Introduction to Safety
At the Baltimore Rowing Club, safety is our highest priority—after, developing skills, improving, fitness and participating in competition. We must protect people first, and then protect equipment. It is the responsibility of rowers, coaches, coxswains, and members to take personal responsibility for reading this guide, being familiar with it, and following it. Each coach, cox, bow person or rower is responsible for checking equipment and watching for dangerous weather. In addition, coaches, coxes and bow persons must follow the traffic patterns diligently. Rowers are expected to alert the coach, cox, or bow person if anything is amiss. In this chapter we will outline considerations that are specific to addressing safety at BRC; we will also address procedures that, if not followed systematically, increase the chance of mishaps on the water.
The Log Book
Every boat must be signed out before leaving the dock. This applies to each BRC member regardless if the boat is club or privately owed. It is the primary responsibility of the coxswain or bow person to sign out the boat. Coaches are also responsible for informing and reminding less experience rowers and coxswains of this requirement.
The log book should note that time of departure and the expected time of return. The log should also note the expected destination. There are time where rowers will change their destination while on the water for a number of reasons. Rowers should keep in mind that in the event of an emergency, coaches and others will head in the direction noted in the log book.
A BRC boat may be taken out only
- When a coach assigns it; or
- By a certified bow person
Each boat should have a set of sling placed just in front of the bay doors spaced apart appropriately for the size of boat. The slings not only provide a convenient place to rest the boat so that the equipment can be checked and adjusted. But also provides a convenient place to rest the boat if it has to be removed from the dock in an emergency.
Taking the Boat Out
Before Heading to the Dock
Check your equipment--riggers, seats, stretchers, oars, etc.
Checking equipment while in slings
Well-functioning equipment is essential to avoiding mishaps and to rowing safely. Each rower is responsible for checking his or her equipment. Here's a checklist:
- Be sure the bow has a bow ball at least 1 1/2 inches in diameter and firmly attached.
- Close all hatches.
- Make sure shoes have "quick release" heel attachments that restrain the heels so they rise no more than 2 inches.
- Position stretchers so that the oar swings properly for the rower's size.
- Check that bolts and nuts on the riggers are tight, and the rigger is at the correct height .
- Check to see that oars, seats, tracks and stretchers are in good shape.
- For boats with a coxswain, check that the cox box and speakers are in good working order.
For your safety it is suggested that dangling jewelry such as bracelets and necklaces and pierced objects and rings be removed.
Getting the boat
BRC shares docks with other clubs and organizations and are also often used by local crabbers and fishermen. It is important to check the dock area to verify that the travel path is clear of objects and people and that there are no boats coming in before lifting a boat out of slings
Everybody must lift and lower the heavy boats together. Be quiet and pay attention to the the coxswain or bow person. The coxswain or bow person is in command of the boat. Act when the cox or bow says to act, not before.
Getting (and Staying) in the Boat
Checking equipment while at the dock.
- Once in the boat, it is important to check the equipment again.
- Check that your clothing is snug-fitting to your body and not dangling so it will not catch under the seat, on the tracks, or on the oars.
- Check the oarlock gate is securely fastened. Do not open it until everyone is out of the boat on your return.
- Check that the path of travel to the dock is clear of objects and people
In the Boat
- Never (and we do mean never) let go of your oar. It's a powerful lever and you must keep it under control.
- In multi-person boats be quiet and attentive to the coach or cox, and comply with their instructions.
- Tell the cox of any hazard you see, especially if you do not think the cox has seen it.
- Tell the cox if you hear thunder or see lightning or believe the clouds or wind are becoming threatening.
Know the hazards of being on the water and what to do in the case of an emergency.
Docking a boat can be a challenge, especially when there is heavy boat traffic, wind, or when returning in darkness. It is very important that the crew listens and follows the
instructions of the coxswain or bow person. On occasion you may need to communicate to those on the dock to clear away.
Once at the dock, wait for instructions from the coxswain or bow person before stepping out of the boat onto the dock. The crew should step onto the dock at the same time and the outward oars should remain on the water until everyone is on the dock. Oars should remain in the oar locks until the command is give to remove them.
When lifting the boat out of the water, be mindful of the wind conditions. A gust of wind can catch a boat like a sail and cause injury.
When moving the boat from the dock up to the boathouse, check that the travel path is clear of objects and people. Be mindful of people and objects when turning a boat and rolling it down to slings.
When the boat is returned safely to the rack, be sure to log the boat back in, noting the time of return. Check to see what other boats are still logged out and if there are enough slings out. Extra slings should be returned to the boathouse.
Rowing in the Dark
In the Dark
In the spring and fall, it is not uncommon for crews to leave or return to the dock in darkness. In such situation, it is important that all boats and crews be prepared. Boats must be properly lit if the rowing session starts in the dark or will continue to an hour or less before dark .
Be seen and be heard.
In the dark, ALL boats MUST have functional bow and stern lights. Bow lights are red/port and green/starboard, and the stern light is white. Coxswains and bow persons are primarily responsible for checking that a boat has the proper lights affixed. Coaches should not all any boat to leave the dock without proper lighting.
Become completely familiar with the traffic patterns and locations of the channel markers in daylight so you can give the markers a wide berth and adhere strictly to the traffic pattern in the dark.
