Safety and training for blue water cruising on a catamaran

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To be or not to be...competent!
Before taking the decision to leave, and often even until the end of their voyage, most skippers taking their family to the other side of the world ask themselves if they have the ability, and if they are not taking foolhardy risks. And let’s be clear about this, those people who don’t ask themselves questions about safety when ocean cruising shouldn’t really be afloat...
Risk is inherent in a voyage. It’s a fact. But the experience of the magazine’s readers shows that dramatic accidents are extremely rare and almost always the result of a succession of unforeseeable events, and poor reactions by the crew. Hence the importance of leaving with a well-prepared catamaran and a well-trained crew.

Training yourself and training the catamaran crew

The good news is that here at the magazine, we have lost count of the number of families who had never sailed before, but set off on (and returned from) an Atlantic, Mediterranean or West Indian circuit with no problems, and thoroughly enjoyed their voyage. There is no need to have started sailing as a youngster and to have served your time in Optimists or Hobie 16s, or to have won prizes in the most prestigious ocean races, to be able to envisage taking your family to the other side of the ocean. The important thing, even if you are starting from zero, is to get suitable training, and also to train your crew. Because if there is only one person aboard capable of handling the catamaran, the slightest problem can have serious consequences.
This is why most cruising schools insist on training the whole crew, including the children. Thus everyone is capable of reacting in the different critical situations which can arise, such as the start of a fire, a (wo)man overboard, or quite simply to let the skipper rest after a hard night, if it’s just a question of taking in a reef or anchoring when you arrive in the bay of your dreams... The idea here is to allow everyone to be independent, and as a minimum, to be able to recover a man overboard, furl and hoist the sails, anchor, plot a course and of course, call for help. And the only way to get a grasp of your subject is to practice! So before embarking the family for a voyage lasting several months, you and the rest of your crew must sail very regularly. The best idea is to buy a small catamaran – a sport catamaran would do the job perfectly – which will serve for training and putting into practice the lessons learnt on your courses. That should be enough to occupy your weekends and holidays in the year before your departure! Sailing on a sport catamaran is particularly useful, as you will learn the most, and in the best way possible, about using and understanding you future cruiser. How do you manage the daggerboards, if your future catamaran is equipped with them? And is it best to have a spinnaker or a gennaker? All the literature in the world will never replace your experience aboard a catamaran, when it comes to making ...

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