Power boat operational manual


This Manual is derived from Notes prepared for a course presented by Malcolm Williams, Sail Training Principal, January/February 2006


Our sailing club needs volunteers at all levels. Without them, the club cannot function.
This manual is intended :

to encourage our volunteers to contribute to the running of sailing events i.e. National championships, Coppet Week Regatta, Club races and Sail Training

to encourage teamwork in carrying out the essential tasks safely and efficiently - to inspire confidence within the individual and the team.

to ensure adequate preparation before going on the water for your personal safety, boat safety, and safety equipment

to define correct procedures for patrol boat driving and rescue operations



N.B. Many of these are the responsibility of the Bosun


Boats are empty of water, and seaworthy.

Petrol tanks are full (spare petrol in fuel store in Dinghy Park)

Club race marks are in position and start line marks are in order

If needed, regatta marks are inflated and in good condition

Boats are equipped with ground tackle and weights for marks, and their fixings

Boat anchors and warps are available, 1 per boat

Spare anchors, warps and ”crew safe• labels, 2 per boat

Tow ropes, at least 1 per boat

Safety pack, flares, (check expiry date), survival blanket, plug spanner, starter cord, wire cutters, 1 per boat

One pair of oars per boat as a means of alternate propulsion

Pressure-wash steps near dory moorings if they are slippery

If early start, then previous day, take marks and ground tackle to boats

Be aware of weather forecasts



Get there at least 1 hour before for Club races, 2 hours for Regattas.

Muster at club for briefing, decide who is doing what.

Are conditions suitable to hold the planned event?.

Are all boats adequately manned and equipped.

Wear appropriate clothing, you might need to go into the water.

Check out personal safety equipment, good fitting buoyancy aid, knife, whistle, personal protection from wind, cold and the sun.

Take drinks and snacks with you.

Collect correct killcord for your boat.

Collect radio : check that it transmits and receives on the designated channel.

Check on the location of the fairway through the harbour mouth.



Take all gear required for boat, to steps, beach, or to top of sluice wall.

ON NO ACCOUNT should anything be carried down the ladder. Both hands must be free at all times while on ladders.

Free dory mooring line at ring on wall. Climb carefully down ladders.

Have an oar passed down to you.

Disconnect the mooring rope from the bow. Connect it to the stern mooring rope clips after first disconnecting from the stern.

Pull boat out astern. Paddle to steps.

Go alongside with the port side of the dory to the steps (you are less likely to damage the engine control lever whilst transferring gear).

Load gear onto boats, boat gear first, i.e. boat anchor and warp. Secure end of warp to bow and stow anchor in such a way that it can be lowered easily and quickly.

Load petrol tank and secure it to the boat. Connect petrol hose to engine with arrow on bulb facing the engine, the other end facing the tank.

Check the engine cooling water intake is clear. Lower the engine (shallow drive if in shallow water)

Connect towing bridle clips to transom eyes.

Store and secure marks + ground tackle in the boat in such a way that they can be lowered quickly.

N.B. RIBS can be loaded at Clubhouse with normal gear but do not overload and then pull carefully across harbour to launching point. Once RIB is afloat, retrieve wheels or return trailer to dinghy park.



Check petrol connections. Squeeze bulb on petrol line until hard.

Fully open choke lever, check gear handle in neutral, throttle off and fit killcord.

Start engine by pulling starter cord. If engine does not start after four pulls repeat above. If engine still does not start, call for assistance.

After engine starts and is running correctly check adequate cooling water flow from behind the engine.

Pull out killcord to check engine stops, re fit killcord and re-start engine.



If in shallow water, keep engine in shallow drive. Do not engage reverse as it will have no effect.

The boat is less manoeuvrable so minimum speed should be used.

The helm may have limited visibility, especially of swimmers in the water, so the crew must keep a keen lookout and direct the helm.

If swimmers get too close, stop engine and use oars.

Keep to starboard side of harbour fairway and mouth.

Keep an eye on sailing dinghies in the harbour fairway and mouth.

Keep below the 3 knots speed limit at all times.



See Section 5 - comments on shallow drive, speed and keeping a lookout all apply equally to leaving the beach.

Once afloat have one person at bow on port side holding boat.

If possible row or push out through waves and swimmers.

