, check gear oil. Refill and resume operation for signs of leakage;
Secure engine.
Loss of gear oil pressure to reduction gear
Loss of gear oil;
Inspect all high-pressure lines for leaks and repair. If unable to repair secure engine.
Temperature of engine coolant higher than normal
Thermostat faulty, expansion tank cap faulty, leaky hoses, etc.
Inspect all lines for leaks and repair.
Engine smokes: Black of gray smoke
Incomplete burning of fuel;
Excessive fuel in irregular fuel distribution.
High exhaust backpressure or a restricted air inlet causes insufficient air for combustion and will result in incompletely burned fuel. High exhaust backpressure is caused by faulty exhaust piping or muffler obstruction;
Replace faulty parts. Restricted airflow to the engine cylinders is caused by clogged cylinder liner ports or blower air inlet screens. Clean these items. Check the emergency stop to make sure that it is completely open and readjust as necessary;
Check injector timing and the position of injector rack control levers. Time the fuel injectors and perform the appropriate governor tune-up.
Blue smoke
Improper grade of fuel;
Lubricating oil being burned;
Bad oil seals in turbocharger.
Drain tanks, change filters and upgrade fuel used;
Check for internal lube oil leaks;
Conduct compression check;
Check valve and rings.
White smoke
Misfiring cylinders;
Cold engine;
Water in fuel.
Check for faulty injectors and replace as necessary;
Allow engine to warm up under a light load;
Drain filters/strainers. Drain fuel tanks. Problems common to both gasoline and diesel engines

Diesel and gasoline engines run on different types of fuel and operate in different ways. However, there are common problems, causes and solutions that may apply to both.

Starter whines. Engine doesn't crank over, doesn't engage, starter relay may charter.
Defective starter. Bendix is not engaged. Defective starter relay;
Low battery voltage.
Return to dock. Replace or repair starter or relay. Check bendix;
Check battery cables for loose connection (or corrosion) to starter. Charge or replace battery.
Engine fails to start when starter is turning over.
Fuel shutoff closed;
Clogged air cleaner;
Out of fuel'
Clogged strainer'
Clogged / crimped fuel line;
Inoperable fuel pump'
Emergency air shut-off'
Clogged air intake'
Low battery voltage causes slow cranking.
Open fuel shutoff;
Clean air filter;
Fill tanks, bleed and prime system;
Clean strainer, bleed system'
Replace or repain fuel line;
Remove, clean and replace'
Charge battery or replace.
Engin temperature high.
Note: For all high temperature situations, place the throttle immediately in neutral, then look for the probable cause. When an overheated engine must be shut down, turn the engine over periodically to prevent it from seizing.
Closed or partially closed sea suction valve;
Clogged raw water strainer (especially in shallow water);
Broken raw water or cooling system hose;
Broken or loose raw water pump drive belt;
Expansion tank (cooling system) empty or low;
Thermostat stuck, cooling system;
Water in lube oil;
Blown head gasket'
Engine overload (towing too big a vessel or towing too fast);
Ice clogged sea suction (especially during operation in shush ice);
Air bound sea chest.
Rubber impeller on raw water pump inoperable. Check raw water overboard discharge; if little or none, check sea suction valve;
Clean strainer;
Shut down engine, replace hose;
Shut down engine, replace or tighten belt;
Handle the same as for a car radiator. Open with caution, releasing pressure before removing cap. With engine running, add coolant;
Secure engine, remove thermostat, add engine coolant;
Check lube oil for "milky colour". If found, secure engine;
Secure engine, lock shaft'
Reduce engine speed;
Shift to lower suctions, transit directly to open water;
Open / clear sea chest vent valve.
Engine lube oil pressure fails
Lube oil level low;
External oil leak;
Lube oil dilution;
Lube oil gauge defective.
If above red line, check oil and add more if needed. If below red line, secure engine;
Tighten fittings if possible. If not, secure engine;
Secure engine if fuel dilution is over 5%'
Take load off engine, if applicable. Check to confirm that gauge appears to be operating normally.
No oil pressure
Lube oil pump failure.
Secure engine. Repeat all procedures for previous item.
Loss of electrical power
Short circuit / loose connections causing tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse;
Corroded wiring connections;
Overloaded circuit;
Dead battery.
Check for shorts/grounds. Reset circuit breakers, replace fuses as necessary;
Clean or replace wiring;
Secure all unnecessary circuits, reset circuit breakers, replace fuses as necessary;
Charge or replace battery.
Alternator indicator light on
Loose / broken belt;
Loose terminal connections;
Defective alternator or governor.
Replace / tighten belt;
Inspect and tighten;
Replace defective item.
Shaft vibrations
Damaged or fouled propeller;
Bent shaft;
Engine or shaft out of alignment.
Reduce speed and / or place throttles in neutral if possible;
Reduce speed, check for hull damage or leaks;
Slowly increase speed on engine. On twin engine boats, increase speed on one engine at a time to determine which shaft is vibrating. If vibration continues even at low speeds, secure the engine involved and lock the shaft.
Engine stops suddenly and will not turn through a full revolution
Check for an obstruction within a cylinder such as water or a broken, bent or shut valve.
Engine stops running when hot and won’t turn over when cool
The engine has seized and must be overhauled.
Engine stops with a loud clatter
Inspect for obvious damage. Damage may be to internal parts such as valves, valve springs, bearings, piston rings, etc. Overhaul of the engine is required.
Engine oil level rises, oil looks and feels gummy
There may be coolant leaking into the engine oil. Check for internal leakage. Repair the engine before continuing operations.
Engine oil level rises and feels thin
Fuel is leaking into the crankcase. Check fuel pump. After the problem has been corrected, change oil and filters.
Hot water in bilges
Inspect the exhaust piping and/or coolant water level. Coolant is probably leaking into the bilge. Check all hoses.
Engine runs with a thumping or knocking noise
There is most likely internal damage and the engine will have to be overhauled. Outboard motor troubleshooting

Outboard motors are very common and are extensively used on both Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary resources. The owner’s manual for your outboard will provide guidance for specific maintenance, but typical problems, their possible causes, and potential solutions are outlined in checklists below.

Engine won’t start
Probable Cause/Correction
Fuel tank empty;
Fuel tank vent closed;
Fuel line improperly connected or damaged; check both ends;
Fuel system not primed;
Engine flooded, look for fuel overflow;
Clogged fuel filter or line;
Spark plug wires reversed;
Loose battery connections;
Cracked or fouled spark plug;
Fuel pump not primed.
Starter motor won’t work (electric start)
Probable Cause/Correction
Gear shift not in neutral;
Defective starter switch.
Loss of power
Probable Cause/Correction
Too much oil in fuel mix;
Fuel / air mixture too lean (backfiring);
Fuel hose kinked;
Slight block in fuel line or fuel filter;
Propeller is fouled;
Water in fuel;
Spark plug fouled;
Magneto or distributor points fouled.
Engine misfires
Probable Cause/Correction
Spark plug damaged;
Spark plug loose;
Faulty coil or condenser;
Incorrect spark plug;
Choke needs adjusting;
Improper fuel and oil mixture;
Dirty carburetor filter;
Distributor cap cracked.
Probable Cause/Correction
Cooling intake fouled;
Too little oil;
Water pump impeller worn;
Defective water pump;
Towing too big a vessel or towing too fast.
Blue smoke
Probable Cause/Correction
Spark plugs fouled by too much oil.
Engine surges
Probable Cause/Correction
Outboard motor not properly mounted - propeller rides out of the water;
Carburetor requires adjustment.
Poor boat performance
Probable Cause/Correction
Wrong propeller;
Engine tilted too high;
Bent propeller - usually accompanied by a high level of vibration;
Boat is overloaded;
Heavy marine growth on boat bottom;
Cavitation. Troubleshooting steering gear failure

A steering gear failure may have a simple solution or require outside assistance. If the boat has two propellers, this type of failure may also test your boat handling skills. General advice is as follows:

Broken or jammed steering cable
Probable Cause/Correction
Rig emergency steering as applicable and return to the dock.
Broken hydraulic line or hydraulic system failure
Probable Cause/Correction
Inspect hoses for leaks, check fluid level, and add fluid if necessary;
Replace hose if spare is carried on board;
Rig emergency steering as applicable;
Steer with engines if twin propeller;
Try to centre rudder amidships;
Anchor if necessary.
"Frozen," damaged or blocked rudder, outdrive or outboard
Probable Cause/Correction
Attempt to free if possible;
Centre rudder if possible and block in place.

4.3 SAR equipment

The following specifications should be considered when buying SAR equipment:

4.3.1 Binoculars

  • 7x50s Marine are most appropriate for use on small boats;
  • must be designed for boating and SAR applications;
  • waterproof, shockproof, armoured (rubber covered);
  • eyepiece covers, carrying straps and carrying case.

4.3.2 Night vision goggles

  • designed for boating and SAR applications;
  • waterproof and buoyant;
  • weather resistant (humidity and moisture);
  • over-light protected;
  • able to withstand temperature extremes and vibrations;
  • optics protected with eye-guards and front lids, which allow daytime observation through lid pinholes;
  • yellow colour;
  • lightweight;
  • neck strap;
  • handheld or adjustable headmount;
  • hard yellow waterproof carrying case and instruction manual;
  • tested to military specifications;
  • generation III+ technology;
  • 40° field of view.

4.3.3 Searchlight

  • designed for patrol craft;
  • designed to be hand-held (portable);
  • capable of effectively illuminating a light-coloured object at night ;
  • must have 18 m (59 ft.) scope at a distance of 180 m (590 ft.) and operational reliability of at least 3 continuous hours;
  • battery powered, rechargeable battery, quick charger/power supply;
  • reliable and resistant to long periods of inactivity;
  • optional detachable amber filter and covert infrared filter;
  • focus knob (provides back-up for focus motor failure);
  • powerful enough to illuminate objects 0.5 mile downrange;
  • watertight;
  • weatherproof and anticorrosive;
  • light weight;
  • yellow colour;
  • large yellow storage case.

4.3.4 Flashlight

  • watertight;
  • unbreakable body;
  • yellow colour;
  • powered by long-life alkaline batteries;
  • set of spare batteries and spare bulb.

4.3.5 Life buoys

  • stowed so they can be quickly thrown overboard in an emergency;
  • orange colour;
  • Transport Canada approval;
  • outside diameter of 610 mm (24 in.) or 762 mm (30 in.);
  • attached to a buoyant line not less than 15 m (49 ft.) in length;

Note: In Canada, horseshoes do not meet the life buoy requirement.

4.3.6 Throw-bags

  • yellow rope not less than 15 m (49 ft.);
  • buoyant rope made from material like polypropylene makes an excellent buoyant heaving line;
  • a loop at the end and weighted floating handle make it easy to cleat and throw (no metal piece);
  • some have a flexible flotation collar with a floating retrieval line for lifting a person on board;
  • weatherproof storage bag.

4.3.7 Rescue extension

  • reach pole extension (1.8 m/6 ft.) or telescoping extension pole (2.4 m/ 8 ft.);
  • light weight device;
  • good tensile strength;
  • equipped with a floating rescue hoop.

4.3.8 Fire extinguishers

  • dry chemical extinguishers are recommended, Class BC or ABC;
  • marine type is highly recommended because of resistance to corrosion;
  • Class ABC is designed for all kinds of fires on small vessels;
  • must be approved by Transport Canada, ULC (Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada) or United States Coast Guard (for marine use).

4.3.9 Rescue frame

  • allows retrieval of casualties from water with life-saving speed, ease and safety;
  • parbuckle design;
  • quickly and easily deployed;
  • retrieval by a single rescuer, with little effort;
  • conscious overboard casualties can easily climb the outside of the loop like a ladder;
  • injured or unconscious casualties can be floated into the loop and quickly lifted horizontally to safety;
  • some avoid further injury by not crushing the casualty;
  • easy and compact storage, does not require repacking;
  • highly durable, maintenance free;
  • unlimited usage in training;
  • CCG or USCG approved.

4.3.10 SAR pumps

  • portable;
  • gasoline-powered;
  • easily passed from one boat to another in a watertight container in moderate to heavy seas;
  • saltwater resistant.

4.4 Trailering a boat

4.4.1 General

Since much more damage can be done to the boat by the stresses of road travel than by search and rescue response in heavy weather, choosing the proper trailer is essential. The following section will provide information on choosing a trailer, safe trailering on the road, and procedures for launching the boat.

