Alert Captain Examples
It’s far better to ask for help early and often, than too late. The captain might moan, grumble, or ask “what?” but it’s only a response that helps get the mind focused on the situation.
If anyone notices ANY of the following YOU MUST alert the Captain:
- The barometer rises or falls 2MB or more in 1 hour, or if you notice approaching weather; huge convection, lightening or low, dark clouds to windward, or changes in sea state.
- Wind speed increases significantly (10 kts or watch crew comfort level) or changes in direction over 20 degrees.
- A passing ship is projected to come within 2 nm or you see any ships, lights, radar target, or objects that you are not sure you recognize or are unsure of what avoidance action to take.
- You are unable to maintain the prescribed course.
- You hear or feel unidentifiable sounds or vibrations.
- Any crew member becomes ill or injured.
- Anything unusual, unsafe, or concerning is noticed.
- Any type of emergency occurs.
- Understand and follow Standing Orders and Watch Duties. If you are unsure of something, ask.
- Be ready to go on deck early, at least 5 minutes before watch starts, with life jacket/harness/tether and clothing appropriate for weather conditions. At night, you must hook on before leaving the companionway.
- Before coming topside to relieve, check the barometric pressure, battery voltage, and bilge.
- Understand current watch orders and sail plan before relieving watch. During change of watch, communication between off going and oncoming watches should be sufficient to pass on pertinent information and give the oncoming watch a feel for conditions such as current and forecasted weather, course, sail configuration, surroundings and traffic.
- Maintain a position that facilitates immediately taking control of the wheel if the autopilot is used during periods of heightened (winds or seas) risk. This could mean remaining at the wheel, though not actively steering.
- Maintain prescribed course and minimum speed.
- Record time, log, course and position every hour on the hour, including any additional pertinent information.
- Maintain a visual lookout as well as monitoring AIS and radar for traffic and squalls. Be sure to check astern as well.
- Constantly monitor sail trim and adjust as necessary from the safety of the cockpit.
- If the speed falls below 4 knots for over 30 minutes, start the engine and roll up the headsail. When the wind picks back up, ensure engine is up to temperature, unfurl the appropriate headsail and stop the engine.
- Reef early and often. Be vocal if you feel the need to reef! Reefing (lower of true/apparent) wind speed guidelines:
- 1st reef @ 15 knots
- 2nd reef @ 21 knots
- 3rd reef @ 27 knots.
- Monitor engine gauges every 20 minutes while under power.
- Use VHF Channel 13 and or 16 to make radio contact with vessels sighted if safe passage in doubt.
- Keep the cockpit neat and tidy. Coil and hang lines. Main halyard is left coiled and resting on cabin top.
- No one is to leave the cockpit or go forward on deck without a harness and at least one other person on deck who is actively watching.
- In most conditions, watches will be one person watches of two-four hours. Number of persons and length of watch will vary according to crew size, weather and conditions.
- No headphones. A bluetooth speaker may be used at night and ship stereo during active daylight hours.
We recommend The Annapolis Book of Seamanship by John Rousmaniere, (Simon & Schuster, pub.) for its comprehensive coverage of topics relating to the safe and seamanlike operation of any small craft. Ultimately the safety, comfort and well-being of vessel and crew lies in the hands of the skipper and crew.