If engine needed to get through surf, then should you be there?




Once safely afloat report to Race Officer at the OOD Box for instructions.

If unable to get afloat inform OOD of problem.

The boat with start marks should stand by in approximate position to lay the start line when and as requested.

Boats without start marks should escort fleet from the Harbour.

The OOD may ask for your view on the wind direction. To do this head a few hundred yards out to sea, stop the boat, wait till it settles and then use wool, wet finger or whatever works for you to detect wind direction.

The course marks Monkstone, Pendine and Amroth should always be in position. Check that you can see them.

Let the OOD know of any problems with your boat or of conditions which could affect his decision to start the race.

When two or more patrol boats are in attendance, one boat should patrol in the harbour and offer assistance to any of the outgoing racing fleet unless otherwise instructed by the OOD.

START LINE - the OOD will tell you which line he is going to use - Harbour or Seaward.

The Outer Harbour Mark should be the Yellow Cylinder and the Inner Distance Mark should be either a Dan Buoy or a small buoy. Keep to this convention to avoid confusing the fleet.

The actual line of the Start/Finish is from the mast at the OOD Box to the Harbour Mark. Always place the Inner Distance Mark either on the line or on the pre-start side of it. Keep the Start/Finish line well away from the harbour mouth so as not to interfere with other boats entering or leaving the harbour.

If using the Harbour start line then the IDM should line up with the Mermaid Restaurant, and the Harbour Mark with the Old Chemist Inn, or, in big fleets, the rock and tree further across the beach. You can move the Harbour Mark back a little for the finish if you need to, but always keep the IDM in the same position.

This also applies when setting the finish line if the alternative Seaward start line has been used.

Use the patrol boats to direct boats away from the line and the harbour if they are not about to start a race. This keeps them out of your vision and avoids conflict with other boats.




The OOD may ask you to stand by the Outer Harbour Mark to observe the start and help record boats over the line.

The countdown is in the form of flags and sound signals, At 5 minutes the Class flag R will go up with one sound signal

At 4 minutes the Preparatory flag P will go up with one sound signal.

At 1 minute the Preparatory flag P will come with one sound signal.

At the start the Class flag R comes down with one sound signal.

If the fleet gets away cleanly there will be no further signals until the finish.

If boats were over the line then an Individual Recall may be sounded, by hoisting flag X, with one sound signal. Boats that were over the line must come back to cross the line once again.

Boats that were over the line are not be informed as they should know themselves, and if in doubt, should come back to be on the safe side.

If a General Recall is sounded, then flag 1st Sub is hoisted with two sound signals. In this case the patrol boats may inform the fleet of the general recall signal.

When the OOD is ready to restart, the general recall will be lowered with one sound signal, the start sequence begins again.



After the start the line may have to be moved or shortened for the finish. This is best done whilst the fleet is on its first leg.

Keep an eye on the fleet, the conditions, and other vessels in the vicinity at all times.

The OOD will want to make sure that all sectors of the course are covered by a patrol boat, talk to him and to the other boat(s)

Position yourself inside the course and cover the whole fleet : do not just follow one boat around.

If there is an obvious trouble spot such as a heavy weather gybe mark then one boat should probably stay close to it.

If there is a swell running - position yourself slightly up wind and up sea. You will then be able to see more, travel quicker and be far more comfortable.

Let the OOD know of any problems with your boat, competitors, or the conditions.

Remember your role is patrol boat not tug boat. Your duty is to the whole fleet so don‘t get distracted by one awkward customer.




The race will usually be finished by flying Shorten Course Flag S + two sound signals.

The Finish Line will have been set just after the start but the OOD may ask you to stand by at the Outer Harbour Mark to help record the order of finishers.

After all boats finish pick up marks and follow fleet back into harbour PROVIDED all competitors are accounted for.

Return gear to its proper place and leave boats as you found them.




Approach the capsized boat from a position where you can see the crew, check that they are safe, and then stand by and keep a safe distance away until either:
The sailors in the capsized boat ask for assistance.
You think that for their own safety they should be helped.
They are managing the incident well but some other boat requires your assistance more urgently.
They right the dinghy and sail away.
If you think that a capsized crew are getting weak and can‘t right the boat or can‘t carry on, then take the crew on board your boat.

