Helping your family to help you in an Emergency

So say something terrible has happened, perhaps we have rolled and there is a hole in the yacht and we are sinking – what now!? There is stuff absolutely everywhere. Would we be able to locate everything we needed and launch the life raft? And then what?

Firstly – where is a good place to store the life raft, grab bag and EPIRB? I read an article recently which said that the glue can fail in life rafts stored permanently on deck in the hot sun. So I think we will aim to only store the life raft on deck when we are on a passage, and down below for the rest of the time. What about if everything has just been rolled 360 degrees – is it going to be possible to find the EPIRB? It might be like finding a needle in a haystack if it has been knocked off its bracket. So perhaps the best place for the EPIRB and spare VHF is to be already located in the extra grab bag. This would also have all the important documents, wallets, and anything else we can think to stash in there. Then we also have our standard grab bag which has all the other essentials – see the separate post on that.

We have already talked about in the event of any emergency, that one of us – probably Andrew (as he is the more practical one) would set to work on trying to fix and resolve the issue, while the other one – probably me – sets to work on getting the life raft launched, finding the grab bag and gathering together as much other stuff as possible.

So we set off the EPIRB and jump in the life raft – then what happens?

Well hopefully the message gets through to the nearest emergency response centre which is responsible for the area in which the beacon was activated. They will then also contact the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand – RCCNZ – as that will be where our beacon is registered. They say that it is important to buy the EPIRB in NZ as they are all coded differently and this can mean a delay in locating us.

EIPRB’s need to be registered – the information recorded is about you, your vessel and your emergency contact people. Ideally these people will be concerned about your welfare and have a pretty good idea about where you are, and have some good ideas about how to help.

So Mum/Dad and whoever else we add to the emergency contacts list – here are some ideas on how to help!

  • Firstly the RCCNZ will want to know if it is a real emergency and not a false alarm. Our plan will be to keep our blog up to date so they should have a pretty good idea if we are on a passage or what we are up to. Their contact details are as follows:
  • Our blog posts should include our GPS location, speed and course and perhaps weather conditions. Or even better a link to the map page on our blog showing our current location without us having to update it manually.
  • Ask the RCCNZ the exact position and the time that the EPIRB was set off, and the latest time and location (to get an idea of which way we are drifting) – and post this and the details to our Facebook page and Blog site asking for assistance. Spread the word with all our other sailing friends – chances are that there might be someone else nearby that might be able to help. We should leave a list of good people to contact in case of an emergency like this.
  • Remember that under-resourced countries probably do not prioritise looking for foreign registered yachts! Therefore it is important to do some extra things to help and muster the sailing community for assistance too.
  • Check out and and to see if there are any other yachts and ships in the vicinity that might be able to help.
  • Post on the Cruiser Log Forum – Distress Calls & Missing Yachts page:
  • – is another fantastic resource which will use the ham radio network to assist
  • Contact the NZ Embassy in the country that is organising the search and rescue if you need assistance with communicating/translation with the local authorities. Get their contact details so that they can communicate directly with them as well as the RCCNZ
  • Contact the Women Who Sail Facebook and Liveaboard Sailboat Facebook pages. Check which other groups on FB that I belong to – these are amazing Global networks who recently rallied around to help a fellow sailors daughter who had been mugged. Ask them to spread the word. There might be someone nearby who would be able to help out.

Helpful information you can give to these various agencies as copied from the boatwatchnet website:

  • Name and description of vessel (size, sailing or motor vessel, sail configuration, color of hull, trim, bimini, etc.), other distinguishing characteristics such as size and color of dinghy, wind vane if equipped, and hailing port or country of registration. Provide a recent photograph of the vessel and her crew.
  • What communications capability does the vessel have (Marine VHF, HF and Ham Radio gear)? If a ham radio operator is on board, what is the call sign? Are there scheduled radio contacts with the vessel and if so at what times and on what frequencies? Is the vessel equipped with WinLink 2000 or a satellite phone and its number
  • Where was the vessel when last heard from and by what means of communication (telephone, SSB radio, e-mail, etc.)? When last heard from, was there a position report given?
  • What is the vessel’s itinerary? What is next destination, estimated date of arrival, and if known, what is it’s general routing?
  • What is the reason for this report? (example: serious illness or death in the family; vessel is long over due, or family is concerned why no word in a long time, etc.).
  • Who is the message for (name of person on vessel) and what message is to be conveyed (example: “call home immediately for urgent message”, or “your family is concerned that they have not heard from you as expected, etc.)?
  • Who is making the request and are there any special instructions or phone numbers?
  • Lastly, it is requested that the person sending the report to please be responsible to let us know when the requesting party has been contacted. That is very important so that we may close out the incident in our records.

Also it will be handy to leave the following information for the contact person at home

  • The contact information for all crew on board, including their passport numbers and emergency contact details
  • The EPIRB number and date/place of registration
  • Boat and life insurance details
  • Contact details for any buddy boats travelling together and give your buddy boat the contact details for your family person at home
  • Mention other yachts and blog details who are also in the area in your blog posts. This could be a great place for someone to start if they wanted to track you down.
  • Give an estimated date of arrival, or a deadline by which they should contact the Coastguard or another yacht
  • A list of email addresses, and passwords for other accounts that may need to be accessed

Some other suggestions

  • Check in to the country and advise your contact person that you have arrived safely
  • Consider registering with your country’s embassy to advise of your travel plans
  • Have a position tracker on your blog
  • Have AIS installed on your boat. larger ships can be contacted through – and you can look up the ships contact details to request them to keep an eye out for any yachts in the vicinity

So in summary, prior to setting off on our big cruise, I will gather together a folder with all this information to leave with loved ones at home, and will aim to keep it updated regularly.

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