Pay attention to the location of other boats and watch for all oncoming traffic, particularly near the dock where traffic is dense.
Proceed with particular caution when there is trash in the water after a rain.
Stuff that Gets in Your Way
Watch for debris after a rain. Be alert to dead trees, old railroad ties, or plywood floating just below the surface. If you hit something, check your hull on your return. Get necessary repairs started right away.
Boats and ships
Stay out of the way of boats and ships. These operators may not see you, they have limited maneuverability and they throw up wakes. If you can't avoid them, make a lot of noise. Remember the U.S. Cole and stay far away from Navy ships. Note that sailboats have the right-of-way, even over boats.
If an approaching wake or wave is higher than the gunwale,
- turn the boat parallel to the wake. (This avoids the wake lifting the ends of the boat, leaving the center unsupported.)
- Rowers stop rowing and lean away from the approaching wake, with oar(s) on the wake side lifted slightly.
If the wake or waves are lower than the gunwale you can head directly into it.
If wake/waves are lower than the gunwale and widely spaced, continue to row without a course adjustment.
Turning in waves is tricky; allow plenty of room, energy and time.
In the Launch
Check that proper equipments is in each coach’s launch. Coaches must always use a safety launch when coaching their programs. Everyone in the launch must wear a life jacket at all times. In addition, all launches must have:
- At least 9 life jackets,
- Nine "space" blankets,
- A whistle or air horn audible at 220 yards,
- A throw rope,
- A bailer,
- A paddle or oar,
- White stern light and red (port) and green (starboard) lights (if dark or if sunset is an hour or less later than the end of practice),
- A basic first aid kit with disinfectant, tape and gauze and scissors, and a ladder that can be attached to the side of the launch.
Other items that may be considered for added safety include a cell phone (or walkie talkie), a flashlight, wrenches and pop-its, and a laminated copy of Coast Guard rules and the legal status of personal floatation devices (PFDs) on our waters.
A violent crab can lever a rower out of the boat. If this happens:
- To you, swim down until the boat has passed with its fast moving oars and riggers.
- If you see a rower ejected, yell, "Weigh 'nuff, hold water!"
- Extend flotation to the rower--an oar, a shirt, an empty, sealed water bottle
- Pull the rower to the boat.
- It may be possible to set the boat so that the rower can hoist him/herself back in.
- Immediately hail the coaching launch.
Collison or Running Aground
Remember that in the event of a collision with another boat or object, the safety of the crew is paramount over the condition of the boat. Immediately check with all crew members as to their physical conditions. Once that has been determined, evaluate the damage to the boat and determine if crew and boat can proceed safely.
If your boat runs aground on a sandbar, stop rowing immediately at your coxswain’s command.
The coxswain should try backing out if the boat is not too far up on a sandbar, but try not to scrape the bottom of the boat. If you have become too stuck on the sandbar to back off if it, rowers will have to get out one by one on the sandbar until the boat becomes light enough to lift and push off of the sandbar. Take great care that the bottom is firm enough. A muddy bottom can pull you down.
Rowers assisting from the water in pushing the boat off the sandbar should try to remain in shallow water, being careful of sudden drop-offs. The rowers should then carefully get back into the boat and return the boat to the boathouse.
Once back on land, check the hull of the boat for damage.
If a boat swamps, rolls, or starts to sink:
- Remove your feet from the shoes.
- Get out if the boat is unstable or has rolled guts-side-down.
- Stay with the boat.
- Account for everybody.
- Buddy up. The cox should buddy with the stern pair.
- Check on each other constantly.
- Hold each other's hands across the upturned hull.
- Get back into a single or double, of possible.
- If it's not possible to get back in, wave an arm, an oar, a shirt, or blow your whistle to signal trouble.
Sometimes it will be possible to move the boat to shallow water where you can stand up, shake the water out of the boat, and climb back in. Be careful of soft, muddy bottoms. They may be too thick to swim in and too thin to stand on. Do not let go of your boat without firm footing.
If the water is cold, get out of the water as soon as possible--back into the single or double, or up on the hull of an upturned boat. If that is not possible, huddle like spoons for warmth. Hold onto each other across the boat so no one slips under, even if they lose strength or consciousness.
If hoisting in is not possible and there is no available launch, the person could grab hold of the stern of another boat and then all should row back to the dock, pulling the capsized boat and rower.
Because a panicked person in the water can pull down a rescuer, thereby drowning both, it is NOT advisable for another person to leave the boat or launch and go into the water to attempt rescue. This type of rescue should only be considered under extreme circumstances by persons with advanced training.
When the situation is stabilized, continue to evaluate the appearance and orientation of the person in the water. Note that people becoming hypothermic often say they are all right when they are actually deteriorating.
In general, if someone becomes disoriented or lightheaded, get back to the boathouse or to shelter, get their temperature back to normal, and if appropriate, call 911.
Something Go Wrong?
It's important to report all incidents to a Member of the Safety Comittee. Reports must include:
|Incident Report, Baltimore Rowing Club|
|Date||Name of person reporting|
|Persons involved and any injuries|
|Boats involved and any damage|
|How could this have been prevented?|