Right the boat and lower sails if you can - if not leave it as it is your job is patrol not recovery at this stage.
Tie one of the two spare anchors you carry on board to the dinghy‘s painter, and anchor the dinghy with an orange crew safe marker attached, make sure you are clear of the course.

The anchored dinghies will be retrieved after the day‘s racing, or after the race, or at a quiet time.

Keep the OOD aware of any situation at all times, so as he may make decisions accordingly.

If you have to help right a boat then you should make for the boat‘s mast head, stop the engine and hold until the sailors are ready to right the boat

When ready, ensure the bow is pointing into wind then walk the mast back towards the boat until righted.

The boat can still be held alongside until sailors are ready to sail away.

If a dinghy has inverted and requires assistance, then try and go alongside, bows facing the same way and weather side also. We can then help the sailors to bring their boat to the capsize position where the sail is level with the water by heaving on the jib sheet and or pushing down on the side of the boat.

We can then manoeuvre the patrol boat astern, and then proceed to the end of the mast as before.

On spinnaker and asymmetric boats capsizing with the kites up, if asked for assistance the same procedure as above should be followed, i.e. walk the mast up to the end and hold until ready to right. The helm and crew will most likely want to take down and stow the kite before righting the boat.

On trapeze boats there is an added risk to be considered - namely, that crew or crew and helm could be attached to the boat, giving the possibility of sailors being trapped under water. The quickest way of rescuing the sailors might be to cut the wire.

The time margin for an entrapment under water is extremely small; AFTER THREE MINUTES a casualty is going to have brain damage. It is therefore of the greatest importance, that a patrol boat can get to a capsized dinghy quickly and ascertain if crew are safe.

The modern skiff type boats have much less freeboard than the conventional sailing boat and have almost no transom. Consequently when these boats invert, there is very little air trapped under the boat. Therefore it is imperative that action is taken in the quickest possible time.

The recommended method is to approach the inverted dinghy, bow to corner and proceed to lift the corner of the boat out of the water thereby allowing air under the boat and to the trapped sailor.

If not already done, inform the OOD of the situation.




If, during a race, a dinghy member falls out of the boat, it is now permissible for the patrol boat to pick that person out of the water, take him/her to their boat, and they may then carry on racing.

EXTREME CAUTION is necessary when carrying out this manoeuvre. The person in the water is probably in no real danger except for either a boat running over him/her or, even worse, he/she is cut up by a propeller.

Approach the person in the water from down wind going very slowly, and come alongside the person. Once alongside, kill the engine, and if further than an arm's length away, offer the person the end of a paddle, and then bring that person on board.

When near people in the water ALWAYS STOP ENGINE.




There are many methods of towing.

1. Towing alongside.

If one or two boats only in sheltered water for short distances, or in the confinement of the harbour you may be happy to tow a boat alongside with the dagger board fully up.

If this method is adopted, it is important to keep the bow of the towed boat well in front of the bow of the vessel towing.

By adopting this method both boats will still be able to manoeuvre reasonably easily. When the two bows are closely aligned, it is impossible to turn away from the boat being towed.

If, of course, there are two boats being towed, one at each side, of equal size, and bows at equal distance from the boat towing, then the issue becomes less important, until one boat is cast off.

2. Towing singly in the bay.

Every boat should have its own painter, which is its towline. Some boats are more delicate than others, and so may have to be towed more slowly. No tow should be done at speed, as there is little control of the boat being towed and damage might occur, or even an injury.

The patrol boat should at all times have its towing bridle attached. At the end of the towing bridle there is a float and an eye or a loop in a rope. Tie a sheet bend onto the eye by feeding the end of the towed dinghies painter through the eye, to the tows desired length, then continue round the back so that it completely encircles the eye. Tuck in what then becomes two lengths of rope, under the loop of the rope coming out of the eye.

At the time it is ready to let go of the tow, all that will be needed is to pull the free end of the painter, to pull out the tuck. The line will be released from under the bridle loop, and the boat being towed will be free. This is a good knot to use, to have complete control as to when to release the towed dinghy.

The daggerboard should be 1/2 down to give some steerage way to the boat being towed. If towing more than one boat, then all boats except of the end boat should have their daggerboards and rudders all the way up, with again the rear boat having some steerage way.

