ALWAYS, revisited (Additional critical items that must be conformed to)

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Times in Sailing when the Word Always Applies

A few weeks ago I wrote an article entitled “Always! Really?”. The article was about the strict meaning of the word “always” and, more importantly, the proper loading and use of a winch.

Today, I want to expand that discussion of proper usage by describing some more occasions, when boating, that the word “always” applies.

Electronic gas solenoid

I always turn the electronic gas solenoid off when I have finished using the boat’s stove or oven.

This is critical. If the solenoid is left on, the propane — a highly explosive gas – can, if a leak develops, flow into the interior of the boat (the cabin). Since propane is heavier air, it will seek the lowest part of the boat, the bilge. Any spark, no matter how small, can cause the accumulated gas to explode, destroying not just the boat, but also any boats in the immediate area.

Leaks can occur at any location in the gas plumbing, but certain areas are more susceptible than others. Those areas include:

  • Where gas lines pass through bulkheads
  • Any place that the piping is joined together, such as the rigid pipe connection to the flexible hose leading to the stove
  • The flexible hose connection to the stove

Always, turn off the propane electronic solenoid!

Attach the kill switch

I always attach the dingy engine’s Kill Switch strap to my wrist.

The Kill Switch on the dinghy’s engine will not keep me alive. However, it will keep me from dying as a result of the dinghy running over me if I am ejected.

One very common way the "clip" is attached to the engine.  (red button can also be pressed to stop engine)
One very common way the “clip” is attached to the engine. (red button can also be pressed to stop engine)

The kill switch strap is attached to a clip on one end and attaches to your wrist on the other. The clip is fitted to the engine in one of several ways. The common factor of all the attachment methods is that a switch on the engine is kept in the “on” position by the clip, allowing the engine to run. If the clip is removed, the switch will automatically be turned “off” and the engine will shut down instantly.

This strap can be worn on the wrist or clipped to the PFD the driver is wearing
This strap can be worn on the wrist or clipped to the PFD the driver is wearing

With the strap being worn, if the driver is thrown from the dinghy or tossed off balance within it, their arm’s drastic movement will force the clip from its attachment point and the engine will stop.

So, why would the driver be ejected from or tossed about the dingy? Most dinghies are RIB’s. A RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) is a boat with a fiberglass or aluminum hull and air inflated chambers, called tubes, surrounding it on all sides except the transom, where the outboard engine is mounted.

The tubes serve several functions including:

  • Keeping water out of the boat
  • Give the passengers someplace to sit
  • Adding stability and buoyancy
  • Acting as fenders when coming alongside another vessel

RIB’s are typically equipped with outboard motors ranging from eight to twenty horsepower. These engines are easily capable of bringing the dinghy up on plane and traveling at speeds in excess of 15 knots. In addition, RIBS equipped with these engines are able to turn extremely rapidly requiring very small movements of their tiller.


What’s a blob??

Have you ever seen someone “BLOBed”? Well, sitting on the tubes of a RIB is very similar. When the tube gets compressed, either from a wave below or someone else on the tube being bounced, the rapid compression of the air within the tubes can launch you like a water-balloon on Fourth of July! That, combined with the rapid change of direction from an unintended quick turn has the potential to make the driver or one of the passengers look like a stunt-person in a B-rated movie. If the victim is the driver, then an already dangerous situation can become deadly! The Kill Switch doesn’t prevent the unexpected departure from happening, but it “kills” the engine and stops the boat when it does.

I ALWAYS wear the Kill Switch strap when I drive a dingy!

Well, there you have it. As I think of more proper uses for the word “ALWAYS”, in regards to boating, I’ll be sure to write about them. Until then be sure to ALWAYS be On the Water…With Captain Frank.



Series Navigation<< Always! Really? (proper loading of a winch)

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