4.4.2 Trailer capacity

The capacity of the boat trailer must be greater than the combined weight of the boat, engines, fuel, basic boat equipment and any rescue equipment that may be carried in the boat during trailering.

The size and weight of the boat may require that the tow vehicle be specially equipped with:

  • sufficiently powered engine;
  • transmission designed for towing;
  • larger cooling systems for both the engines and the transmission;
  • heavy duty brakes; and
  • load bearing hitch.
Figure 4-6: Parts of a trailer

Parts of a trailer

4.4.3 Balancing and securing the boat

The structural support provided to the boat during trailering must be spread as evenly as possible across the hull. This allows for even weight distribution of the hull, engines and equipment. The trailer must be long enough to support the whole length of the hull, but short enough to allow the lower unit of the engines to extend freely.

Keep rollers and/or bunks in good condition to prevent scratching and gouging of the hull. Properly adjust tie-downs and lower-unit supports (if fitted) to prevent the boat from bouncing on the trailer.

The boat’s bow eye should be secured with a chain in addition to a winch cable. It is also a good practice to secure the boat to the trailer by means of a beam-securing strap.

4.4.4 Pre-departure checklist

  • Ensure that all trailer bolts are tightly secured. Otherwise, the vibration of road travel may loosen them;
  • The tow ball and actuator must be the same size. The actuator must be completely over the ball, and the latching mechanism must be locked in place;
  • Ensure that the trailer is loaded evenly from front to rear as well as from side to side. Too much weight on the hitch (tongue weight) will cause the rear wheels of the tow vehicle to drag and make steering more difficult. Too much weight on the rear of the trailer will cause the trailer to “fishtail” and could reduce traction or even lift the rear wheels of the tow vehicle off the ground;
  • Equipment must be properly secured with the weight evenly distributed;
  • Attach the trailer safety chains in a crisscross pattern, under the actuator, to the hitch assembly of the tow vehicle. In this way, if the ball were to break, the trailer would move in a straight line, preventing the actuator from dragging on the road;
  • Ensure that the trailer lights and turn signals are functioning properly;
  • Check brakes. To determine a safe stopping distance, roll forward on a level parking area and apply the brakes several times, at increasing speeds each time;
  • Side-view mirrors must be large enough to provide an unobstructed rear view from both sides of the vehicle;
  • Check your tires – including the spare – and the wheel bearings. Improper inflation may cause steering difficulty. In addition, wheels that are too small or of lower quality could cause problems. Trailer wheel bearings should be inspected and greased after immersion in water – especially saltwater;
  • Make sure that excess water from rain or cleaning is removed from the boat. Water weighs approximately 1 kg per litre (1 gallon=10 pounds) and will add weight that shifts as the trailer moves;
  • Carry a spare tire for the trailer and ensure that it is in good condition and inflated to the proper operating pressure;
  • Ensure that the vehicle and trailer jacks are in good working order; and
  • Ensure that you have proper vehicle insurance coverage for trailering a boat.

4.4.5 As you trailer

As you are towing the boat, keep the following precautions in mind:

  • If you are new to trailering, practice turning, backing up and manoeuvering in a level, open parking area;
  • Allow more time to brake, accelerate, pass and stop;
  • Remember that your turning radius is much greater with a boat trailer behind you. Give curbs and roadside barriers a wide berth when negotiating corners.

4.4.6 Launching the boat

  • Park away from the boat launch and inspect the ramp for obstructions, slipperiness and drop-offs;
  • Disconnect the trailer lights from the tow vehicle to ensure that you do not damage the trailer electrical system;
  • Ensure that the boat drain plug (if fitted) is in place;
  • Raise the lower unit or stern drive to ensure that it will not strike bottom during launching;
  • Back slowly into the water. Get some help when you back down the ramp. An extra pair of eyes behind you can prevent accidents. When backing, put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and use your mirrors. Then, all you have to do is move your hand in the direction that you want the trailer to go in. A good guideline is to back the trailer into the water until the front of the fender is at water level. Keeping the rear wheel of the tow vehicle out of the water will generally keep exhaust pipes out of the water. If exhaust pipes become immersed in the water, the engine may stall. On very flat ramps you usually need to back in further; on steep ramps, not so far. The type of boat could also make a big difference. Set your parking brake. If the ramp is steep, you may need to block the front wheels of the vehicle. PUT ON YOUR PFD. Have someone on shore hold the lines attached to the boat. Release the winch. Lower the motor and prepare to start the engine(s) (after running blowers and checking for fuel leaks). Start the engine(s) and make sure that water is going through the engine cooling system(s). Gently push the boat off the trailer or, if necessary, back off slowly using the engines dead slow astern.

4.4.7 Recovering the boat

  • Secure the boat near the ramp and back the trailer into the water. Set the parking brake and block the front wheels;
  • Manoeuver the boat carefully to the submerged trailer. Shut down the engine/s, raise the lower unit and attach the winch cable to the boat’s bow trailering eye;
  • Winch the boat onto the trailer;
  • Pull the boat from the ramp;
  • Store and lash equipment and set the engine(s) for trailering. Pull any drains, secure all tie-down straps, hook up the trailer lights and test them; and,
  • If possible, flush the engine(s) with fresh water after each use.

4.4.8 Trailer maintenance

Most trailers generally require very little maintenance. The following guidelines are recommended in addition to the manufacturer’s maintenance guide:

  • Always conduct a “walk around” and visually inspect the trailer before each trip;
  • Monitor tire pressure before each trip. Improper tire inflation can result in increased tire wear, poor handling, heat buildup and possible tire blowout. Never mix radial tires with bias ply tires;
  • Always ensure that the surge brake actuator is filled to the proper level with the recommended brake fluid;
  • Keep all moving parts well lubricated as per the manufacturer’s recommendations;
  • Always rinse the trailer with fresh water, especially if the boat has been launched in salt water. If you frequently use the boat in salt water, the trailer should be fitted with a brake flushing kit. See your dealer for details;
  • DO NOT OVER-LUBRICATE WHEEL BEARINGS. It is a common fault for individuals to grease “bearing buddies” to the point that grease escapes from the vent holes. This can displace inner bearing seals and damage the wheel bearings. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations CAREFULLY!;
  • If you are stowing your trailer for a period of time, remove weight from the wheels of the trailer by blocking the tongue and all four corners of the frame.

4.4.9 You and the law

The Highway Traffic Act of your province or territory may have specific requirements for the trailering of boats (i.e., driver certification, electric brakes or maximum trailering widths).

Check with your local law enforcement agency to determine the rules and regulations for your area of operations.

4.5 On board emergencies

Prudent crews consider the possibility of any emergency, and have a plan for dealing with it. Good coxswains drill their crews in procedures to be followed under various emergency situations.

4.5.1 Person overboard

The nature of the search and rescue task exposes crewmembers to a high risk of involuntarily entering the water. A person-overboard situation is one of the most serious occurrences aboard a vessel engaged in SAR. Every second counts, particularly in difficult or cold weather. Every crewmember must know the following procedures thoroughly. Even more important than knowing the procedures is training. Every crewmember must be able to carry out these procedures with instantaneous precision. The only way this level of skill can be achieved is by training and practice. Your life may depend on it. Recovery procedure

The first crewmember to realize that someone has gone overboard calls out “PERSON IN WATER (PIW)” and, if possible, indicates on which side of the boat the person went over. For example, if a person fell over the port side, the crew member would call “PERSON IN WATER, PORT SIDE!” In the case of a witnessed person-overboard situation, this crewmember keeps the person in the water in sight continuously, both while calling out the alarm and until rescue is achieved.

Throwing a flotation device

Throw a ring buoy with strobe light if available (or anything that floats) over the side towards the person in the water. It does not matter if the person is visible at this time or not. The person in the water may see the flotation device and be able to get to it. Additionally, any floating object thrown over the side serves as a reference point marking the general location of the incident and for manoeuvering the boat during the search.

Do not throw the floatable object(s) at the person overboard. It could cause further injury if it hits the individual. Throw the object so that it or its line can drift down to the person while avoiding fouling the line in the propeller.

While maintaining visual contact with the person in the water, the crewmember calling the personoverboard alarm takes up station as the pointer. He or she continually points to the person in the water and takes whatever position is required in order to maintain visual contact.

Figure 4-7: Life buoy with strobe

Life buoy with strobe

If the person in the water is not in sight, mark datum physically with a datum marker buoy (DMB) or electronically by activating the memory function on the long-range navigation (Loran-C) or the global positioning system (GPS). On vessels with a pilothouse-mounted loran, the memory mark datum function is carried out by the helmsman. On vessels with the loran mounted below, this function is carried out by a second crewmember.

Once the “person overboard” alarm is given, the helmsman conducts an appropriate person-overboard manoeuver. Either the Anderson (or one turn) or Williamson manoeuver is recommended. While the manoeuver is taking place, a crewmember will cast a life ring over the side that was indicated in the alarm.

At this point, the guidelines for the recovery of a person in the water (PIW) should be applied. Refer to chapter 11 for more details.

Basic approaches

The coxswain must select an approach that is suitable for the prevailing conditions.

There are two basic approaches:

  • leeward approach (against the wind and current)
  • windward approach (with the wind and current).

Perform the leeward approach with the bow facing into the greatest force of oncoming resistance at the time of pickup.

Perform the windward approach with the wind coming from behind the boat. Use the windward approach when the person overboard is in a confined space or a leeward approach is impossible. Anderson (one-turn) manoeuver

The Anderson manoeuver is faster than the Williamson, but it requires a skillful master and a highly manoeuverable vessel. This method works best on small units such as RHIBs or Fast Rescue Craft (FRCs). To perform this manoeuver, follow these steps:

    • Put the rudder over full towards the person (e.g., if the person fell over the starboard side, put the rudder over full to starboard). Stop the engines;
    • When clear of the person, go ahead full using full rudder;
    • When about two thirds of the way around, back the engines two thirds or full. Stop the engines when the person is 15° of the bow.Ease the rudder and back the engine as required;
    • Bring the vessel upwind or downwind of the person, stop the vessel in the water with the person alongside, well forward of the propellers.

Note: Many variations of this method are possible, to suit the characteristics of the vessel and sea conditions.

Figure 4-8: The Anderson Turn

The Anderson Turn Williamson manoeuver

The Williamson turn is slower but easier to perform. It is recommended if there is danger of losing sight of the person in the water, or for large single screw displacement hull types of vessels. To perform a Williamson manoeuver, follow these steps:

      • Put the rudder over full in the same direction as the person in the water;
      • When clear of the person, go ahead full using full rudder;
      • When the heading is about 60 degrees beyond the original course, immediately shift the rudder to full over in the opposite direction (60 degrees is appropriate for many vessels, but the exact amount must be determined through trial and error);
      • Bring the vessel upwind or downwind of the person, stop the vessel in the water with the person alongside, well forward of the propellers.
Figure 4-9: The Williamson Turn

The Williamson Turn

Note: These procedures must be practiced on a regular basis. Every member of the SAR crew must practice each routine. The coxswain cannot always be in charge. He or she may be the person in the water.

4.5.2 Accidental grounding General

The nature of search and rescue work can expose vessels engaged in SAR to a high risk of grounding. SAR vessels can work in the worst of situations with few tools and no backup. There is no room for error. The prudent navigator plots a safe passage through all situations. However, should you have the unfortunate experience of running your SAR vessel aground, your day is already ruined. Why not try to salvage what is left of it by following a few simple steps?

