Date: Thu Aug 16, 2001 6:36 am
It is unforgivable to not observe a minimum of precautions offshore, at all times if you are solo or short-handed as I always am, and certainly at night or as soon as you take the first reef no matter how many crew. Even in L I Sound, when solo, I follow the same precautions, despite the crowds and shore closeness:
1. No one comes out of the cabin unless fully equipped with lifejacket and harness, which is hooked on one of two big rings on deck (traveler's ends) either side of the stairs. The hooking is permanent, whether on these rings (line long enough to reach the helm station) or on a stay (one advantage of a ketch's mizzen mast is the sturdy web of stays around the cockpit), or on the jacklines laid on deck on either side if you have to go for'ard, which may be necessary despite having brought all halyards to the cockpit station.
2. Life jacket permanently carries strobe light and whistle. Some day, EPIRB's will be small enough to add to the life jacket. If my crew is not so equipped, he takes over my life jacket when changing watch.
In very hot tropics, you might omit the lifejacket (and everything else) if unbearable, but never the harness and the hooking.
I believe that such precautions would have saved the day for your friend's father, even if the harness line had broken, if the crew was as good as stated and the boat worth its salt. These two are prerequisite to go offshore, if you have any crew at all. Eric Tabarly ignored them and died for it, a sad example to all offshore sailors from a hero too centered on his own whims or perceived comfort. Today's lifejackets can be very comfortable, mine is a good added protection from wind and cold, and I have two inflatable sospenders for hot weather or finicky crew.