Chip Ford's 1974 Catalina 22 Restoration Project
Sail #3282  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

The never-ending project to fill my hole in the ocean while bailing it out

Safety Equipment Aboard Chip Ahoy

I do most of my sailing singlehanded and take distance cruises alone each season for two or three weeks.  I usually have Chip Ahoy a couple of miles offshore for long stretches, frequently four, five or more.  Personal safety is an important consideration for me, as is always being prepared for the worst-case scenario.  As the saying goes with firearms, "It's better to have and not need than need and not have."

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"The ICOM M302G fixed-mount marine radio is equipped with a speaker that has a high sound pressure level for a loud and clear reception and a microphone that's tuned to pick up voice, while reducing ambient noise. The wide, backlit LCD shows large channel numbers and channel names of up to 10 characters and the built-in DSC capability allows you to send a formatted distress message in an emergency."  After my M402 was fried in a lightning strike, I replaced it with this one.   It also connects through a power/data cable to either of my Garmin GPSMap 76 handhelds (below) for a functioning DSC switch.  When activated this sends out a continuous distress signal including location coordinates.

"The GPSMAP 478 is the ultimate offshore portable GPS/Chartplotter out there.  This unit provides boaters with built-in marine detail charts of the United States coastline ... easy to read 3.8” diagonal sunlight viewable TFT screen, which has a 480 x 320 pixel resolution and 256-colors.... comes with a 12-channel, WAAS enabled, adjustable antenna to get the accuracy of your position down to 10 feet.  All of this is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that offers a life of up to 15 hours of use (4 hours when using the GXM 30 and 15 hours without it).  It comes preloaded with Garmin’s new BlueChart® g2 technology.
"The GPSMAP 478 is also equipped with XM Radio and Weather and Audio capability ... with the optional GXM 30 accessory."  Connected to the VHF radio (above) it complements the radio's emergency DSC function, providing the exact location if distress call is broadcast.

Garmin GPSMap 76CS:  115 MB handheld marine GPS with 256-Color TFT Display:  "A state-of-the-art handheld marine GPS unit with a vivid, sunlight-readable color display, sizeable internal memory, and fast USB connectivity. Central to the device is its high-resolution, highly reflective, 256-color TFT display and LED backlight, implemented so you can navigate in either broad daylight or complete darkness."  I use this for a backup.  It's loaded with Garmin's detailed BlueCharts (three "unlocked" regions) installed for the New England coast from Long Island Sound and Cape Cod, to almost the Canadian border.

My Standard Horizon HX851 6W Floating VHF w/Glow in The Dark. This handheld clips to my belt.  I've attached a lanyard which also attaches to my belt, or anywhere else, to keep from losing it, though it's supposed to float and be waterproof.  It has a built-in Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery (and an optional tray for alkaline batteries), and comes with both AC and DC charging adapters and cradle. "The toughest floating handheld radio features 6W, built-in 12-channel GPS with easy waypoint navigation and compass; DSC distress calling. Glow gaskets, key illumination."

Always in my pocket when aboard is a SOG-SSAC75 with its serrated edge blade: "All stainless construction, the uniquely sculpted 2.7" (straight or serrated) blade opens swiftly and smoothly with one-hand and is securely locked into place with SOG's revolutionary new Arc-Lock™, one-hand opening and closing. The Arc-Lock™ features fast and secure spring-action opening and closing. It also provides positive 'full lockup' for added strength and safety, so you can be assured this multi-use blade will be able to withstand those challenging daily tasks. Includes tweezers, toothpick and straight pin. Pocket/money clip and lanyard hole."  I keep a lanyard attached to its hole and to my belt.

The handheld VHF radio and my SOG knife are each attached to my belt or somewhere on my person by a lanyard, so they can't fall overboard or get lost.  When I'm aboard they're always within reach.  The new Personal Locator Beacon (further below) came with its own lanyard.

Mounted in its bracket on the starboard stern pulpit rail is the throwable lifering.  I added 60 feet of polypropylene floatable line to it, attached by a carabineer for quick release.  The line is dual-purpose and doubles as a tow-line dragged behind the boat in rough weather while singlehanding.

My Orion 12 Gauge High Performance Alert/Locate Signaling Kit #540 contains:  The 12-Gauge "Safety Launcher" flare gun with 4 cartridges (3 red/1 white meteors) and shell retaining bandolier - shoots 500 ft high, burns up to 7 seconds; 3 Handheld Red Signal Flares - burns at 700 candela for up to 3 minutes; 1 Handheld Orange Smoke Signal - 1 minute burn time; Distress Flag - 3 sq ft; a SOLAS Approved Whistle with Lanyard; a Signal Mirror; and a Chemiluminescent lightstick - 12 hr illumination, all contained in a heavy duty waterproof floating storage canister.  I bought it the first year I put Chip Ahoy in the water, 2003, and have replaced the flares once.  I keep the outdated flares aboard in an air-tight plastic bag as backups.