If an SAR vessel does run aground, the coxswain must evaluate the situation immediately and take the following steps to secure the situation:

      1. Shut down the engines without delay to prevent engine damage caused by drawing sand or other matter into the cooling-system intakes;
      2. Conduct a head check of the crew to be sure everyone stayed aboard and is uninjured;
      3. Inform RCC/MRSC of the situation immediately so that assistance, if required, can be tasked;
      4. DO NOT TRY TO BACK OFF IMMEDIATELY! EVALUATE THE SITUATION FIRST! If the bottom is soft matter, an attempt to back off could direct more material forward with the propeller wash, depositing more material around the hull and putting the vessel harder aground;
      5. Keep the RCC informed of the situation and your intentions;
      6. Deploy anchors to seaward to prevent being forced further aground;
      7. Inspect the bilge spaces to determine whether there is any leakage from hull damage, and if so secure the damage;
      8. Determine the amount of water, if any, in the bilges, and take steps to remove it;
      9. Determine the extent of hull damage;
      10. Take soundings around the entire vessel to determine the depth of water and the characteristics of the bottom. Decide whether backing off would be expedient or cause further damage. You must also consider whether your pumps could control flooding if you were to back off;
      11. If it is safe to do so, stay with your vessel until you are refloated or other assistance arrives. Accidental-grounding checklist
      • stop engines;
      • head check / injuries;
      • don PFD if you are not already wearing one;
      • inform RCC/MRSC of situation and maintain communication;
      • do not back off before evaluating;
      • set anchors to seaward if possible;
      • inspect bilges for water;
      • check for leaks;
      • check for damage to hull;
      • sound around the vessel;
      • determine the effects of backing off, including the capability of pumps;
      • stay aboard until assistance arrives or you are refloated;
      • determine if pollution control is needed;
      • since groundings often occur in adverse conditions, always keep the survival equipment prepared.

4.5.3 Emergency procedure in the event of capsizing General

The key to surviving a capsize is to avoid it ever happening. If it cannot be avoided, then the crew must recognize when it could happen and be prepared. The heavy weather section of the boat-handling chapter discusses situations and conditions that can lead to capsizing. This chapter also presents warning signs of risk and measures for minimizing it. The coxswain must continually assess conditions to ensure the safety of the boat crew and of those in distress; however, all crew members are responsible for keeping the coxswain advised if the situation changes. Prevention

A boat is less likely to capsize in deep, open water. The chances of capsizing are greatest during operations in or near the surf or breaking seas. The force needed to capsize is most likely to come from heavy seas directly astern (following seas), or large breakers striking abeam. Stay at sea until conditions change. The safest point for most boats to take heavy seas is nearly bow-on. Do not operate or tow in conditions beyond the capability of the boat or crew. In such conditions, advise RCC/MRSC so that the proper resource can respond. Conditions present in many capsizings include:

      • surf or breaking seas;
      • shallow water depth (less than 20 ft.);
      • going against a strong tidal current with steep following seas;
      • escorting or towing another boat through an inlet;
      • restricted visibility due to darkness, rain, or fog;
      • stability reduced by low fuel in the tank, excessive amounts of water in bilges, icing of topsides, or too many people on board. Precautions

If the hull is intact after capsizing, it will not sink for some time, even in rough seas. The crew will have time to escape if panic is avoided. Precautions to be taken ahead of time include:

      • Learn the boat’s interior. Initially the crew will be disoriented due to being upside down with inadequate lighting;
      • Stow all loose gear and have all equipment and doors operating properly for ease in escaping;
      • Know the location and use of all survival equipment. Check it regularly to be sure that it is appropriate and in good repair, and that all signaling devices work;
      • Be ready to grab a sturdy support to prevent being thrown about. Escape procedures
      • If trapped in or under the boat, seek out an air pocket near the top (inverted bottom). Gather the crew together in the air pocket. Take time to have everyone settle down and focus on planning a safe escape. Discuss the escape route and objects of reference along the route. Look down; light may be visible and escape immediate;
      • Make every effort to escape. The boat may sink, or the air will eventually escape through hull fittings, cracks, or holes, or become unfit to breathe (fuel vapors, bilge waste, or lack of oxygen due to survivors breathing);
      • Before attempting to escape, check for needed survival equipment, especially flotation and signaling devices;
      • PFDs may have to be removed temporarily for people to fit through spaces or to go underwater to reach an exit. If necessary, tie a line to the PFD and pull it out after exiting;
      • Avoid the stern if the engines are still running;
      • If caught in an open cockpit area, swim down below the gunwales and surface alongside the boat.

Escape from an enclosed compartment will require additional planning. Advice includes:

      • All exits are upside down when the boat capsizes. Locate an exit route and reference points from the compartment to open water;
      • PFDs may have to be removed temporarily for people to fit through spaces or to go underwater to reach an exit. If necessary, tie a line to the PFD and pull it out after exiting;
      • Swim underwater through the exit and out from the boat. If a line is available, the best swimmer should exit first through a cabin door or window, carrying the line. If no line is available, have the best swimmer go first, followed by a poorer swimmer and lastly a good swimmer. (If the poorer swimmers are left alone inside, they are likely to panic and not escape.) The first swimmer, when free, should tap on the hull to signal success in getting out;
      • Cold water decreases the length of time anyone can hold their breath underwater. Immersion in cold water may also give a sensation of tightness in the chest. Experiment inside the compartment before attempting to escape. This will decrease the possibility of panic during the escape attempt. Alongside a capsized boat

Survivors from a capsized boat should attempt to stay with the boat or other visible floating debris.

      • Get on board a life raft if available;
      • If a life raft is not available, climb onto the boat, if possible. Otherwise, hold onto the largest floating object available;
      • Generally, everyone should stay with the boat and not swim for shore. Distances to the beach can be deceiving, and strenuous activities such as swimming in cold water can hasten the onset of hypothermia.
      Survivors should consider tying themselves to the boat if there is a rapid means of untying or cutting free, in case the boat shifts or sinks. Most people are likely to become tired or develop hypothermia. Remaining inside a capsized boat

If someone cannot exit the capsized boat:

      • Remain calm and stay within an air pocket;
      • Trap the air in the compartments (e.g., close any hull valves that can be located);
      • When rescuers are heard, attempt to communicate to them by shouting or tapping on the hull;
      • Conserve oxygen by remaining calm and minimizing physical activity. If possible, get out of the water to reduce hypothermia;
      • Remember that rescuers should arrive soon. Self-righting techniques for an RHIB

The stability of rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) in rough seas can be a mixed blessing. Crews operating such boats will probably have a tendency to go out in rougher seas than crews operating other kinds of boats. Although this is desirable in terms of SAR capabilities and coverage, it can increase the risk of capsizing. Since capsizing is a life-threatening situation, SAR crews operating RHIBs should have a standard procedure to cover such an event. The following pages will describe such a procedure.

Self-righting system standard procedure

Usually the self-righting system is designed to operate manually, not automatically. When the system is triggered, the righting movement is fairly quick.

Figure 4-10: Self-righting system assembly (733 system shown)

Self-righting system assembly (733 system shown)


The self-righting system cannot be triggered with the maintenance safety pin still in the firing head.

The sequence of events is as follows:

      • Check crew for injuries and numbers.
      • All crew to assemble at the transom. Try to stay on the downwind side of the boat, so the boat will drift towards you and not away from you.
Figure 4-11: Typical crew positioning

Typical crew positioning

      • First of all, deploy the safety line and swim it out until the line is taut. The rest of the crew will assist in this process while the coxswain stays at the transom.
      • Once the crew have the safety line out, the coxswain can now activate the self-righting system by pulling firmly on the handle. As soon as the system is activated, the coxswain will swim/pull himself or herself down the safety line. The time from pulling the handle to a completely righted position is about 28 seconds. This time will vary slightly from boat to boat. Caution should be taken to ensure that all personnel are clear of the craft prior to activating the self-righting system. The crew should position themselves downwind from the craft (once the boat is righted, the bag will cause the craft to sail).
      • Once the boat has righted itself, all crew members should grab onto the boat as quickly as possible. The crew can then begin boarding the boat. Access to the righted boat can be gained by using the engine leg as a step. Then, the first person on board helps the others into the boat.

Once the crew is on board:

      • DO NOT DEFLATE THE RIGHTING BAG. If conditions were bad enough to cause your vessel to capsize, it may very well capsize again. If you deflate the bag, you will not be able to prevent further capsize. If the risk of capsize no longer exists, the bag may be deflated;
      • Check your crew for numbers and injuries;
      • Try your radio and send a MAYDAY;
      • If no contact, deploy the EPIRB;
      • Deploy the sea anchor and recover the safety line;
      • Remember that you do have flares, but USE THEM WISELY;
      • The engines will probably have water in the cylinders. The method of removing the water is to remove the spark plugs and turn over the engine until the water is ALL gone. Replace the plugs, prime the fuel system, and try to start the engines. This process should be attempted only if conditions permit.

Note: The engines will have water in the carburetors and cylinders (from the exhaust system), so you have to turn over the engines for about 10-20 seconds. Water will spray out of the spark plug holes. Once the engine turns over without water spraying out, pump the FUEL priming bulb to prime the carburetors. DO NOT prime the OIL system. If the starter is unserviceable, then use the pull start method, remembering to activate the primer and turn on the key when it comes time to start the engine.M/p>

Theory of capsizing an RHIB

Capsize of an RHIB will occur in a variety of circumstances:

      • breaking waves taken on the beam or head on with no power applied;
      • when heading into excessive winds, the RHIB may be blown over backwards if operated improperly;
      • if the RHIB is travelling down the face of a wave, the risk of capsize is there as the forward part of the tube may dig into the wave and decelerate, allowing the stem to pass the bow, resulting in a pitch pole;
      • during towing operations.
Breaking waves

If a breaking wave is taken on the beam, the RHIB will lay on its side, causing it to ride on the tube. There is a good chance that the RHIB may not capsize. It will just surf on the tube. But, the RHIB does stand a chance of capsize. If the RHIB is laying head into the sea with little or no power on, and it is hit with a large wave that is breaking, there is a good chance that the RHIB will be pushed backwards down the wave and the stem will stop once it bottoms out on the wave. This will cause the bow to pass the stem, causing a capsize. This style of capsize is very real and dangerous, as it is very violent.

Operating in excessive winds

If the RHIB is being operated in excessive winds, there is a good chance that the RHIB will be blown over (depending on how it is loaded and on the style of RHIB). The solution to this is to quarter the waves and wind. If a capsize does result, there is a good possibility of being thrown clear.

RHIB travelling down the face of a wave

When the RHIB travels down the face of a large wave and the forward portion of the tube digs in and decelerates the bow, allowing the stem to pass the bow, a pitch-pole style of capsize is the usual result. When this happens, the bow will usually shear off, catching more water and slowing down the bow even more.


Towing operations can sometimes cause a rescue unit to capsize. The height of the towing post above the deck can be a contributing factor in this case. If the towing post is high above the deck, the leverage effect on the hull will be significant. Keeping the towline in a fore and aft alignment reduces the risk of capsizing. When the rescue and the towed vessel are in motion, avoid having the towline come abreast of the rescue unit. This is especially true during towing in adverse sea conditions. Other safety considerations such as the snapping of the towline are discussed in Chapter 10.

4.5.4 Injury to a crewmember

The nature of SAR work predisposes crewmembers to injury. Most injuries can be prevented by using safe working practices and the available personal protection equipment. Unfortunately, even the most prudent crewmember may be injured. In that event, follow these guidelines:

        • have the crewmember with the best first aid skills assess the injury;
        • advise RCC/MRSC of the injury through the MCTS and request medical assistance if deemed appropriate;
        • give necessary first aid treatment using the best advice available, obtained through the MCTS if necessary;
        • take the patient to the base or to a rendezvous with an ambulance or doctor by the most appropriate route;
        • complete the relevant paperwork as soon as possible.

4.5.5 Becoming disoriented

Given that vessels engaged in SAR must often perform their duties when other vessels have failed, the risk of being out in adverse conditions (night, fog, bad weather…) is very much present. Under those circumstances, even the most experienced crews may become disoriented and lose their fix. It this occurs, follow these guidelines:

        • Don’t compound the problem by letting your ego take over;
        • Confer with the rest of the crew. Maybe someone knows where you are;
        • Try to get a fix by using all available resources;
        • Advise RCC/MRSC of your predicament and give them your last known position (they will dispatch a vessel to DF and find you if necessary);
        • MCTS has surveillance radars and VHF DF equipment, and may be able to help you.

