We have been very conscious of safety measures for this trip. We are not getting younger or stronger as the years pass. Unlike our South Atlantic race from Cape Town to South America in 1982 and the Indian Ocean race from Mauritius to Durban in 1987, when we were younger, carefree and stronger, we are older and wiser now. So we set about ensuring safety as far as it was possible.
The first rule is: don’t fall overboard; second rule: follow rule one; third rule: guess what, follow rule one and two! Therefore, the first priority was manual self-inflating life jackets with built-in harnesses. These are attached to Jackstays running the length of the boat on both sides, to which we are hooked onto while sailing. Each life jacket has attached an EPIRB which is activated by water, to transmit an emergency signal to Canberra and Marine Rescue giving an accurate position of the person in the water by satellite to within 50m.
Each life jacket also has an AIS beacon attached which is activated by water, to transmit a position of the person in the water to the GPS on board, allowing the person on board to locate the one in the water on the GPS. We also have a self-inflating dan buoy to throw to someone in the water. Needless to say, there is a 4-person liferaft, flares, EPIRB and AIS.
AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a marvelous system which will replace radar in time. It gives an accurate description, position, heading and speed of any commercial vessel (compulsory) and yacht registered, on our GPS (chart plotter). We have the usual VHF radio for communication at sea and mobile phones when within reach of the 4G network up to 50km out to sea. Beyond that, when we sail out into the Pacific we will switch to satellite phones like the Iridium or Inmarsat systems.
The unpredictability of the weather is still the biggest threat to safety in sailing. Weather forecasting has improved dramatically since the blurry weather faxes of the 80’s. In addition to all the free Government meteorological websites, we have subscribed to “PredictWind” which utilizes complex algorithms to calculate optimum departure dates and weather routing for the areas we are sailing into.
Physical systems which require checking are numerous. We have had our rigging (standing and running rigging) checked and adjusted before we set off, as this has stretched and settled down over the last 8 months. We have bought a “SeaClaw” storm drogue for extreme conditions, added another 120m of 18mm rode and a spare anchor. Not least our own physical systems: Annie is as fit as a fiddle after years of gym and I have carefully calibrated my wine consumption to cope with the possible sea conditions.