OUPV / Six Pack Captains License Course

SAFETY - Equipment & Procedures


Equipment & Procedures

*Safety and Deck General will be combined on the final exam for a total of 50 questions with a 70% needed to pass.

Everyone on a vessel needs to be involved with safety. The consequences for neglecting safety measures can be tragic. The old saying “one hand for you, the other for the ship” is a good rule to follow, even in calm weather. All passengers as well as crew on a vessel should be apprised of safety procedures. “The Captain goes down with the ship” really means that you are ultimately responsible to make sure that all crew members and passengers are familiar with safety procedures and techniques. Have a good set of tools available in the event of an emergency. Have an abandon ship bag and damage control bucket.

Your Captain’s license is good for 5 years. You will have a 1 year grace period to renew, but your license will not be valid during that time. If you cannot renew your license in the required amount of time you can contact the Coast Guard to have your license placed in “Continuity” until it can be renewed, but it will not be valid during that time.

Every seaman should know the ship, including location and operation of safety devices, hatches and exits from compartments, and the ship’s emergency procedures. Safety drills should be conducted on a regular basis and noted in the ship’s log. Emergency equipment needs to be checked and serviced regularly and replaced when necessary. Log all injuries and administer proper first aid. Any injury requiring more than standard first aid must be reported to the Coast Guard. Your log is a legal document.

Use polypropylene line to foul a runaway boat’s prop to stop it…don’t endanger yourself and crew (View video)

Safety Equipment and Procedures

float plan should always be filed with someone that knows the boat information and the estimated time of return.  This person would be responsible to notify the Coast Guard of an overdue vessel.  The essential elements of a float plan includes the intended destination and estimated time of arrival at that location, a description of the vessel and its state registration number or documentation number, the vessel’s radio call sign, the names of all crew onboard, and alternative plans in case of bad weather.

Sample Float Plan

  1. Description of vessel:

    A. Boat number and/or name: ___________________________________
    B. Size: ___________________________________ 
    C. Make: ___________________________________ 
    D. Capacity: ___________________________________ 
    E. Number of engines: ___________________________________ 

  2. Number of persons on board:

    Names and addresses: ___________________________________ 

  3. Radio Equipment

    A. Ship to shore: ___________________________________ 
    B. Channel Monitored: ___________________________________ 

  4. Trip Plan

    A. From: ___________________________________ 
    B. To: ___________________________________ 
    C. Departure Time: ___________________________________ 
    D. Estimated Time of Arrival: ___________________________________ 

  5. If not at destination by: ___________________________________ 

    Notify: ___________________________________ 

  6. If emergency arises contact the Coast Guard at: ___________________________________

    Signed: ___________________________________ 

Captain and Crew Checklist

  1.  Check oil, water, fuel, and check for leaks.
  2.  Maintain diagrams for fire extinguishers, thru hull fittings, bilge pumps.  Locate fire buckets and assign duties.  Read emergency procedures.  Assign PFD diagram demonstration.
  3. Assign vent shutdown, abandon ship bucket, EPIRB Log
  4. Assign trash removal.  Discuss placards for oil and drugs.
  5. Assign crowd control for man overboard, fire, and abandon ship.
  6. Radio check, distress card log, weather, electronics, tides, float plan.
  7. Appoint a lookout.  This is required for all vessels at all times.
  8. Captain is responsible for head count.
  9. Assign undocking/docking responsibilities, warnings, and CPR/First Aide.  Log all injuries and notify Coast Guard of any injury requiring more than standard first aide.


10. Assist with boarding/handling
11. Caution of wet deck/floor.  Use two hands on ladders (no carrying soda or gear when climbing ladders).   Let Captain or crew know of any concerns.
12. Check with crew for requests.
13. PFD/Fire Extinguisher locations.  Procedures for a man overboard, Channel 16, emergency button, float plan and weather information.
14. MSD/Pollution/drug policy/medical information/ask if they can swim
15. Protect hands/fingers. Handling waves and wakes.

The Captain must make sure he and the crew comply with drug prevention policies and screening.  Have each crew member sign a drug and alcohol policy.

Safety Equipment and Procedures

Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is a small transmitter that sends out emergency signals to rescue services.  Their use is limited to Mayday-type emergencieswhere a vessel is in danger of sinking.

It is important to register your EPIRB and to notify them of any changes that occur after it is registered.  Generally they come with the battery disconnected, so it is important to make sure that the battery is in place.  They should be tested monthly for one second during the first 5 minutes of any hour.  Avoid false alarms when transporting or moving the device. 

Type I is automatic and will float free.  Type II is manual.  Both work off satellites.  Since rescue vessels will be directed toward the EPIRB signal, it is important to keep the EPIRB in the area of the people on the vessel.

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)  Federal regulations require that there be at least one Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on a vessel (46CFR 25.25-5)  A vessel may not be used unless all the life jackets are in serviceable condition, readily accessible, legibly marked, and are of an appropriate size for each person on board.