4.5.6 Fire on board

Use the following procedures when battling a fire that breaks out on your boat. When a crewmember becomes aware of an engine compartment fire:

        • Shut off all engines, generators, and ventilation systems;
        • If boat is equipped with an automatic extinguishing system, ensure it is discharging. If the system is manually operated, energize it and check to ensure it is discharging;
        • Initiate a mayday call to alert boats in the area of the situation;
        • Have all crew members don PFDs and move to a smoke-free and flame-free area of the boat;
        • If a life raft or dinghy is available, put it over the side and inflate it, if necessary;
Figure 4-12: Operating the CO2 extinguisher

Operating the CO2 extinguisher

        • If boat has a built-in CO2 system, allow time for concentrations of CO2 to dissipate after fire is out before entering the compartment. On boats fitted with a Halon system, the danger of toxic gases is not as great when entering the compartment, but always enter with caution. Opening a hatch

If someone must open a hatch to discharge a portable extinguisher, expect the possibility of burned hands and/or a singed face. As the fresh air enters the compartment, it will feed the fire, and cause it to “blow up.” The best method of opening a hatch is to stand to the hinged side of the hatch. Then, wearing gloves or using something other than bare hands, pull the hatch open. If the boat has a closed engine compartment and no fixed system, it is a good idea to make a small hole with a pivoted cover into the space. A portable extinguisher may be discharged through this hole.

Figure 4-13: Hole for extinguishing the engine compartment

Hole for extinguishing the engine compartment

5 Seamanship and terminology

5.1 Boat terminology

5.1.1 General

Let’s begin with some information for making boat-related terminology a little easier to understand. Knowing and using correct nautical terminology is important to give an impression of professionalism to people you are trying to help. It is also important because, as a member of a SAR crew, you need to express yourself clearly to avoid confusion.

5.1.2 Location, position and direction aboard a boat

The front end of a boat is called the bow. You are going forward if you are moving toward the bow. Your boat is going ahead when it is moving in the direction of the bow. When you are looking at the bow, the right front side is called the starboard bow, and the left front side is called the port bow.

The central, or middle, area of a boat is amidships. The right centre-side is the starboard beam while the left centre-side is the port beam. The beam is the point where the width of a vessel is at its maximum. If an object is abeam, it is directly (at a 90° angle) on the side of your boat, since there are no two points where your boat width is maximal.  

Figure 5.1: The various locations, positions and directions aboard a boat

Figure 5.1: The various locations, positions ... (41638)

The extreme rear of a boat is the stern. If you are moving toward the stern, you are going aft. If your boat is moving in the direction of the stern, you are going astern or making sternway. When you are looking at the bow, the right rear section of the boat is called the starboard quarter, and the left rear section is called the port quarter.

As you have probably guessed by now, the entire right side, when you are looking at the bow, is the starboard side, while the left side is the port side.

A line, or anything else running parallel to the longitudinal centreline of the boat is said to lie fore-and-aft. If it runs from the centreline to either the port or starboard side, it is said to lie athwartships. From the centreline of the boat towards either port or starboard side is outboard while from either side toward the centreline is inboard.

5.1.3 Construction terminology

The hull is the main body of a boat. It consists of a structural framework and a skin that can be made of many different materials. The most common skin materials today are wood, metal and fibreglass. Innovation is ever-present in boat building. Space-age experimental materials are commonly being introduced into hull skin design to improve resistance to impact and abrasion.

There are three different kinds of hulls: displacement, planing and semi-displacement hulls. The various characteristics of these three different kinds of hulls will be detailed in the "Boat Handling" chapter.

5.1.4 Boat measurement

The overall length (also referred to as the length overall, or LOA) is the distance from the foremost to the aftermost points of the boat's hull. The length of the plane where the surface of the water touches the hull when the boat is normally loaded is the waterline length.

Beam refers to the distance from the outside of the hull on one side of the boat to the outside of the hull on the opposite side of the boat at the widest part of the hull. Breadth refers to the distance from the outside of a frame on one side of the boat to the outside of the same numbered frame on the opposite side of the boat.

Freeboard is the vertical distance from the water surface to the top of the gunwale. Draft is the vertical distance from the water surface to the lowest point of the vessel. This point may be part of the vessel or its propulsion equipment. Depth is an internal measurement in the hull of a boat used in the documentation process. This term should not be confused with draft.

5.1.5 Construction parts

The keel is literally the backbone of the boat. It runs longitudinally, fore-and-aft along the centre bottom of the boat. Attached to the keel are frames that extend athwartships (from side to side). The skin of the boat is attached to these frames. Together, the keel and the frames give the hull rigidity and strength to resist external forces and distribute the weight of the vessel and load over a large area.

The stem is a forward extension of the keel at the bow end, rising from the keel upward to the gunwale to form the anchoring point for the side planking or skin.

The forward end of the boat is the bow. The shape of the bow, its profile, form, and construction have much to do with hull resistance created as the boat moves through the water.

Flare is the outward curvature of the sides near the bow. Flare adds buoyancy to the bow, helps make for a "drier" boat and provides for more deck space forward.

The chine is a line where the bottom and the sides of a boat meet. One may refer to a "hard" chine or a "soft" chine. A boat has a hard chine when the bottom meets the side in a welldefined angle. A soft chine occurs where the bottom and side flow into one another in a continuous curve.

Frames give strength to a boat, and are referred to as transverse or longitudinal. If the keel is the backbone of a hull, the transverse frames are the ribs. They are commonly referred to as "ribs." Transverse frames extend athwartships from (normal to) the keel and at specified distances apart. They may vary in size from bow to stern to support loads. Frames give a boat its distinctive shape. They are usually numbered from bow to stern. The longitudinal frames provide strength in the fore-and-aft direction, parallel to the keel. The top longitudinal frames provide the structure upon which the deck is formed.

A deck is a "sea-going floor". A deck also provides strength to the transverse frames and deck beams to which it is attached. The top deck of a boat is called the weather deck because it is exposed to the elements and is watertight. Decks also have two characteristics: sheer and camber. Decks may exhibit different sheer lines when viewed from abeam. Some sheer lines dip from the bow to midships in a shallow curve. Others rise from bow to midships and many decks sheer in a straight line angling from bow to stern. The sheer helps shed water from the weather deck and is often used to simply add style and beauty to a boat's lines. Camber is a rounded athwartships curve of the deck with its low points at the sides where the weather deck meets the sides of the boat. Water that runs down the sheer angle is deflected to the sides by the camber and is spilled overside through a piping system called freeing ports or scuppers.

If decks are seagoing floors, then hatches are seagoing doors in decks. Weather deck hatches and doors become watertight when installed in a raised framework called a coaming.

The transom is a solid flat member that forms the stern of the boat. It is mounted athwartships in a more or less vertical plane according to the design of the boat.

The gunwale is the upper part of the sheer strake, or the edge formed by the joining of the sides and the deck.

The helm is the boat's steering apparatus, usually a tiller or a wheel. See the section on sailboats.

5.1.6 Deck fittings

Basic deck hardware is, for the most part, associated with the need to fasten lines (ropes), or to control line length and/or tension. Each piece of hardware is developed to serve a specific purpose and should be used only for that purpose. To do otherwise could cause a piece to fail, often with tragic results. Some pieces of hardware specific to sailboats have been left out of this section: they will be dealt with in the section on sailboats.

Cleats are devices for securing lines without the use of knots, thus allowing for rapid release of the line when necessary. There are three commonly used cleats on small vessels: standard, mooring and jam.

Figure 5.2: Types of deck fittings

Figure 5.2: Types of deck fittings


Bitts may be of single or double post configuration. Most common on small craft is the single post bitt with a pair of cruciform horns which generally point athwartships. Bitts have their major application in securing heavy loads such as towlines. Vessels designed specifically for SAR often have dedicated towbitts.

A bollard is a vertical piece of timber or iron to which a vessel may be moored. Although it is not usually a deck fitting, a bollard can often be seen on a pier or dock.

Chocks are used to guide mooring lines and to protect the deck from damage by heavy loads such as anchor flukes.

Like a chock, a fairlead is used to guide a line. Usually, a line will go through a fairlead, but simply lie in a chock.

The pulpit is a raised railing at the bow or stern (push pit) designed to prevent crew from falling overboard.

Shackles are used to join lines, cables or wires. Shackles should always be moused to prevent the pin from working loose.

Hooks can be used for a variety of joining purposes. For example, safety harnesses are usually equipped with a hook on the end of the lanyard.

A lifeline is a line run around the weather deck which provides either a handhold or a place on which to snap one's safety harness hook in heavy weather.

Figure 5.3: Various kind of anchors

Figure 5.3: Various kind of anchors

An anchor is a device which is lowered to the sea bottom to secure the boat to the bottom and prevent it from drifting from its position. Anchors are designed in many shapes for use in many kinds of seabeds. Some of the common types of anchor are Danforth, Navy, Plow, Bruce, Fisherman's and Mushroom. The use of anchors is detailed in the boat handling chapter. The line joining the anchor to the boat is referred to as the rode.

Figure 5.4: Main parts of a Danforth anchor

Figure 5.4: Main parts of a Danforth anchor

A type of chain used in anchoring with an internal cross bar in each link is called cable. Chain or cable is often used in small vessels between the anchor and a rope rode to improve the holding power of the anchor.

Figure 5.5: Anchor fittings

Figure 5.5 : Accessoires d'ancre

5.2 Types of boats

Boats can be broadly classified into power "and sail" according to their forms of propulsion. In addition, there are many divisions within the classes.

5.2.1 Sailboats

Motorboats and sailboats have many similarities in construction and in terminology used for location, position and direction when aboard. Many of the fittings are common to both types of boat and will present no difficulties to the novice who is acquainted with one or the other type of boat. Sailboats, however, do have many performance characteristics that are unique to them and that require specialized fittings to perform properly.

All sailboats other than catamarans (which ride on the surface of the water) have displacement hulls. They ride through the water. Their designed shape is such that they will slip through the water much more easily for the same applied effort than most motorboats. Sailboats also carry greater draft than motorboats in that they require a keel or centreboard, below the hull, to resist leeway created by the force of the wind in the sails. Types of sailboat

There are many types of sailboats. In a rescue operation, it will be helpful to know the silhouette characteristics of several types of sailboats in order to guide the search.

The sloop has a single mast and boom. Sloops carry a triangular mainsail and a single triangular foresail.

Figure 5.6: Silhouettes of sailboats

Figure 5.6: Silhouettes of sailboats

The cutter has a single mast and boom further aft than in a sloop. Cutters carry a triangular mainsail and are rigged for two triangular foresails.

The catboat has a single mast stepped right forward with no forestay or shrouds. There is no boom, but a "wishbone" contains the loose-footed single sail.

The ketch is similar to the yawl except that the shorter mast is forward of the rudder post and the boat is rigged for two foresails.

Schooners are fore-and-aft rigged just as all of the above sailboats. They have two or more masts. In the two-masted kind, the foremast is shorter than the aft or mainmast. A gaff supports the head of the sail on the foremast and there may be multiple foresails.

The yawl carries two masts with booms. The higher mast is forward; the shorter mast is aft of the rudderpost and is called the mizzenmast. Yawls are rigged for one foresail. All sails are triangular.

Catamarans have two parallel hulls joined by a truss or solid deck and may be sloop rigged.

Trimarans have three parallel hulls. The centre hull is larger than the two outboard hulls. Trimarans may be sloop rigged. The basic small sailboat

Figure 5.7 illustrates the components of a typical basic small sailboat. Larger boats will carry a greater number and different layout of the basic items to support the operation of a larger vessel. Sailboats may also be fitted with auxiliary motor power.

Sailboat fittings may be grouped into three main categories: standing rigging, running rigging and deck fittings.

Standing rigging consists of fixed lines or wire cables attached to the mast(s) to support the mast(s) against the powerful forces acting upon them. Shrouds provide lateral support to the mast(s). A spreader may be mounted athwartships near the top of the mast, in which case there will be at least two shrouds on each side of the mast. The cap shrouds are the upper shrouds and run from the deck over the outboard ends of the spreaders to the top of the mast. The lower shrouds run from the deck to a point on the mast just below the spreaders. If there are two lower shrouds, they are called respectively lower fore-shroud and lower aft-shroud. The forestay supports the mast(s) in the fore and aft direction. It is a line running from the stem to the top of the mast and is also used to support the foresail. The backstay also supports the mast(s) in the fore and aft direction, but it runs from a point on the transom to the top of the mast.