3. Multiple tows using the herring bone method.

This method may be adopted if, for example, the fleet becomes becalmed, and requires a long distance tow.

A long towline is trailed behind the patrol boat with a float attached at the end. The patrol boat will try and manoeuvre so that the towline will pass arm's length away from the becalmed boat. The crew member can then pick up the rope and pull himself up close to the stern of the towing boat. He should attach the painter of his boat to the tow rope using a rolling hitch, passing the end of the painter over the towrope around and back over its own standing part.

Take another turn with the painter around the towrope, and then take yet another turn around the towrope. Now pass the end of the painter under the last two turns or rolls and pull tight.

The patrol boat should then move forward to pick up another dinghy to be towed. In the meantime the dinghy being towed should keep his rudder slightly facing towards the tow rope, thereby steering his boat away from the tow line.

The next dinghy being picked up should tie up on the other side of the towrope of the other dinghy; it should use approximately the same painter length and tie just inches in front or behind the first boat.

This procedure should be repeated until there are no more dinghies to tow or there is no more space left on the towline. Care has to be taken by all concerned, not to allow the tow rope to go under their boats. If possible it is best to keep going

very slowly ahead, especially if the dinghies attached start to lose formation. Once the tow rope goes under a boat it is difficult to re-form properly and damage may occur.

When the boats have been towed back to safety, the boats at the rear release themselves first, and then working forward until all have been released. To complete the operation, you may be required to do individual tows to the beach.



Unless a rescue is life threatening, you should never commit the boat into the surf.

If there is a disabled craft in the surf to be rescued, then a safer method is to position yourself approximately 10 - 15 meters on the seaward side from the point where the surf is beginning to break and with bow pointing seaward.

Drop anchor, engage astern and keep anchor taught but pay it out. This will help keep the bow of your boat facing into the waves. When the anchor is fully paid out, or before you are too close to the surf, make fast the anchor rope.

Keep the engine going astern to keep the boat steady. Throw a heaving line to the disabled craft.


Accidents happen, but the quicker an incident can be resolved the better.

Let the OOD know immediately there is a serious problem. The OOD will decide whether to contact the emergency services and whether to continue with the event.

It is sometimes easier to shorten course and not abandon as by doing so boats can all be told what to do the next time they get back to the harbour mark which is where you want them in any case.

Once an emergency occurs, 'delicate' information should be communicated quickly, clearly and if possible by mobile phone.

The radio transmissions can be heard by anyone having our channel open at that time. They would probably include members or associates of the participating crews, who often listen in to keep abreast of what is happening,generally.

If an emergency, the OOD and all crews will want to concentrate all their energies on resolving the situation without the risk of outsiders interrupting, asking questions or attributing blame.

Nominate someone not actively involved in the situation to receive all relevant information and that person only, should use his or her discretion about what to say and to whom.


Power gives way to sail.

Overtaking boat keeps clear.

Head on situation - both boats turn to starboard, and pass port to port.

Crossing situation, (” but not in designated crossing areas•) Boat on starboard side has right of way. If you would normally be able to see the starboard green light of a vessel crossing, then you have right of way.

Narrow Channels. Power does not necessarily give way to sail when both are navigating in a narrow channel. Large vessels need to keep up their speed to manoeuvre.

Vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre ( laying buoys, dredging etc. )

Vessels constrained by draught.

Vessels under sail.

Power driven vessels.




Switch radio on to designated channel.

Turn volume control knob to full, then turn squelch knob slowly up until high squelch noise, then turn squelch knob down until noise stops.

Use M1 or M2 as instructed by the OOD (channel 32 or 80)

Check radio functioning by communicating with another patrol boat,crew, club, beach master or OOD.

Procedure for calling OOD for radio check

Hold radio aprox 150mm away from your mouth

Press transmitting button.

Speak clearly into speaker : OOD OOD OOD, this is Rib, Rib, Rib, radio check over.

Release the transmit button.

OOD will reply : Rib, Rib, this is OOD, I hear you loud and clear, how me, over.

You reply : OOD, OOD, this is Rib, I here you loud and clear also. Out.

This document last amended on 22nd February 2006 By : L Gallon SSC Press Officer