My Orion Cruiser First Aid Kit Model CRK contains: 50 (3/4" x 3") adhesive strips, 2 eye patches, 10 alcohol pads, 3 ammonia inhalants, 1 (1/2" x 10 yds.) cloth tape, cold pack, 2" conforming gauze, sterile cotton, eyewash solution, first aid cream, first aid guide, forceps, 2 (4" x 4") gauze pads, 2 (3" x 3") gauze sponges, motion sickness tablets, non-aspirin tablets, scissors, sting relief pads, zinc oxide and sunscreen towelettes.  I also have a few Ace bandages in various widths, additional stretch wraps, gauze pads, and Bandaids.  Along with a bottle of OTC Tylenol there's another with prescription painkiller Tylenol 3 just in case.

Falcon Signal Horn, for which I have a couple spare refill cannisters.

Bushnell 12x42 H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Binoculars.

I keep a MarinePro 2 million candlepower spotlight aboard.  "This powerful, rechargeable spotlight can penetrate rain, fog or smoke with its 100 watt Quartz Halogen bulb. It can run continuously for 20 minutes while operating cordless, or it can be powered directly from a cigarette lighter socket. A 110-volt adapter for your home and 12-volt adapter for your vehicle are included for battery recharging."  It's come in handy a couple of time when pulling into a strange harbor after dark -- like Plymouth with its long, narrow, winding entrance channel.

The new PLB I ordered arrived yesterday.  In 2005 I rented an EPIRB in a Pelican case from the BoatUS Safety Foundation for my extended Maine cruise.  I planned to do so again for my upcoming cruise this summer back up the coast.  Instead, I decided to invest in one of my own rather than pay another $120 (3 weeks) rental charge plus shipping each season with nothing to show for it after.  I chose the ACR ResQFix 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon for its size and the fact that it can be carried on my person, clipped to my belt or lifevest -- always handy, within reach.  (Apr. 4, 2008)

-- More details -- (PDF file) --

I decided to buy another PFD -- fabric and flotation, not inflatable, with lots of pockets and a place to attach the locator beacon (in place of the strobe light pictured on the left):  a Type III Stearns SAR Vest.  I'll still use my SOSpenders inflatable vest under normal conditions, but if things get dicey I'll switch over to this new vest, store the handheld VHF, knife, and whatever else I may need in the pockets.  It being fabric and foam, the potential of puncturing an inflatable bladder is eliminated.

Since the new vest (above) doesn't have a built-in safety harness like the inflatable, I picked one up yesterday to complement it, what West Marine calls its "Ultimate Safety Harness."  I'll attach my strobe light to it instead of to the vest.  My current harness tether (below) is interchangeable, so I can just switch it over.  (Apr. 7, 2008)

My handmade safety harness teether is constructed of 1/2" braided nylon line, spliced and whipped at the splices.  It attaches to the safety harness D rings in its center.  Each end is arm's length.  Three carabineers make up the attachment points.  A snap shackle is attached to the center carabineer for emergency quick-release under load from the safety harness if necessary.

I replaced my vintage ACR/733 barrel strobe light (circa 1978, purchased while living aboard the Idle Hours II) with a new ACR Firefly 3, which will strap on either the life vest or safety harness, or attach with velcro.  It's a bit smaller than the old 733, which takes one D alkaline battery.  The 733 is noticeably heavier than this Firefly 3 with its two AA Lithium batteries, which are lighter than alkaline batteries to begin with and supposedly good for five years.  (Apr. 8. 2008)

The new Stearns SAR vest with PLB and strobe light fastened by Velcro, ready to load aboard for the season.  I love the pockets.  I keep the PLB in one, the strobe light in the other, where they're easily reachable if I need them.  Pull them out and stick them to the Velcro.  Each has a tether with a clip on its end which attaches to the vest's two built-in rings.  (May 29, 2008)

The vest with the new safety harness over it.  If I'm using it, the PLB and strobe light will attach instead to the harness with its own Velcro patches.

While replacing the scupper drains frozen ball valve, considering the ball valve's actual purpose, I decided what's really needed is a way to plug the hole in the bottom of the hull if something goes wrong with it. When I came upon the Forespar Truplug I thought it is the perfect solution, ordered one for $19.95.

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It's never-ending ... so onward and forward to Sailing Season '08!