Figure 5.7: A typical small sailboat

Figure 5.7: A typical small sailboat

The running rigging is made up of lines and associated sheaves and blocks through which the lines may run. Any line that is used for hoisting sails or yards or flags is called a halyard. On a fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel, the outer end of the boom is held in position and raised or lowered by the topping lift. Lines used to adjust the set of sails are called sheets. The sheets take their name from the particular sail they service. Thus: headsail sheet, main sheet, and spinnaker sheet. Under certain sailing conditions, the boom tends to rise due to the force of the wind on the sail. A set of tackle from the boom to the foot of the mast, called the boom vang, is used to keep the boom from rising.

Sailing craft have several deck fittings that are not found on motorboats. Shrouds must be anchored very securely. At the point where the shrouds meet the deck, very substantial anchor points, called chainplates, are provided. These are often metal plates with holes in them to receive turnbuckles or shackles. The stern rail of a sailboat is often called the pushpit. In order to manage the strain on various sheets and halyards with a minimum of effort, different sized winches provide the sailor with mechanical advantage, Halyard winches may be mounted on the mast to handle the task of hoisting the mainsail and foresail(s). Sheet winches are usually mounted on deck in pairs, (one for port tack and one for starboard tack), to handle the trimming of headsails. The base of the mast is mounted in the stepping shoe or stepping post. The stepping shoe may be seated in the keel or mounted on deck or on a cabin top depending on the size of the vessel. The tiller is a handle attached to the top of the rudder and extending forward into the cockpit or steering position. The tiller provides a manual lever for turning the rudder and thus controlling the direction of the boat. Some boats, usually larger ones, replace the tiller with a wheel and interconnecting cables or hydraulics to the rudder. Even in these situations, there is a lever arm or small tiller on top of the rudderpost.

5.2.2 Small motorboats

Powerboats sizes range from diminutive 2.5 m (8 ft.) powered by 1-horse electric motors to stately 45 m (148 ft.) driven by multiple diesels with thousands of horsepower.

They can be classified as outboards or inboards.

Outboard: a self-contained engine and propulsion system that mounts on the stern. Most are two-cycle and burn oil along with gasoline to create power. Inboard: a four-cycle gas or diesel engine mounted amidships, which drives the boat through a shaft in the bottom.

They can be broken into many subclasses, including:

  • Runabouts, ski boats and performance boats;
  • Fishing boats;
  • Live-aboards: cruisers, trawlers and houseboats;
  • Pontoon and deck boats;
  • Personal watercraft (PWCs);
  • Inflatable boats.
Figure 5.8: Terms to describe small motorboats

Figure 5.8: Terms to describe small motorboarts The Runabout

This is the one-model-fits-all family boat. It has a closed bow, a windshield, back-to-back seats that fold down into a sun lounge, and space to store water skis and life jackets under the sole or main deck. The runabout offer versatility and comfort. The Bow-rider is a variation of the runabout. It has the same hull and aft layout, but with seats replacing the closed bow and a walk-through door in the windshield to allow passage forward. There is more seating space - enough for six or eight passengers, depending on the depth and beam of the boat. There is a large cockpit aft.

Dedicated ski boats are a specialized form of runabout. They are usually inboard-powered, 5.5 m (18 ft.) to 7 m (23 ft.) long, and have fairly flat bottoms so that they plane easily when pulling several skiers. They feature special fins on the bottom that allow them to turn very sharply, a ski pylon or post near the centre to attach the tow rope, and a rear-facing seat so that one passenger can keep an eye on the skier without turning around.

Figure 5.9: Runabout

Figure 5.9: Runabout

Performance boats also share the general configuration of runabouts, but there is a difference in the engine room. Their engines are powerful in proportion to their weight. While a runabout might be powered by as little as 70 horses, performance boats sport engines of 225 to 500 horsepower. They usually have a deep V bottom to provide a soft ride at speed, but the aft several feet of the keel may be flattened into a planing pad. This pad functions like a slalom ski as speed increases, elevating the boat very high in the water and allowing it to reach speeds of 50 knots and higher.

Figure 5.10: Performance boat

Figure 5.10: Performance boat

Speedboats include the runabout, the utilitarian Boston Whaler, launches, bass boats, and high-powered fast boats such as the "cigarette" that can reach 18 m (58 ft.). Freshwater and saltwater fishing boats (boats for anglers)

There are all sorts of fishing boats. Many fishing boats are also used regularly as ski boats, dive boats, and casual day-cruising rigs. One variety known as the "Fish'n Ski" includes a ski pylon, walkthrough windshield, and bow-rider seats, as well as fishing seats, rod boxes, trolling sockets, and live wells. It serves double-duty.

Fishing boats can be divided into those suited for fresh water and those designed for coastal use (saltwater).

Freshwater fishing boats

Bass boats, so called because they are popular in fishing for bass, are often high-performance hulls designed to travel across big reservoirs at speeds better than a mile a minute. Raised casting decks and stern make for easy fishing. Bass boats tend to be javelin-shaped and powered by big V6 outboards producing 150 to 225 horses. Most run on a narrow pad near the transom, which causes them to plane up on top of the water much like a slalom ski, increasing speed and reducing fuel use. They are usually equipped with a silent electric trolling motor at the bow to provide low-speed manoeuvering as the angler probes for his or her quarry (silent power during fishing).

Smaller boats, some known as "jon boats" because of their squared-off bows, are popular for the pursuit of all sorts of finned creatures from catfish to sturgeon. Most of these boats are lightweight aluminum, which means they can be pushed with motors from 5 to 40 hp. The motors are portable and can be added or removed as needed.

Figure 5.11: Jon Boat

Figure 5.11: Jon Boat

Saltwater fishing boats

Coastal fishing boats fall into three general categories determined by size, seaworthiness, and price.

Most seaworthy are the big vessels designed for fishing well offshore. They range in length from 7 to 17 m (23 to 56 ft.). These boats have lots of freeboard, lots of beam, and usually twin engines. They can have centre consoles, with the wheel in the middle of the boat and fishing space both fore and aft, the preferred arrangement for those who cast for their fish.

Cuddy-cabin boats have a low cabin under the bow, usually space for bunks and a dinette, but not enough head room to stand up. Full-cabin boats have standup head room, usually a full bath or "head," and a kitchenette or "galley." Cabin rigs make it possible to spend the night afloat.

The "walk-around," is a popular variation of the cabin boat. It has space around the sides of the cabin to allow anglers to walk to the bow for easy fishing and anchor handling, thus providing some of the advantages of the centre console, yet preserving the amenities of the full "house." Some models include a built-in motor bracket at the stern.

Figure 5.12: Walkaround

Figure 5.12: Walkaround

Bay boats have moderate V bottoms, moderate freeboard, and usually a single engine. Lengths of 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft.) are common. There are usually centre consoles or walk-arounds. These boats are designed to take on sizable waters, and they are often used along the ocean and gulf beaches in moderate weather.

Flat boats are designed to pursue trophy saltwater species in depths of 0.3 to 1 m. Some of these boats float in only 0.2 m (8 in.) of water and can run in as little as 0.3 m (1 ft.). Flat rigs have low freeboard so that they don't catch the wind and drift excessively. Lengths range from 4.5 to 6.5 m (15 to 20 ft.). Centre or side consoles are common, although some are simply operated from near the transom with a tiller.

Figure 5.13: Flatboat

Figure 5.13: Flatboat Cruisers, trawlers, and houseboats

Cruisers and trawlers differ from houseboats in that they have deeper-draft hulls and are more suited to taking into offshore waters and big inlets. They also usually have more power and more seaworthy fittings. Planing hulls have flattened sections on the aft bottom that allow these boats to rise almost to the surface of the water, reducing drag and increasing speed. Displacement hulls have rounded bottoms and chines that prevent these boats from reaching plane. This makes them slower than planing hulls.

Cruisers have planing hulls, which means they offer speeds not possible with displacement hulls. They are often equipped with twin engines and can cruise at better than 15 knots, reaching maximum speeds, with adequate power, of nearly 35 knots. Lengths from 10 to 17 m (32 to 56 ft.) are common.

Cabin cruisers include both displacement and planing hulls, but increasingly have planing hulls with comfortable overnight accommodations.

The common feature to these boats is a big reliable engine, or engines, usually diesel, perched deep within the hull. The size range of cabin cruisers is from 6 to 60 m (20 to 200 ft.).

Trawlers nearly always have displacement hulls and rounded bottoms where speed is limited by the waterline length. No matter how much power you put on a round-bottomed trawler, it still chugs along at a speed of somewhere south of 10 knots. Cruising speeds of up to 10 knots are typical, so you need to have plenty of time to go anywhere in a trawler. However, the round hulls are extremely seaworthy, and displacement speeds are very fuel-efficient. This is the reason why many long-distance travelers choose trawlers. Equipped with a small diesel inboard, some can travel over 1,000 miles between refuelings. Lengths range from about 8.5 to 15 m (28 to 50 ft.).

Houseboats are the camper-trailers of the watery world for those who do most of their boating in protected waters.

Many houseboats ride atop a pair of aluminum cylinders known as pontoons, although some models have fibreglass V hulls. Lengths range from 7.5 to 30 m (25 to 100 ft.). Power is usually an outboard of 30 to 100 horses, although the larger rigs have inboard power. There are actual conventional rooms aboard - kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms, all on one level.

Figure 5.14: Houseboat

Figure 5.14: Houseboat Pontoon and deck-type boats

Pontoon boats and deck-type boats feature couches, dinettes, sinks, refrigerators and usually portable marine toilets, but no sleeping areas and no permanent roof. Weather protection is usually from a convertible top. They are tall enough to stand under, but with no side panels to prevent air circulation.

Pontoon boats ride on aluminum or fibreglass "logs" or cylinders filled with foam. Pontoon boats ride on the same sort of aluminum cylinders as many houseboats. They can be powered by motors as small as 10 HP and rarely more than 60 HP.

Decked boats look much the same as pontoon boats from the deck upward, with couches, lounge chairs, tables, and maybe a portable TV and barbecue grill. But below the deck is a semi-V hull that allows full planing operation with adequate power. They can handle motors of 50 to 150 horses and speed along 25 to 45 knots, making them good ski boats. Personal watercraft

Personal watercraft (PWCs) are the motorcycles  of  the  boating  world, designed for thrills and speed rather than comfort.

Most PWCs are under 3 m (10 ft.) long. The seats are saddles, and steering is done with handlebars. The power for these boats is via a water-jet instead of the open-bladed propeller found on conventional boats. This safety measure also enables the craft to do spectacular end-for-end turns.

Figure 5.15: Personal watercraft

Figure 5.15: Personal watercraft

The power ranges from 40 to 110 HP, which can result in speeds to 60 knots or more with some models, given the light weight of these boats. Inflatable boats

Inflatable boats are basically waterborne balloons, but a lot tougher. Multiple air chambers and very stout skins on modern inflatables make them extremely durable. 

Figure 5.16: Rigid hull inflatable boat (FRC)

Figure 5.16: Rigid hull inflatable boat

Inflatables are favorites as yacht tenders because their light weight makes them easy to bring aboard, and they can be stored deflated to save space. The soft sides also do not mar a yacht's finish as a hard-sided dinghy might.

Add a fibreglass bottom, as many larger inflatables have, and you have a boat within a boat, a V bottom to soften the ride and the giant sponsons to provide that remarkable flotation and ability to bump into things without scratching or bending. Some inflatables have twin outboards, so they can really fly.

Lengths range from 2 to 7 m (6.5 to 24 ft.).

The Canadian Coast Guard uses Fast Rescue Crafts (FRCs), which are a combination of rigid and inflatable construction. These Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) are designed as a fast rescue or patrol boat, and can be deployed either from a trailer or from a shipboard davit.

The deep-V rigid hull in combination with the inflatable collar provides a dry, stable ride in most sea conditions. The inflatable collar not only supplies reserve buoyancy, but also acts as an energy sink to soften the ride in rough conditions.

The FRC is an extremely stable craft. The conditions under which this craft will flip over would have to be classified as extreme. If the craft should get caught in conditions which capsize it, the manually activated self-righting system will bring the boat back onto its keel.

The most common type is 7.3 m (24 ft.) long with twin motors which have a maximum horsepower of 2 x 150 and can reach a maximum speed of near 46 knots. The person capacity is 18. Canoes, kayaks, and rowboats

Also in a class of their own are boats that depend on humans to supply the power. These boats range in length from 2.5 to 5.5 m (8 to 18 ft.).

