An escape route is a critical part of your passage plan or manoeuvre. Having an escape route thought out ahead of time is an important part of your passage plan or manoeuvre preparation, whether you are a beginner or seasoned skipper.
Passage Planning Escape Route
Whether you are sailing offshore or heading along a coastal route, passage planning is the key to a safe and successful trip. Passage planning is important because it helps you to confidently execute your journey and avoid any issues that may arise.
When we create a passage plan these escape routes are called ‘Ports of Refuge’. If unpredicted weather arrives, where can you stop for shelter? ‘Ports of Refuge’ are useful to have noted if there is a problem that stops you from getting to your destination.
Manoeuvre Escape Route
The same concept applies when you are thinking about making a manoeuvre. We need an alternative option or escape route just in case something doesn’t go to plan on the first attempt. Maybe the wind shifts, or you simply misjudge the manoeuvre or tide. Think about how you would turn the boat in relation to the wind and tide, or whether you need to have the engine on for reversing. Every manoeuvre should have an escape plan, whether docking, picking up a buoy, or recovering a man overboard.
Don’t feel under pressure! It is much safer to go around and have a second attempt (using your escape route), after revising the plan with the crew. Keeping your boat and crew safe is the top priority.
Briefing & Communication
After you have prepared your passage or manoeuvre plan, clearly brief your crew on the factors involved and their positions, or if any actions are required. Communication is key when performing a manoeuvre as the crew are your eyes, ears, and hands; they may be the first to alert you if something is amiss or if you need to use your escape route.