While these are considered secondary (life rafts are primary), it is important to make sure the vessel has the proper number on board and that all crew and passengers know where they are stored.  They should not be stored in plastic and should be readily accessible.  Children’s life jackets should be stored in a different area than adult life jackets.  Work vests should be stored in a different area than life jackets.  Try them out individually to make sure they operate properly, especially the water lights and reflective material.  If they are damaged they need to be replaced immediately.  After use always air-dry each floatation device thoroughly and away from any direct heat source.  Then store it in a dry, well-ventilated, easily accessible place on board the boat.

Type I has 22 lbs. of buoyancy in adults (11 lbs. in children) and are designed to float with the person’s head up.

Type II are near shore buoyant vests.  State Law requires that children 6 years and under must wear this.

Type III is floatation aids and is popular because they are comfortable.

Type IV are throwable devices, such as a ring life buoy or buoyant cushion.  These do not take the place of a life jacket.

Type V are hybrid inflatables and are least bulking with CO2 inflation.  Make sure you check it often.

Retroreflective material is required on all life jackets used on commercial vessels.   Each life jacket is required to have 31 square inches of retroreflective material attached to the front and backsides.  Life jacket lights are required on vessels in the ocean, coastwise, or in the Great Lakes.  It must be securely attached at the front area of the shoulder.  The power source must be replaced on or before its expiration date.

Immersion Suits
 are Coast Guard approved insulated, dry suits designed to reduce the effects of hypothermia.

Abandon Ship Procedures

Life Rafts are considered primary life-saving equipment.  A life raft must be packed and inspected by an authorized person, and must be serviced within 12 months of its initial packing (46CFR185.730).  A life raft must be serviced whenever the container of the raft is damaged or the straps or seals have been broken.  They should be stowed so that it can be launched in the shortest possible time and embark as many persons as possible even under unfavorable conditions in an emergency (46CFR180.130).  Life rafts that weigh more than 200 pounds or that must be lifted more than one foot vertically must have a mechanical, manually operated device to assist in launching. It is released by either a hydrostatic release button (15 ft.) or a weak link (100 ft).   Make sure to secure it to a permanent object on deck.  They tend to overinflate in warm climates.  Life rafts often inflate upside down and will need to be righted.  Most have a righting strap to assist in the process.  Some come with a survival kit, but you can add other essential items, such as a first aid kit.  A sea anchor deploys holding you into the wind and seas. Storm Oil, which is biodegradable, can help reduce chop.  Be careful of the cord-cutting knife in the raft. 

Required equipment for inflatable life rafts includes an instruction manual, instruction card, boarding ladder, heaving line, lifelines, jackknife, outside light, interior light, paddles, painter, pump, righting gear, and sea anchor.  The instruction manual and card are printed on water-resistant film and suspended inside the canopy of the raft.  The instruction manual must include survival information as well as an illustrated table of lifesaving signals.  The instruction card illustrates the immediate steps to take upon entering the raft and explains how the inflation system operates as well as the noises one should expect to hear.  The boarding ladder is at the raft entrance along with handholds to help survivors climb inside.  The heaving line is buoyant and not less than 100 feet long with a breaking strength of at least 250 pounds.  It has a buoyancy ring at one end and the other end is attached to the raft near the boarding entrance.  Two lifelines of not less than 9/16 inch nylon tubular webbing or equivalent must be fitted to the raft.  One line is attached around the outside edge of the raft hung in loops no more than 24” long and fastened at intervals no more than 18” apart.  Each bight must hang within 3” of the waterline when the raft is fully loaded so as to put it in reach of a person in the water.  One jackknife of an approved type must be placed in a pocket near the forward entrance where it is readily available to cut the painter of other lines, if needed.  The outside light is mounted on top of the canopy and must have a power source that will operate the light for 12 hours so that it can be seen from a distance of two miles.  The light  must be watertight, be powered by water activated batteries that operate automatically when the raft is inflated, and be capable of 12 months of service.  The interior light must have a separate power source that can operate the light 12 hours and can be turned on and off.  The raft must have two paddles that are four feet long.  The painter must be 100 feet long and made of easy to grip nylon line.  A pump with a hose for manual inflating and deflating is required.  The righting straps are made of strong web material that runs the full length of the raft.  Two sea anchors fitted with 50 feet of ¼” braided nylon line are stowed one inside and one outside the raft.  The one outside the raft streams automatically when the raft is inflated.

Only enter a raft when it is absolutely necessary and try to stay near the vessel as you will be easier to spot.  Send a MAYDAY and make sure that you bring the EPIRB with you into the raft.  Remember that rescue will be coming for your EPIRB as that is what is sending the signal.  Assure passengers that help has been request and that it is important for them to follow stated procedures.  A positive attitude can make the difference for survival.  Everyone should put on warm clothes of immersion suit, if applicable, as well as life jackets.  Avoid entering the water, if possible.  Don’t jump into cold water, but gradually lower yourself into it, if it is necessary.  Once in the water, do not swim unless attempting to get to the raft as swimming causes rapid heat loss.  Keep all survivors together.  Conserve heat by bringing your arms and legs close to your body, keeping your head out of the water.  Try to get to the raft or floating debris as quickly as possible, getting yourself out of the water.  Put someone in charge and ration food and water.  Give everyone jobs to do.  Avoid sea-sickness with pills, if available.  Learn to hand-line.