Canoes come in a wide variety of designs, with the lowest, smallest, and lightest designed for easier carrying and better performance but less load and less stability.

Some modern canoes are molded from flexible plastics that bounce off rocks with ease, yet are light enough for easy handling solo.

The most common canoe shape features an unswept bow and stern, with relatively low freeboard amidships. Some canoes are square-enders, with a flat stern or transom where a small electric motor or gasoline outboard can be mounted. Double-ender canoes can be fitted with a side-mount for a small outboard.

Kayaks differ from canoes primarily in that the top is closed over in most, helping to keep water out. Most kayaks are designed for one person only, although a few can handle two people. They are narrower than canoes and designed to be paddled with a two-bladed paddle.

Typical kayaks measure about 0.5 to 0.8 m (1.5 to 2.5 ft.) wide and 3.5 to 5.5 m (12 to 18 ft.) long.

Rowboats used to be planked or plywood, but the most common material in rowboats today is aluminum.

Rowing differs from paddling in that the paddles of a rowboat, called the oars, are secured in oarlocks.

Most rowboats except sculls also have square sterns, so that they can also be operated with electrical or gasoline motors of 5 to 10 horses.

Rowboats made with a blunt bow and a flat bottom are known as jon boats. Rowboats made with a tapered bow and slight V bottom are known as utility boats. Both jon boats and utility boats have flat transoms and can be powered by outboards as well as rowed.

5.2.3 Fishing vessels

Fishing vessels are of various shapes and sizes, depending on their location, the kind of fishing and the kind of water they fish into. All fishing vessels are relatively large to provide enough space for daily captures. They often are well equipped with electronics such as RADAR, GPS and depth sounder. Many deck fittings are available on these vessels and they are usually heavy duty. Side trawler

A fishing vessel that deploys the trawlnet over the side of the vessel. Stern trawler

A fishing vessel designed for trawling, in which the nets are hauled in over the stern, up a ramp or over a roller or the bulwark with a derrick or gantry. Outrigger trawler or beam trawler

A trawler in which the fishing gear is towed from outrigger booms. The towing warps go through blocks at the ends of the outriggers. These vessels are commonly used for shrimp trawling. Tuna purse seiner

A fishing vessel equipped to handle the large and heavy purse seine nets required for tuna. Purse seiner

A fishing vessel employing nets that hang vertically in the water, the ends being drawn together as in a purse so as to enclose the fish. The vessel is equipped with pursing gallows and pursing winches for hauling in the purse lines which close the net after it settles. Dredger

A fishing vessel which employs a dredge for collecting shellfish from the seabed. Lift-netter

A fishing vessel equipped to operate large lift nets, which are held from the ship’s side and raised and lowered by means of outriggers. They sometimes feature sets of powerful lights above and below water to attract fish. Pot vessel

A fishing vessel used for setting pots intended for catching lobsters, crabs, crayfish and similar species. Pot vessels range from open boats operating inshore to larger vessels of 20 to 50 m (66 to 164 ft.) operating out to the edge of the continental shelf. Longliner

This is a fishing vessel employing long-lines. Longlines can be operated from vessels of any size. they are long fishing lines with baited fishing hooks attached at regular intervals. Bottom longlines are placed on or near the bottom, and drifting longlines are maintained at the surface or at a specified depth by means of floats. Several automatic or semi-automatic systems are used on larger boats to bait the hooks and to deploy and haul the lines.

Figure 5.17a: Various fishing vessels

Figure 5.17a: Various fishing vessels

Figure 5.17b: Various fishing vessels

Figure 5.17b: Various fishing vessels Tuna longliner

A fishing vessel employing longlines for catching tuna. It is usually a medium-sized vessel, with the line hauling winch placed on the starboard side forward and a gate in the rail for hauling in the fish. Typical equipment includes brine freezing tanks in which the tuna are preserved. Pole-and-line vessel

A fishing vessel used primarily for catching tuna and skipjack. Fishers stand on the railing or special platforms and fish with poles to which lines with hooks are attached. Tanks with live bait and a water spray system for attracting fish are typical features of these vessels.

The two types of pole and line vessels are the Japanese type, in which the fishers stand at the railing at the forward end of the vessel, and the American type, in which the fishers stand on platforms at the stern. Troller

A vessel used for catching deepwater groundfish by towing a number of lines fitted with lures.

The lines are attached to trolling booms which are raised and lowered by topping lifts and fore and aft stays. Hydraulic or electrically powered reels (or gurdies) are frequently used in the lines. Pump fishing vessel

These are fishing vessels equipped with specially-constructed pumps. During the fishing operation, the pump is lowered under the surface of the water. Small fish attracted by light from a lamp situated above the suction side of the pump are sucked in and pumped on board, where a fish/water separator is located.

Figure 5.17c: Various fishing vessels

Figure 5.17c: Various fishing vessels Trawler-purse seiner

This is a multi-purpose vessel capable of fishing with either a trawl or a purse seine. An example of this type of vessel is the North European type of seine boat or seiner, which has been fitted with additional gear to enable it to carry out deep-sea trawling. One or two boats are carried on board.

5.3 Boat motions

There are three terms used to describe the motions of a boat on the water: roll, pitch and yaw. When a vessel leans to one side, then to the other in continued repetitive motion, the vessel is rolling. Excessive rolling may cause a vessel to capsize. Whereas rolling is a lateral motion about the longitudinal axis of a boat, pitching is a motion about the lateral axis of the boat. The bow and stern rise and fall in this motion. In excessive waves, a vessel may pitch-pole, that is, capsize end-over-end. In yawing, a vessel will tend to wander randomly off course, especially under the influence of following seas. It is a dangerous situation in which loss of control can lead to broaching to or coming beam to sea and rolling over.

5.4 Ropes

5.4.1 Types and characteristics of ropes Twisted vs. braided ropes

There are two broad categories of rope: twisted and braided. A twisted rope is formed by coiling three strands together in the same direction. Twisted ropes have a tendency to unravel at the ends. All ends of such ropes must be fused, taped or spliced to prevent unraveling. The lay of rope is a term used to describe the nature of the twist that produces the completed rope. The purpose of alternate twisting of fibre, yarns and strands is to prevent the rope from becoming unlayed during use. Twisted ropes may be of a right-hand lay or left-hand lay, but the most common is the right-handed. It is essential to realize that each of the components is turned (twisted) in the opposite direction to that of its predecessor, e.g., in right-hand lay, strands are laid up right-handed (clockwise), yarns laid up left-handed, and fibres laid up right-handed.

There are three general categories of braided rope construction: diamond braid with a core, hollow braid (diamond braid without a core) and solid braid. Diamond braid is done by weaving ends of yarn over and under, just like the maypole dance is done. When a core is present, the rope cannot be spliced. When no core is present (hollow braid), the rope can be spliced relatively easily. Solid braided ropes are very firm, and because they are tightly woven, they do not tend to unravel easily when cut or torn. Solid braided ropes also have good chafing resistance, but they cannot be spliced. When both the rope and its core are braided, the rope is referred to as "braid-on-braid" or "double braid." This construction usually makes very strong (end expensive) ropes.

Fibre ropes are made from either natural or synthetic fibres. Natural fibres include manila, sisal hemp and cotton, and synthetic fibres traditionally include nylon, polyethylene, polypropylene and the polyesters.

Figure 5.18: Twisted, braided rope

Figure 5.18: Twisted, braided rope

5.4.2 Natural Fibre Rope

Natural fibre ropes are usually manufactured from manila, sisal, cotton or hemp fibres. Most natural fibre ropes are twisted. Natural fibres are rarely braided (the exception being cotton).

Natural fibre ropes should be maintained in a clean and dry state, as rot and mildew are their main causes of deterioration. They are, however, more resistant to heat than traditional synthetic fibre ropes: they do not burn quickly and their breakdown is slower. Manila ropes deteriorate by prolonged exposure to sunlight; they should be covered or shaded if possible.

Although they have been extensively used in the past, natural fibres are slowly but surely becoming a rarer sight in the maritime industry. Sisal

Obtained from the leaves of the plant Agave Sisalana, a large plant of the cactus family, sisal comes largely from Russia, America, East Africa, Italy, Java, and countries in Central America. The plant prefers a temperate or tropical climate.

The sisal rope is hairy, coarse, and white. It is neither as pliable as manila nor as strong. When wet, it swells more than manila, as the water is absorbed more quickly, and the rope becomes slippery to handle.

Sisal rope was once extensively used in the shipping industry, either in its own state or mixed with manila fibres, a good sisal being similar in strength to a low-grade manila. The cost of production is better suited to the ship owner, and the supply is more accessible than manila. Today, sisal is also used as core in wire ropes.

For handling purposes, the fibres have a brittle texture, and continued handling without gloves could cause the hands to become sore and uncomfortable. It is generally used for mooring ropes in ships and most other general duties aboard, where risk of life is not an issue. When the rope is expected to be continually immersed in water, it may be coated with a water repellent. This chemical coating, usually tar-based, will prevent rotting and mildew. Hemp

Hemp is obtained from the stem of the plant Cannabis Sativa, which yields flax for the production of canvas. (The word canvas is derived from the Latin "cannabis," which means hemp). This was accepted as the best rope in the marine industry from the early developing days of sail. Cannabis Sativa is cultivated in many parts of the world - New Zealand, Russia, China, India, and the USA - but has been replaced mainly by man-made fibre ropes and manila.

The hemp fibres are light cream in colour when supplied to the rope manufacturer. They have a silky texture and are of a very fine nature: hence the extra flexibility of hemp rope compared to sisal or manila.

Most hemp ropes are treated during production, and the result is a tarred, brown rope that is hard and hairy to the touch. Its strength will depend on the place of production. Italian hemp ropes are now considered to be the best quality, having about 20% greater strength than a high-grade manila. However, quality varies considerably, and hemp ropes are rarely seen at sea today except in small uses like lead line, cable laid hemp, sea anchor hawsers, bolt rope, etc.

The advantage of hemp rope is that it is impervious to water and does not shrink or swell when wet. For this reason, it was extensively used for the rigging of sailing vessels and roping sails. When used for running rigging, it was preferred to manila or sisal because it did not swell and foul the blocks. However, for vessels navigating in cold climates, hemp ropes do have the tendency to freeze up. Not all hemp ropes are supplied tarred, so the weight and the strength will vary. Manila

Manila is obtained from the abaca (wild banana) plant, which grows to about 9 m (30 ft) in height, largely in the Philippine Islands, and is exported via the port of Manila, from which it acquires its name.

Manila rope is not as durable as hemp, but is certainly more pliable and softer. It is gold-brown in colour, and never tarred. Unfortunately, it swells when it is wet, but it is still considered by far the strongest natural rope made. It is very expensive and its availability will depend on the political climate.

5.4.3 Synthetic Fibre Ropes

Synthetic ropes are stronger than natural fibre ropes as they have individual fibres running along their entire length, rather than short, overlapped fibres. They are generally impervious to rot, mildew and fungus, and have good resistance to chemicals. They do not stiffen when wet, do not freeze and have good dielectric properties when clean and dry. Polypropylene in particular absorbs no moisture at all. Synthetic ropes are also lighter, easier to handle, and have good abrasion resistance. They far outwear manila ropes.

Although natural fibre ropes are still used throughout the marine industry, they have been superseded by synthetic fibres for a great many purposes. Not only do the majority of synthetic ropes have greater strength than their natural fibre counterparts, but they are more easily obtainable and now considerably cheaper.

List of synthetic fibres used in making ropes
Nylon High elasticity
Low elasticity

Note: Dacron and Terylene were the very first polyester fibres produced.
Kevlar® High heat resistance, low elasticity and high strength
Vectran® High strength and low elasticity
High strength, low elasticity and floating capability

Notes: HMWPE refers to High Molecular Weight Polyethylene
UHMWPE refers to Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene
Technora® Low elasticity, high strength, high heat resistance
Polyolefin® Light weight, floating capability. Nylon

Nylon is the best known and most used of the synthetic fibre used in ropes. It has high breaking strength, whether wet or dry, and good sunlight and weather resistance. It is highly elastic, and its elongation under a load is 10% to 40%. When the load is released, the increase in length is approximately 7%.

Nylon ropes are used for such functions as shock absorbing when coupled with a mooring wire, and are attached to fenders to permit movement as the vessel moves up and down against the dock.

