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Captain Henry's Safety Article June 2012

June 2012

By: Captain Henry Marx

Anytime we are in restricted visibility - which includes at night - we should fly a Radar Reflector. Given the relative low cost of Radar today and the prevalence of boats equipped with Radar - it would be awful stupid to be hit and sunk because the other boat "did not see you"!

On that note, for those of you equipped with Radar - How well do you understand your Radar receiver and how well do you understand what it displays. Many sailors believe that Radar gives them a "Color TV Picture" of the water ahead, which is certainly not the case. Remember, you will be judged more severely after an accident if you have Radar on the vessel, but did not properly use it to avoid the collision.

My bother always turns all his systems - Radar, Depth, Speed, Wind Instruments etc. - on, every time he moves the boat. He does this or two reasons: a. checks that they are working properly. b. practices his understanding of what they are telling him.

Another good idea for Radar owners is to Take a Class! There are many level classes available from the Ship Simulators at the Seaman's' Church Institute and the Maritime Academies to classroom seminars reviewing the controls on your Radar Set, how to interpret contacts etc.

A new add-on to Collision Avoidance is AIS - Automatic Identification System. While this system was originally intended for USCG Port Security, a benefit to us is that all commercial and larger yachts now have the system. What this system does, if you have it installed, is put a symbol on your Chart Plotter representing any vessel within VHF Radio Range that has an AIS Transponder. Depending upon your system, you can then access the vessels information: Name, Course, Speed and sometimes destination size etc.

The two main benefit of this system is it gives you the Vessel's Name so that if you perceive a collision risk, you can call them directly on Channel 13 VHF and workout a safe passing.

Individuals who have fallen overboard can now benefit from the AIS technology as Kannad has now brought out a small AIS Transponder the Safe Link R-10. This unit is worn on your life jacket like yourPLB and when activated - puts a Man- Overboard Symbol on every AIS enhanced Chart Plotter within VHF Range. This in turns allows any vessel in the area to "see you" and pick you up - without waiting for the Coast Guard Helicopter summoned by the PLB etc.

To paraphrase the DuPont Corporation: Thereby making you safer through electronics!