The huge red bird with the racing stripe hovers overhead–it’s rotor-wash pounding your small cruising sailboat with gale-force winds. You have an injured sailing crew aboard that needs immediate medical evacuation. Do you know the five steps to prepare for successful rescue at sea?
It’s almost too easy to take an “it’ll never happen to me” outlook when it comes to serious emergencies on the water. Remember that everyone on board will look to you to keep them safe and sound. It’s a tall order, even for recreational skippers. In this article, we will discuss operations that involve lowering equipment– such as a medevac stretcher or dewatering pump–by a cable, down to the sailboat.Learn more about this at breeze eastern cargo hook .
All hands put on Personal Flotation Devices (pfd). Remove hats of all types (watch caps, baseball caps, Tilley type hats). These can be sucked into the helo intake. Crew not needed for the operation should remain below. This keeps the cockpit open for the equipment lowered from the hovering helicopter.
Rescue expert and helicopter pilot Dr. Tom Gross (USCG) has a simple, five step preparation process for small cruising sailboats that need to work with a rescue helicopter. Follow Dr Gross’s advice for safety.
1. Lash and Stow.
Check for loose gear or equipment from bow to stern. Remove cowl vents (except for engine intake and exhaust cowls), lines tied to rails, or winch handles. Lash the mainsail and headsail (or furl the sail with 3-4 sheet wraps). Place extra tie-downs on jerry jugs or raft canisters. Loose gear creates hazards to helo air crews, rotors, and intakes and deck crews.
2. Place the Wind 30 Degrees to Port.*
Start the engine. Steer dead into the wind and glance at your steering compass. Note the heading. Add thirty degrees and turn to that course. This will bring the wind 30 degrees off the port bow. This enables the helicopter pilot to control his aircraft and gives him or her the best view of the operation.
*Follow the directions of the helicopter pilot. You may be asked to steer dead into the wind or place the wind at a different angle than that described above. The helicopter pilot makes the final call!
3. Make a “Receiving” Space.
Medevac litters (portable stretchers) or pumps take a lot of space. Clear the cockpit to provide an unobstructed area. Latch cockpit lockers and lazarette hatches. Send all crew below not needed for the operation.
4. Stand Clear of the Trail Tine.
DO NOT TOUCH THE TRAIL LINE! That line or cable that comes down from the helo–along with attached equipment–will be charged with static electricity. Allow the gear to touch the deck first to ground itself. This prevents injury to you or your crew.
5. Work Fast and Communicate.
Disconnect the litter or pump from the trail line after it touches the deck. The helo cannot move from its position until you free the trail line. Under no circumstances should you tie off a trail line. Signal the helo as soon as you free the line from the lowered equipment. That way, they can reel it in and clear out of harm’s way.