Nylon ropes are light to handle, twice as strong as an equivalent-sized manila, and give the appearance of a smooth slippery surface. They have a high melting point, 250°C, and are pliable in normal temperature, which is desirable for most forms of rigging.

The disadvantages of nylon ropes are that they do not float, and in cold climates, they tend to stiffen and become difficult to handle. They also have a tendency to become slippery when wet. They will lose approximately 10% of their strength when wet, but they regain it when they dry out. They should not be exposed to strong sunlight or stowed on hot deck surfaces, as their useful life will be impaired. They should thus be stored away from heat and sunlight. Nylon ropes are attacked by most acids and paints, and contact with chemicals should be avoided.

The significant point with these ropes is that they are used when great stress occurs. Should they give way under such stress, there is a tendency for them to act like an elastic band. Serious injury could occur if someone happened to be in the path of the rope at that time. The nylon rope will give no audible warning when about to give way; however, during excessive stress, the size of the rope will reduce significantly. These ropes are difficult to render on a set of bitts, and should never be allowed to surge. Any splices in nylon ropes tend to draw more easily than in natural fibre when under stress. Polyesters

Polyesters (initially known as Dacron(r) and Terylene(r)) are not as strong as nylon and have inferior stretch properties. They have a similar abrasion and temperature resistance to those of nylon.

Polyesters are considered to be more resistant to acids, oils and organic solvents than their nylon counterparts, while their strength remains the same in wet or dry conditions. These characteristics make them ideal for most running rigging of sailboats.

The disadvantage of polyester is very similar to that of nylon. It will not float. It should be kept to a minimum when working about bitts or warping drums. The melting point is between 230 and 250°C. Polypropylene

Polypropylene is light and floats on water, but it has lower strength than nylon and polyester. It is unsuitable for use in hot conditions, as it softens progressively with increases in temperature and has a relatively low melting point (165°C). Friction-generated heat should also be avoided. Should the fibres fuse together, the rope is permanently damaged and weakened. Polypropylene ropes degrade in sunlight, but do not lose strength when wet and are not attacked by rot and mildew. They are highly resistant to acids and alkalis, but solvents and bleaching agents may cause deterioration. They are used extensively for mooring ropes, running rigging and towlines.

Polypropylene neither absorbs nor retains water, and for this reason has recently been used for the inner core of wire ropes, eliminating inner corrosion in the wire. However, the wire still needs to be lubricated externally.

5.5 Knots, bends, hitches and related items

5.5.1 General

Knots have many uses in the maritime world. However, not all knots are equal. Some knots are better than others. This section lists various knots that meet the three important conditions for all good knots:

  1. easy to do;
  2. easy to undo;
  3. safe (if used as recommended).

Before going any further into this topic, the reader must understand that any fastening (knot, bend or hitch) reduces the strength of a rope. Knots and bends reduce the rope strength by up to 50%, while hitches reduce it by 25%. Well-executed splices can be used to join ropes while retaining 80% or more of rope strength.

Most knots in polyethylene or polypropylene monofilament ropes tend to slip. These knots must be "doubled-up" in order to hold, due to the waxy monofilament surfaces.

5.5.2 Knots Bowline

The bowline is one of the most valuable knots for day-to-day use on a boat. It is really a variation of the sheet bend, made with a single rather than two lengths of line. It is a non-slip knot and easy to untie after it has been under load. Two bowlines can safely join two towlines of equal or unequal size. Square knot

Also called a reef knot, the square knot is used to fasten two lines of equal size when no great load is anticipated. If used to connect lines of different sizes, it will slip. If used to join two towlines, the knot will jam under heavy stress and be extremely difficult to untie. The square knot needs tension on both lines, for a sharp pull on one of the ends may cause the knot to fall into two half hitches.


Never use this knot to join two lines when significant loads are anticipated. Never rely on this knot when life, limb or valuable property is involved. Severe injury or damage could result from misuse of this knot. Figure-eight knot

The figure-eight knot is very strong, especially when doubled. It can be used to make a loop (as an alternative to the bowline) to fasten two lines of equivalent diameter together. Sailors also use it to ensure that halyards remain in their pulleys.

5.5.3 Bends

Bends are used when it is necessary to lengthen one line by joining it to another. They are not intended to be permanent, but rather are used as a temporary means of adding length to a line. Sheet  bend

A single sheet bend, also known as a becket bend, is used to join lines of unequal thickness.

The double sheet bend gives a more secure connection when unequal-sized lines are used, particularly when one line is considerably thicker than the other. With the ends on opposite sides, it is especially useful with slippery synthetic lines. Fisherman's  bend

Used to secure a rope to a buoy, or a hawser to the ring or harp of an anchor.

5.5.4 Hitches

Hitches are used to secure lines to objects such as rings or eyes. They are generally used to make temporary fastenings; one of their distinct advantages is that they can be untied quickly. Half hitch

These can be useful to bend the end of a rope to a spar, stanchion, bollard or ring. To reinforce or strengthen the single half hitch, two half hitches may be used. The resulting knot is known as a double half hitch. Timber hitch

Like the double half hitch, this hitch can also be used to bend the end of a rope to a spar, stanchion, bollard or ring. Clove hitch

The clove hitch is a good choice to use when temporarily securing a line to another rope, a railing, spar or similar object. It can work loose and should not be left unattended. Under heavy load, it can jam tightly.

Figure 5.19a: Various knots

Figure 5.19a: Various knots


Figure 5.19b: Various knots

Figure 5.19b: Various knots


Figure 5.19c: Various knots

Figure 5.19c: Various knots

5.5.5 Whipping

Whenever a fibre rope is cut, the rope ends must be bound or whipped to prevent the rope from untwisting or fraying, and the strands from slipping in relation to each other, causing one of them to assume more or less than its share of the load. Each of these conditions results in shortened rope life.

Ordinary whippings are made with fine twine as follows. Make a loop in the end of the twine and place the loop at the end of the rope, as shown in the illustration. Wind the standing part around the rope, covering the loop of the whipping, but leave a small loop uncovered, as shown. Thread the remainder of the standing end up through the small loop and pull the dead end of the twine, thus pulling the standing end and the small loop (through which it is threaded) back towards the end of the rope underneath the whipping. Pull the dead end of the twine until the small loop with the standing end through it reaches a point midway underneath the whipping. Trim both ends of the yarn close up against the loops of the whipping.

Figure 5.20: How to whip the end of a rope

Figure 5.20: How to whip the end of a rope

5.5.6 Splicing Short splice

Never knot a rope at a break. Cut away the broken ends and splice it together. A short splice is used when the rope does not have to be put through a small pulley or when only a small amount of rope can be used to make a splice. Long splice

This splice is used for pulley work, as the spliced ropes run through sheave blocks without jamming. Eye splice

This splice is used for forming an eye or loop in the end of a rope.

Figure 5.21: How to do a short splice

Figure 5.21: How to do a short splice

Figure 5.22: How to do an eye splice

Figure 5.22: How to do an eye splice

5.5.7 Using ropes with deck fittings Securing a line to a standard cleat

The cleat is the most common fitting found on recreational craft. Take a complete round turn around the base of the cleat and lead the line around the horn to form a figure eight. When the cleat is of insufficient size for two complete figure eights, a half hitch may be substituted for the second figure eight.

Figure 5.23: How to secure a line to a standard cleat

Figure 5.23: How to secure a line to a standard cleat Securing a line to a Sampson post

A Sampson post is a special type of deck fitting sometimes used in place of a standard cleat. Begin by making a complete round turn around the base of the Sampson Post. Then, form several figure eights around the horns. Finish by taking a half hitch around each horn.

Figure 5.24: How to secure a line to a Sampson post

Figure 5.24: How to secure a line to a Sampson post

Figure 5.25: How to secure a line to a bitt

Figure 5.25: How to secure a line to a bitt Securing a line to a bitt

When making fast to bitts, make two round turns about the leading post, or two turns about both posts, before figure-eighting. Securing a line to a railing

Sometimes, when other fittings are not available, it might be necessary to secure a line to a railing. When doing so, always try to secure your line as low as possible, near a point where the railing is bolted to the structure.

5.6 Wire Rope

5.6.1 Construction

Wire rope is made from multiwire strands laid in a spiral around a core of fibre or steel. It is always made larger, never smaller, than the nominal or rated diameter. For example, a 1-inch nominal diameter rope may vary between 1 and 13/64 inches.

The core is the foundation of a wire rope and affects its bending and loading characteristics. Wire ropes commonly used in fishing consist of fibre core (FC) or independent wire rope core (IWRC) constructions.

The design of a rope is also determined by strand construction (the number and arrangement of wires in each strand) and rope construction (the number and arrangement of strands in each rope).

Figure 5.26: Wire rope - cross sections

Figure 5.26: Wire rope - cross sections

Ropes are classified by the number of strands and the number of wires in each strand: 6 x 7, 6 x 19, 6 x 37, 8 x 19. However, these are nominal classifications. For example, the 6 x 19 class includes ropes made with strands containing from 15 to 26 wires. Ropes within the same class may have different working characteristics. To avoid mistakes in application it is important to order a specific construction, or to provide the supplier with a description of the intended use.

5.6.2 Wire rope lay

Regular lay: exterior wire strands are laid in the opposite direction to the core strands, and are parallel to the rope axis. Ropes with regular lay are easy to handle and have greater resist- ance to crushing than those with lang lay.

Lang lay: wires are laid in the same direction as the strands of the rope, and at an angle to the rope axis. Longer lengths of the individual wires are exposed, creating greater resistance to wear and improved flexibility. Lang lay ropes should only be used where both rope ends are fixed, and therefore should not be used with a swivel-type terminal.

Figure 5.27: Wire rope lay

Figure 5.27: Wire rope lay

5.6.3 Safety  considerations

Wire rope is gradually consumed by wear and tear, and consideration must always be given to the gradual decrease in load-bearing capacity that occurs in a wire rope system. With the tremendous strains that occur during operations, it is essential to inspect the components in a wire rope system regularly and carefully.

Wire rope that has been worn or damaged develops "thorns" or "fishhooks," protruding strands of broken wire that stand up from the lay. Be careful: they can slash your hands. Always wear leather gloves around running wire. Safe  working  loads

A safe working load (SWL) depends on the nominal strength of the rope and the efficiency of end attachments. There are two ways of attaching a rope: by forming an eye or by placing a fitting on the end. During fishing operations, wire rope may be pushed toward its ultimate breaking strength. Be aware that two ropes rated with the same SWLs may differ substantially in ultimate breaking strength. Bending stress

Ropes operating over sheaves or drums may be subject to fatigue if the sheave or drum diameters are too small, if loads are excessive, or if the sheaves or drums are worn. Reverse or S bends from one sheave to another cause greatly accelerated fatigue and should be avoided. Rope speed must also be considered: the higher the speed, the larger the sheave required.

The diameter of a sheave should never be less than 15 times the diameter of the rope. The larger the sheave and the slower the speed, the better. All manufacturers prescribe minimum sheave diameters, and their guaranteed breaking strengths and estimated safe working loads assume the use of minimum or larger sheave diameters and moderate working speeds. High speeds cause wear because of friction over the sheave, but the friction of the wires against one another causes even more wear than high speed.

Measuring grooves on a sheave

Under normal operating conditions, a groove tends to get deeper and narrower as it wears until replacement of the sheave becomes necessary. Excessive side wear may indicate misalignment in the system. A properly fitted sheave groove should support the rope over 135-150° of rope circumference. Field gauges are made to the nominal diameter of the rope PLUS one-half the allowable oversize. In an on-board inspection, when the gauge for worn grooves fits perfectly, the groove is at the minimum acceptable size.

Figure 5.28: Measuring grooves on a sheave

Figure 5.28: Measuring grooves on a sheave

A worn, corrugated sheave groove will quickly damage a new rope

Sheave inspection should also include the condition of bearings and shafts. A sheave rotated by hand should run true, without wobble. The groove should be round in relation to the shaft, and each sheave and shaft should be properly aligned.

Figure 5.29: Using wire rope

Figure 5.29: Using wire rope

Winding the lay

You must follow the lay when you wind the rope on a drum to ensure that the wraps hug together and form an even layer. Winding against the lay causes the wraps to spread so that the rope may cross over itself and become crushed or flattened.

