We Have Been Featured in MAIB’s Safety Digest!

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) examines and investigates all types of marine accidents to or on board UK vessels worldwide, and other vessels in UK territorial waters. This safety digest draws the attention of the marine community to some of the lessons arising from investigations into recent accidents and incidents.

Here is what our Principal, Andy Murray had to say about Recreational Vessels!

From the age of 10 as a sea scout in Mudeford Harbour, I have always been a huge advocate of being prepared. Although I took my own advice at age 10 very seriously, these core principles have stayed with me throughout my career, and I truly believe that this attitude results in a more enjoyable experience when boating.

Whether you have been sailing for most of your life as I have or are just getting into boating and are keen to set off on your maiden voyage, taking a moment to learn a thing or two about your passage, vessel and equipment is always recommended. As strong and passionate as the online boating community is, the amount of people with ‘tips and tricks’ which could get you into serious trouble on the water is worrying.

Allowing time for proper sailing preparation may feel unnecessary – particularly for someone with some boating experience – but in the event of bad weather or a malfunction, a bit of forethought could mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately for those who have relied solely on YouTube tutorials for their boating knowledge, making the right decisions in an emergency is made much easier when fortified by strong practical and theoretical knowledge, taught by a professional.

Although I completely understand the appeal and excitement of boating, being desperate to get out on the water without much (or any) professional training is a recipe for disaster. This not only concerns me as the owner of an RYA-recognised sailing school, but also makes me worry about the future of recreational boating, and how the principles that I was taught as young enthusiast may be becoming less important to the community.

Every situation outlined in the below section of this edition of MIAB Safety Digest could have been avoided if some comprehensive forward planning was applied. That’s not to say that all accidents are avoidable, but in my experience, adhering to the APEM guidelines for voyage planning (Appraisal, Planning, Execution, and Monitoring) won’t often steer you wrong.

Knowing your equipment, arming yourself with strong practical skills and theoretical knowledge, being confident in your competence on the water, and knowing how to adapt to any situation, are four key principles which every boater should follow. However, I understand that in practice, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and can lead to something which I like to call ‘Skipper Syndrome’.

A person with Skipper Syndrome only has a small amount of knowledge of boating (which they would strongly contest if asked). When I was training to become a skipper, I came across numerous people who fit this description. Their favourite phrase is: “No one tells me what to do on MY boat”, and they really don’t like wearing life vests. Although the picture I’m painting is a caricature, these people can be some of the most dangerous with whom to share the water.

One of the key parts of the APEM guidelines is the final principle – monitoring. This should be treated as a working organic risk assessment, keeping an eye on your passage and your equipment to ensure that everything is looking as it should. As a life-long boating enthusiast, I know the feeling of excitement when planning a trip, so when a plan doesn’t come to fruition as you’d like, it can be incredibly frustrating. In this moment, the importance of avoiding Skipper Syndrome and listening to the advice of your crew is vital. Sometimes, putting your ego aside and admitting that despite your best efforts, you may have to turn back, plan an alternative route, or even abandon your boat, is the hardest but most pragmatic thing that you can do.

With the rapid changes in technology in the boating industry over the last 50 years, kit which worked one way 20 years ago, may not work the same way today. Batteries have changed, with lithium batteries on superyachts and motorboats being a huge contributor to fires, and the chemical compounds of cleaning equipment may not be the same as you were used to. Everyday routines such as leaving your batteries on trickle charge or completing maintenance work upon mooring may no longer be best practice, which is why continuous learning and periodic professional training are so important.

The knowledge gained through industry recognised training and the subsequent experience gives us the confidence to tackle problems as they occur. Having the self-assurance to be able to make a qualified decision in the event of an unexpected or dangerous situation helps to keep yourself, your crew, and your vessel safe. I have heard so many stories throughout my career of those who have prioritised their pride over safety, to which I always advise that you’re never too old, too experienced, or too important to learn something new. It could save your life!

From all my experience on the water, as both a recreational boater and an RYA recognised instructor, my key piece of advice is simple – no matter how much experience you have, it’s important to always be prepared when boating.

Some people might roll their eyes and claim to have all the knowledge they need, but I remain steadfast in passing on this same message to novices and experienced sailors alike. As long as I am able, I will continue advocating for being prepared every step of the way.

ANDY MURRAY | Principal, Ocean Sports Tuition

Click here to read MAIB’s Safety Digest!

Andy learned to sail at age 10 and has been passionate about boating ever since. From a sea scout to teaching dingy sailing, his youth was filled with an excitement and wonder around the world of boating, boat safety, and teaching. Being diagnosed as dyslexic as a child only fuelled Andy’s ambition to make it in the boating industry, teaching him resilience and an appetite for success.

Aged 21, Andy travelled to Australia, sailing the Whitsundays on an 80ft maxiboat. He fell in love with big boats, and vowed to his skipper that he was going to set up his own sailing school back home in Southampton upon his return. And that’s exactly what he did.

His RYA-recognised training centre Ocean Sports Tuition has been a hub for all things boating for over 20 years, offering top quality instruction to boating enthusiasts along the South Coast. Specialising in power and motorboat training, Andy has built a legacy in his training centre which champions safety and practical training, regularly running courses for new boaters, experienced skippers, and those who want to get their commercial endorsement to start their own career in the industry.