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Staying Safe this Winter

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

Staying on your vessel or even living on a boat seems idyllic; especially when you picture calm waters, a warm sunny breeze and peeping out of your window to see a swan wishing you good morning. However, it can be quite a different picture in the winter...

With winds up to 120mph, snow & sleet storms, torrential rain akin to something out of Jumanji, a winter spent on the marina is not for the faint of heart! But, the good news is, once you've been through one, you're better prepared for the next. So, for all our lovely new berth holders who are spending their first winter with us, here are some top tips on staying safe!

1) Wear Appropriate Footwear

Just like garden decking, the pontoons can get very slippy when wet. Despite the jet washing programme in place and the grit we will lay down, we cannot foresee every eventuality or cover every inch, therefore wearing appropriate footwear when navigating the pontoons during wet or icy weather will put you in better footing to get on and off safely (no pun intended!) This may seem obvious but, especially for the ladies, wearing heels or even heeled boots to go to that Christmas party isn't the best idea - especially once you've had a Martini or two! We recommend that you use the lockers in the shower facilities to store your 'out-out' shoes and swap with well gripped soled shoes for the hike. If you are at all unsure or unsteady, it is always better to have someone chaperone you to your boat.

2) Wear your Life Jacket

The clue with this handy piece of kit really is in the name. A life jacket can save your life should you happen to fall into the water. Falling in the water is more common than you might think and whilst in the Summer when the water is warmer it may be easier to swim to a ladder and get out, in the Winter, the cold water will cause instant shock - an instant inhale of breath and you have 60 seconds before you might drown.

'An automatic gasp reflex occurs in response to rapid skin cooling. If the head goes below water, water may be breathed into the lungs, resulting in drowning.'

If you have your life jacket on and can make yourself known (using the whistles provided for example), you have a far better chance of not going under the water. If you can keep yourself afloat, others can use the life rings to haul you in where you will be taken into the care of emergency services.

If you are aware of poor weather; storms, ice, snow or heavy rain, please do wear your life jacket whilst on the pontoons. This is even more important if you are coming back from a Christmas celebration and have had a few too many. Pick up your life jacket and your trainees from the lockers provided and get back to your boat safely.

Please note, children must always be wearing a whilst jacket whatever the weather whilst on the pontoons.

3) Familiarise Yourself

If you've been with the marina for a long time, the various life saving and health & safety equipment around you can be easy to miss - it feels like part of the scenery after a while! But we encourage you to take a moment to walk the pontoons and familiarise yourself with your local ladder, your local life ring, fire rotary bell, first aid box and fire extinguisher. In an emergency, it is natural to panic and the brain can become foggy making it difficult to think clearly. This is made even more challenging if you haven't noticed where the life ring or first aid box is before. You never know when someone might need you to help save their life. If you know where all the life rings are on the walk to your berth; if you know where the rotary bell is and you know where that first aid box is, you'll be well equipped should the time ever come. Better still, you are welcome to familiarise yourself with the equipment by taking a life ring and practicing using it; do you know how to untie a throw line? Do you know how to release the extinguisher from the box? Do you know how to sound the rotary bell?

4) Test it Out

Following on from the above, it is worth asking yourself if you would know what to do if you did hear someone fall in the water. Would you jump in yourself? Would you sound the rotary bell? Would you throw them a life ring? What if they were suffering with shock syndrome and couldn't grab the ring? What would you do? It might seem like a sober thought, but having these eventualities played out in your mind with a plan of what you would do will always help should the situation ever arise.

Having discussed this process with Tim Selby from Merseyside Search Fire & Rescue, in the event that someone does fall in the water, you should:

  • Immediately try to throw a life ring to them. Release the ring from the box, loosen the throw lines and throw the ring holding on to the throw line to them as close as possible. If they can put the ring over their head and arms so that the ring is securely around their waist, you should then pull them in towards the nearest ladder to you. As they will be wearing clothes and be wet, it will be very difficult for one man to pull them out, so you should always call and shout for as much help as possible.

  • Use the rotary bells if you can. The bells do not need to be used for fire emergencies only. The bells can be used for any emergency where you need to raise the alarm.

  • Call 999. From town, it should take no longer than 6 minutes to get to the marina. However, with all the stretches the NHS are facing it could take longer. Calling 999 as soon as you're aware of the incident will leave less time for the patient to wait once they're out of the water.

  • Cover them with warm clothing. Blankets, jackets, whatever you can find until emergency services reach them.

  • *If required* use the defibrillator. The defib is on the wall by the entrance of the marina. You will need your phone to call the number on the front which will give you a code to release the defib. Take the defib down to the patient and follow the instructions. Note, the defib will not shock if it detects a heart beat.

  • Never jump into the water yourself. As distressing and tempting as it might be, you can never prepare for the shock of the cold water and the likelihood is, there will be two casualties rather than one. Always call 999 instead and follow the steps above whilst you wait for them to arrive.

5) Avoid Alcohol & Drugs

This seems like an obvious one, but over the festive period some get a little merrier than they would usually. Drugs + alcohol + water is high risk factor and sadly, these two elements have been the cause of the majority of casualties or deaths at the marina to date. If you are going to a party or celebration, we encourage you to plan to have someone meet you at the gangway and escort you down to your vessel - just to be on the safe side.

6) Safety In Numbers

If you can, do not walk alone. We have all been caught in 40/50mph winds outside and have nearly been blown off our feet. But even if you were to be blown off your feet, you'd only fall onto the ground and maybe graze your knee. But, get blown over on a pontoon...? You could literally be blown into the water - especially when the winds hit highs of 70-100mph as they did earlier in the year with storm Eunice. Walking in numbers will always be safer in this scenario. Having a few at The Yacht Club Sports Bar? Why not check who's on your side and see what time they're leaving? Leave with them rather than leave alone.

7) Use the Salt

There are buckets of Salt at the top of each gangway. Whilst we will continue to grit the pontoons through the week and where possible on the weekends, during the Christmas holidays for example we may not be able to grit daily. You are welcome to stock up on grit to grit around your area as you need. Please do use this facility as much as you need during icy or snowy weather.

8) Check your Lines

Over time and especially during stormy weather, your lines may become slack causing your vessel to swing and sway more than usual. Without sufficient fenders, you may risk swinging into your neighbour or worse, causing stress on the pontoon from the weight of your vessel until it snaps! Our team will be checking your lines during their muster checks, but please do check and tighten or loosen your lines as required for the weather and water levels at the time.

We wish you all a happy Christmas & New Year - stay safe and stay in touch.

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