Figure 5.30: Winding with the lay

Figure 5.30: Winding with the lay

Extending rope life

Break-in: run new rope with light loads and controlled speeds to allow the wires and strands to adjust to each other.

If wear occurs near the ends, cut them off to remove the wear points.

Reverse the ends to bring less worn sections into areas where conditions are destructive. The result will be almost like getting new rope. Take care to avoid kinking or other damage in the process.

Clean and lubricate. Wire rope is a machine with moving parts, and factory lubricants don't last forever. Clean the surface so that new lubricant can penetrate to the core, but don't use lubrication-destroying solvents. Use a light-bodied penetrating lubricant applied by dripping, spraying or brushing. Apply it at the top of a bend over a sheave where the strands open up.

All wire and fittings should be kept lubricated. Various products are available for this purpose, such as "Lube-it," which is a clean, non-solvent and non-toxic lubricant. Inspection

Wire rope should be inspected frequently and replaced if it shows signs of excessive wear such as:

  • rust; 
  • overstretching;
  • broken strands of wire; 
  • reduction in diameter;
  • kinks;
  • flattening.
Figure 5.31: Inspection

Figure 5.31: Inspection

Regular inspection determines when a rope can no longer be used safely, and helps pinpoint faults in equipment or operation that are causing costly and potentially dangerous rope wear.

Whenever significant numbers of wire breaks occur, or when obvious signs of damage appear, the rope ought to be replaced.

Chisel fractures mean the outside wires have been worn away by abrasion. When outside wires have been worn to one-half their original diameter, the wire has served its time and ought to be replaced.

Peening is distortion caused by pounding rather than abrasion. Excessive peening causes fatigue breaks and means there is a problem in your system that ought to be repaired.

Square-end breaks may occur even in relatively new ropes if there is excessive vibration or too much bending. Any sudden increase in such breaks means the rope ought to be replaced.

Cup and cone fractures are the result of overloads. Such breaks should not occur if your rope is operating under safe loads.

Reduction in diameter: a sharp reduction in diameter indicates core failure or internal corrosion. Either way, replacement is necessary. The line can be checked for wear with vernier calipers or a micrometer. You must know the original line diameter (when new), the present diameter at the wear location, and the diameter of a single wire strand. Subtract the measured rope diameter from the original diameter. If the difference is half the diameter of a single strand, the SWL of the rope is significantly reduced. If the difference is equal to or more than the diameter of a single strand, the rope should be replaced. Even if no damage to the wire rope is apparent, the line should be measured in about three locations more than one meter apart to determine the average diameter. Another method of judging the wire is to replace it if more than 5% of stands are broken over a length equal to three times the circumference.

If the outer wires of wire rope are worn to one half of their original diameter, the rope should be replaced. If the wire rope is hard, it should be removed from towing service.

Increased lay length: any increase in lay length (the distance a single wire travels in making one complete turnaround the rope) should be viewed with concern. It may indicate core failure and means the rope should be replaced.

Corrosion of outside wires will produce accelerated wear because the wires will no longer tolerate bending. Internal corrosion means the rope is unsafe and should be replaced. Corrosion is a particular problem for trawlers, which use wire rope extensively in the highly corrosive saltwater environment.

Accidental damage caused by the rope jumping a sheave or being struck by a falling weight calls for close inspection and constant checking. It will be impossible to determine the remaining strength, and replacement may be required.

5.7  Working with ropes, lines and wires

Ropes, lines and wires are of paramount importance in SAR operations. No matter what kind of rescue you are to perform, in the vast majority of cases, you will have to use a rope, a line or a wire at some point in the process. Ropes, lines and wires are thus very important tools for everybody involved in search and rescue. However, just like for most tools, inappropriate usage can be time-wasting, if not simply dangerous. This section describes some ways to work with ropes, lines and wires. This knowledge should help you to make better use of these tools.

5.7.1 Working with ropes

General precautions:

  • All ropes should be kept dry and clean, away from chemicals, acids, strong alkali, drying oil, paint and fumes to avoid damage and strength reductions;
  • Never overload a rope;
  • A frozen rope should be allowed to thaw and dry before re-use;
  • A rope should never be dragged over the ground or over sharp objects. Dragging a rope over another will damage both;
  • Avoid abrupt bends if possible, as they weaken rope strength considerably. Pad all sharp corners;
  • Synthetic ropes can be slippery when wet or new. Use additional care when handling them or tying knots;
  • Store ropes in a dry cool place with good ventilation. Hang them in loose coils well above the floor or deck;
  • Dry and clean wet ropes before storing. Allow them to dry naturally, as too much heat will make the fibres brittle;
  • Keep ropes away from all sources of heat;
  • Ropes should be kept out of direct sunlight. When not in use, they should be covered by a canvas or other shield, or, if the vessel is engaged on a long trip, stowed away;
  • When putting a splice in a twisted synthetic fibre rope, use at least four full tucks.   Be sure to seal any tail ends of strands by whipping. Do not use tape for that purpose;
  • Before putting any ropes or line into any stress, carefully inspect a rope, both internally and externally (see next section for rope inspection information). Rope inspection

Ropes should be checked regularly. The main points to check are external wear and cutting, internal wear between the strands and deterioration of the fibres.

  • Check the entire length of the rope for breaks on the outside fibres, cuts, burns, signs of abrasion, unlaying and reduction in diameter; each represents a loss of strength;
  • Untwist the strands carefully to observe internal condition of the rope. It should be bright and clean. Excessive wear of interior fibres is often indicated by the accumulation of a powder-like dust;
  • Pull out a couple of long fibres from the end of the rope and try to break them. If they break easily, replace the rope;
  • When you discover a weak spot, cut out the portion and splice the rope. Use a short splice, unless the rope is to be run through a pulley;
  • If a rope is found unfit for use, it should be destroyed or cut into short lengths;
  • Don't take chances. If you have any doubt as to whether or not a rope is fit for use, replace it immediately. Coiling and faking a rope

To avoid kinks, twisted ropes should be coiled in a clockwise direction (or in the direction of the lay of the rope) and uncoiled in a counterclockwise direction. Another method is to fake out the line figure-eight fashion. This method avoids putting twists in the line in either direction and minimizes the risk of kinking.

Braided ropes have no inherent twists and are thus far more resistant to kinking. Even if kinks develop, they cannot develop into knuckles. The best way to prepare braided ropes for deck stowage is with the figure-eight method. The rope can be faked either flat on the deck or figure-eight style, vertically around bulkhead cleats. Hand-coiling should be avoided since it will put turns in the rope that are likely to develop into kinks during paying-out.

Figure 5.32: Coiling and faking a rope

Figure 5.32: Coiling and faking a rope Cutting a rope

To prevent a rope from unraveling during cutting, follow the following procedure. Tape the rope around its circumference. Cut in the middle of the tape so both ends will be taped once cut. When cutting synthetic lines, use a hot knife. This will melt and fuse the ends. If a hot knife is used, taping is optional. Natural fibres will not fuse with heat. Use proper whipping techniques to prevent unraveling once the cut is made. Safe  working  loads

The strength of a rope or wire depends mostly on its diameter and composition. The following table lists the strengths of different sizes and kinds of ropes.

Table 5.1: Safe working loads and breaking strength of various ropes
Recommended shackles and hooks to be used with Coast Guard authorized towline
ShacklesHooksNylon (double braided) Towline
SWL by line condition
58 12,000 3,000 558 12,000 3,000 2 9,000 3,000 2,250 1,500
12 24,000 6,000 61516 24,000 6,000 212 14,062 4,687 3,515 2,343
58  39,000 9,750  81532  36,000 9,000 234 17,010  5,670  4,252  2,835 
             3 20,250 6,750 5,062 3,375

     Shackles Hooks Nylon (double braided) Towline  Size BS SWL  Size BS SWL  Size BS  SWL by line condition inches pounds pounds length pounds pounds inches  pounds Good Average Poor 5/8 12,000 3,000 5 5/8 12,000 3,000 2 9,000 3,000 2,250 1,500 1/2 24,000 6,000 6 15/16 24,000 6,000 2 1/2 14,062 4,687 3,515 2,343 5/8 39,000 9,750 8 15/32 36,000 9,000 23/4 17,010 5,670 4,252 2,835 3 20,250 6,750 5,062 3,375

Minimum breaking strengths and safe working loads for natural and synthetic lines

Manila N lon (double braided)  Size diam. 3/8 13/16 7/8 Size cir. 2 2 1/2 2 3/4 BS pounds 3,600 5,625 6,804   SWL by line condition Good Average Poor 720 360 240 1,123 562 375 1,360 680 454 BS pound 9,000 14,062 17,010

s SWL Good 3,000 4,687 5,670 by line condition Average Poor 2,250 1,500 3,515 2,343 4,252 2,835 1 3 8,100 1,620 810 540 20,250 6,750 5,062 3,375



cir. pounds Good Average Poor pounds Good Average Poor 2 5,040 1,008 840 630 7,200 2,400 1,800 1,200 2 1/2 7,875 1,575 1,312 840 11,250 3,750 2,812 1875 2 3/4 9,525 1,905 1,588 1,190 13,608 4,536 3,402 2,268 3 11,340 2,268 1,890 1,417 16,200 5,400 4,050 2,700

It is important to note that working loads are given for ropes that are in good condition (and with appropriate splices if applicable), in non-critical applications and under normal service conditions. Working loads are based on a percentage of the approximate breaking strength of new and unused ropes. Normal working loads do not cover dynamic conditions such as shock loads or sustained loads. Dynamic loading occurs any time a load is picked up, stopped, moved or swung. The more rapidly or suddenly these actions occur, the greater the dynamic loading will be. Under these circumstances, the force applied to the rope can be several times greater than expected, and lower working loads should be used to compensate. Dynamic effects are greater on ropes that have low elasticity. In addition, when life, limb or valuable property depend on the strength of a rope (as in climbing or towing for example), lower working loads must also be used to increase the margin of safety.

5.7.2 Working with wires Handling wire A coil of wire must not be opened in the same manner as a coil of rope, or a multitude of kinks will be the result. Instead, it should be unrolled in the opposite direction to the one in which it was coiled. Small coils can be rolled along the deck in the same manner as a hose is unrolled. Taking a wire rope from a reel The reel must be mounted on a shaft or turn-table so it is capable of rotating, or rolled along the ground as the rope is paid out. Never pull rope over the flange of a stationary reel.

Figure 5.33: Winding wire rope on drums and uncoiling a wire rope Storage Wire ropes should be cleaned, lubricated, wound on a reel and stored indoors and away from corrosive atmospheres. Seizing  and  cutting Place seizings securely on each side of the point where a cut is to be made to prevent the wire rope strands from exploding or flying apart. The seizing should be tight enough so that no strands are even slightly displaced. While wire is normally prescribed, tape is often the fisherman's seizing.


Figure 5.34: Seizing and cutting

Figure 5.34: Seizing and cutting Accidents involving use of mooring wires and reels There are two practices involving these items that cause frequent accidents. The first is using a mooring wire directly from a reel, and the second is coiling this wire on deck while it is being rendered from a nearby cleat or bitts to be used as a check wire, a spring, or in lowering some heavy object.

Using a wire directly from the reel can cause the frame to be torn from the deck. This has occurred when the wire fouled the reel; the result can be not only serious damage, but injury and even death for crewmembers. In a recent case of this practice, the reel on a small towing vessel was fouled by the wire and no slack was available. The vessel heeled over, became swamped and sank, drowning the crew.

These practices are both unseamanlike and extremely dangerous. When a wired coiled close to the cleat or bitts from which it is being rendered suddenly becomes unmanageable and runs out of control, crewmembers can become caught in the loose coils and seriously injured or even killed.

Sufficient wire should be taken from the reel for the purpose intended. Remove all the wire from the reel if necessary, and fake it on deck well clear of the working area. If possible, a second crewmember should be available to feed the slack to the crewmember rendering the wire around the bitts or cleat. Before the bight is taken, the second crewmember should ensure that there are sufficient turns on the bitts or cleat for the purpose without danger of jamming. Working safely Never stand in a bight of rope or wire. If it tightens suddenly, a serious injury may follow. Never guide wire with your hands or feet. Always wear heavy gloves or mitts when handling wire rope.

When making a wire rope fast to the bitts, always lash the top turns down, to prevent the wire from springing off the bitts.