For a helicopter rescue, don’t grab the cable until it touches the water (grounds out).  Don’t tie the sled to the boat.  Light the rescue area on your vessel as much as possible, if at night.  Be careful not to shine lights at the helicopter.  Lash any rigging or booms.  The stern is usually the best area for a hoist.  Remember that there will be a lot of noise from the helicopter, so voice communication will be difficult.  Don’t wear a ball cap.  If a litter is required, make sure the patient is strapped in, face up, with life jacket on.  Deck personnel should give the thumbs up to the helicopter to indicate the hoist is ready. 

Signaling Devices
 include any device used to signal in the event of an emergency.  Flares and rockets are good for three years.  When deploying, hold them down wind and watch for slag to prevent getting burned.  Know how to engage them.  SOLAS approved flares are much more powerful than Coast Guard approved flares as they adhere to a higher standard. They are good for short distances day or night, while VHF, EPRIB, etc. are good for long distances. The CFR’s contain flare requirements for Uninspected Vessels (33CFR175.139) and for Inspected Vessels (46CFR180.68).  Other signaling devices would include mirrors, whistles, and waving arms.

Man Overboard

If a person falls overboard, avoid running over them, throw a floatation device with a strobe light attached, and keep the person in sight.  Point and give direction to the person operating the vessel.  Have a crew member put on a life jacket or immersion suit with an attached safety line and be ready to jump into the water to assist the person overboard, if necessary.  Approach carefully from downwind, throw life line and assist them on board.  If the person is not located immediately, notify the Coast Guard and other vessels nearby, utilizing the radio.  This would be a Pan Pan call.  Continue to search for the person until released by the Coast Guard.

A Williamson Turn can be used to return to the position where the person fell overboard.  When the person falls overboard, the person at the helm should immediately alter course 60 degrees in the direction of the person overboard, then full opposite rudder until back on the reciprocal track.  Don’t touch the throttle keeping your speed constant.  Keep the person in constant view, with all hands assisting in recovering this person.

If you fall overboard yell prior to hitting the water.  Don’t panic, assume the help position and conserve body heat (drinking alcohol speeds up heat loss because it dilates blood vessels).  If you can, stay out of the water as heat loss is greater in the water than in air.  Hypothermia occurs with extreme heat loss, with most heat being lost from the head, chest and groin areas of the body.

If you see a person fall overboard, yell “Man Overboard” as loud as possible and indicate which side of the boat the person fell from.  Simultaneously point to the person and give information to the helmsman.  Keep visual contact with the person overboard.  The helmsman should immediately cut the throttles and avoid running over the person in the water.  They can also take GPS bearings, if possible.  Throw floatation with a strobe light.  The mate should put on a PFD in case they need to enter the water and retrieve the person against the wind and current, pulling them safely on board.  Treat for shock.

The Williamson Turn

  1. Put the rudder over full in the same direction as the person (as with the Anderson Turn, #1).
  2. When clear of the person, go ahead full using full rudder.
  3. When the heading is about 60 degrees beyond the original course, immediately shift the rudder to full over in the opposite direction. (60 degrees is correct for many vessels, but the exact amount must be determined through trial and error.)
  4. Continue the turn until the boat is heading 180° from the original course (for example, if the old heading was 90°, the new heading will be 270°) after the turn.
  5. Bring the vessel upwind of the person, stop the vessel in the water with the person along-side, well forward of the propellers.
Wind Direction

Practical Exercise: Conduct a Man Overboard drill and the Williamson Turn.  Make sure you know all the steps. State it’s a drill and never let someone actually enter the water.

First Aid

It is important that all crew members know what to do in case of medical emergencies.  In all medical emergencies there is always the risk of a person going into shock, and it may not always be the injured person. 

  • It is extremely important that a victim is treated for shock promptly.  Lie them down, cover, elevate feet, and give a non-alcoholic stimulant.  Symptoms of shock include dilated pupils and cold clammy skin.  Treat shock seriously as it can be fatal even if the injury is not life-threatening.
  • For a choking victim, the Abdominal Thrust (ABD Thrust) should be used as a last resort, and only if the victim is not breathing on his/her own. 
  • For a broken bone, a splint would keep the bones immobile while getting the person to medical help.  A compound fracture occurs when the bone protrudes through the skin.
  • For a cut or puncture, applying direct pressure can stop the bleeding.  If the blood spurts an artery is severed or punctured.
  • For an eye injury, covering both eyes can prevent further damage from eye movement.
  • A person going into diabetic shock can be given something sweet.
  • Dilution is the best treatment for exposure to poison.  Acids can be treated with a base, like baking soda, while exposure to a strong base can be treated with a week acid, such as vinegar.
  • The 3 classes of burns are First Degree (redness), Second Degree (blistering), and Third Degree (charring).  Cover with a thick sterile dressing to prevent infection.