Retractable keels - MAIB Safety Bulletin

MAIB Safety Bulletin 2-2019:retractable keels


At approximately 1220 on 12 June 2019, a RS Venture Connect sailing boat fully inverted, its crew comprised an assistant instructor and an experienced disabled crewman. The boat was knocked down in the windy conditions on the day and heeled to such an extent that the keel fully retracted. During the subsequent capsize, the disabled crewman became trapped under the inverted boat. The safety boat crew saw the accident and attended the scene quickly, but had difficulty righting the boat and so were unable to reach the crewman in sufficient time to effect a successful rescue.

It was found that the retractable keel restraining VelcroTM strap was not fitted, allowing the keel to move freely in its housing.

Safety lesson
To prevent a similar accident, owners and operators of boats with retractable keels or retractable weighted centreboards, regardless of make or model, are recommended to ensure that:

Published by MAIB 27 June 2019

A message to boaters from the RYA this Fire Safety Week

Have you fitted suitable smoke and carbon monoxide alarms?

Boaters are being urged to ensure they have suitable smoke and carbon monoxide alarms during the national Fire Kills Campaign’s Boat Fire Safety Week (May 27-June 2).

Fire crews will be visiting boat owners and handing out Fire Safety on Boats and Carbon Monoxide Safety on Boats leaflets to help crew members know the risks and how to protect themselves.

Suitable fire and CO alarms provide an early warning that something is wrong and it’s time to take action. The Boat Safety Scheme publishes lists of suitable alarms on its website and has advice from manufacturers on the best places to fix the devices. Alarms should be tested using the test button routinely and the batteries replaced as necessary and never removed. The
RYA website has advice for preventing incidents and dealing with problems when they occur.

From 1 April 2019 at least one carbon monoxide (CO) alarm became a mandatory requirement on nearly all private and non-private boats in scope of the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) requirements.

The Boat Safety Scheme warns that CO can occur with one or a mix of these factors:

  • faulty, badly maintained or misused appliances

  • exhaust fumes from a boat's engine or generator

  • escaped flue gases from solid fuel stoves

  • blocked ventilation or short supply of air - fuels need the right amount of oxygen to burn safely

Advice on avoiding a carbon monoxide incident includes:

  • Install fuel burning appliances properly

  • Maintain appliances and engines routinely

  • Use the equipment correctly

  • Don't allow engine fumes into the cabin space

  • Deal with problems immediately

  • Don't allow bodged repairs and maintenance

  • Install a CO alarm

  • Test the alarm routinely

  • Never remove the batteries

  • Know the signs of CO poisoning and how to react

  • Do not block up ventilation openings

Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager, said: “CO detectors alarm at low concentration levels to give a person time to react and regrettably it appears that these are often mistaken as false alarms rather than early warning and are switched off.

“If the alarm sounds, take action to shut off sources of CO (engines, generators, open flame appliances) if safe to do so, get clear of fumes into the fresh air and seek medical attention immediately. Be aware that CO may be coming from boats that are near you, particularly those with petrol engines that are at idle. CO alarms will provide an early warning of CO and help alert you to the presence of CO when you are afloat.”

Further advice on CO is available on the RYA website.

Once a fire on board a boat really takes hold, it is unlikely that it will be successfully tackled. It is therefore essential to observe good fire safety practice to minimise the risk of a fire occurring. Prevention is far better than cure.

If a fire does occur, it is imperative that you have sufficient firefighting equipment to hand and that you know how to use it, if the fire is to be extinguished quickly and effectively.
For detailed advice visit the RYA website.

Boat Safety Scheme manager, Graham Watts said: “In the past 20 years, 30 boaters were killed in boat fires and another 30 lost their lives to the highly toxic CO gas. It’s time everyone in the boating community said ‘no more avoidable tragedies’. Being protected by suitable smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be viewed as a normal part of boat ownership”.

For information about general boat fire and CO safety,

MCA issues Safety Bulletin to all mariners who use GPS equipment after 5th April

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) has issued a special safety bulletin to all mariners that use GPS to prepare for a rollover event that will occur on 6 April 2019.

On April 6 navigation data from some older GPS systems might become inaccurate due to the ‘week number’ rollover event. 

This could cause stand-alone GPS receivers and systems using GPS chips, to produce data that is 19.7 years either in the past or future, therefore generating errors in both the GPS position and time. However, if onboard equipment has been installed after August 1999, or has regular firmware updates from the manufacturer, there should be minimal risk of an error occurring.

Abandoned Boat Action

The Club has recently had to take action regarding a motor boat which appears to have been abandoned on one of our moorings. The boat has no identifying name or mark and no SSRI number and a 'round robin' to members has not revealed the owner.

Your Committee has applied the recently adopted ‘Abandoned Boat Policy’ and has attached a notice to an offending boat demanding that the owner contacts Club forthwith.

Unauthorised occupation of our moorings prevents us from allocating the position to a member and deprives the Club of income. However we are constrained in the actions that we can take by the Torts Act 1977.

Safety Notice regarding safety harness tethers

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) is carrying out an investigation into the fatal man overboard accident on board the yacht CV30, which was taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

The yacht was on the third leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race having left Cape Town on 31 Oct 2017 bound for Fremantle, Western Australia.

On 18 Nov 2017, the yacht was approximately 1,500nm from Fremantle, when a crew member fell overboard. He was attached to the yacht by his safety harness tether. The hook at the end of the tether that was clipped to a jack-line, deformed and released resulting in him becoming separated from the yacht. He was recovered unconscious onto the yacht but sadly could not be resuscitated.


The crew member was using a three-point webbing tether attached to the integral harness of his lifejacket that allowed him to clip on to the yacht with a short or long tether.
A safety issue identified during the investigation was that the hook on the end of crew member's tether had become caught under a deck cleat (see Figure 1 below), resulting in a lateral loading that was sufficient to cause the hook to distort (see Figure 2 below) and eventually release.

Both images are copyright MAIB.

The tether hook was of a conventional design and quality of build, and was commonly used by manufacturers of safety harnesses and tethers that were certified under ISO12401.
When loaded longitudinally, the tether can withstand a load of over 1 tonne. However, when loaded laterally a tether hook will deform at much less load. It is important that tether hooks remain clear of obstructions and are free to rotate to align the load longitudinally.


To prevent the strength of a safety harness tether becoming compromised in-service due to lateral loading on the tether hook, the method used to anchor the end of the tether to the vessel should be arranged to ensure that the tether hook cannot become entangled with deck fittings or other equipment.

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