The 16th annual Safety at Sea Seminar, one of the area's most valuable safety training opportunities, takes place next weekend at the Naval Academy.
Even though it is mandatory for midshipmen of the Varsity Offshore Sailing Team and the Command and Seamanship Training Squadron and their volunteer coaches who will fill up a lot of the seats tickets are available for the general public.
Co-sponsored by the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron and the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the U.S. Sailing Association, Cruising World magazine and West Marine, the two-day event will address the latest sailing safety techniques and equipment needs offshore sailors.
Originally designed for Naval Academy midshipmen, the Safety At Sea program has been credited with saving countless lives and is endorsed by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Its life-saving know-how is useful not only for those who've never sailed offshore, but also for those who sail the high seas regularly.
The event will be divided into two levels of instruction, with a basic session on Saturday and a more advanced version on Sunday.
Speakers include moderator and TransPac sailor Chuck Hawley; USA weather forecaster Topper Shutt on Chesapeake Bay weather conditions; 1993 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Cam Lewis on offshore boat preparation; NASA Search & Rescue Missions Manager Ron Wallace on EPIRBs and locating distress alerts; naval architect Mike Kaufman on design considerations for safety; technical editor Ralph Naranjo of Cruising World on crew preparations; Gale Rider designer Skip Raymond on heavy weather considerations; surgeon/sailor Dr. Steve Hiltabidle on medical considerations; and marine surveyor Fred Hechlinger.
Hawley is ideally suited to moderate the seminar. He has been sailing along the California coast since he was 6 and has completed five TransPac races, including two single-handed races in ultralight displacement sloops.
Hawley has logged more than 30,000 ocean miles under sail. He has worked for West Marine for 12 years, and currently is director of technical information in the West Marine Catalog.
The Sunday format will include a basic safety session recap with yacht design safety considerations and an open forum/question-and-answer session.
New this year, during the Sunday session a presentation on "Safety on the Chesapeake" will be offered to cover local conditions and considerations for racing and cruising, such as handling large cargo ship traffic.
Also scheduled will be the on-the-water U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescue demonstrations, which will include man overboard recovery and USCG Helicopter Evac procedures.
Although most sailors hopefully never will need to be evacuated by Coast Guard helicopter, the demonstration, using midshipman volunteers, is always exciting and well worth a watch.
In addition, the Academy sailors' demonstrations of upwind and downwind quick-stop maneuvers for man overboard recovery are extremely valuable for all sailors.
This technique, developed in large part at the Academy, has been highly successful and has come into wide use over the past few years. It is a skill even a Sunday afternoon Chesapeake Bay gunkholer should understand thoroughly and practice often.
Also included will be a demonstration of a short-handed man overboard recovery using a life sling system and demonstrations of various signaling devices such as flares, smoke signals and dye packets.
All on-water demonstrations begin about noon on Saturday, on the Severn River in front of the Academy's Robert Crown Sailing Center.
Tickets are available at $40 a day or $70 for the two-day session. U.S. Sailing members will get a $5 discount on tickets purchased with proof of a valid U.S. Sailing membership number.
For ticket information, call the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, (410) 268-7676.