Written by a club member
Although perhaps one of the more demanding “duties” at the club, patrol boat coxswain is also arguably one of the most rewarding.
A full guide of the steps required for a duty patrol boat coxswain can be found in the Datchet Water Sailing Club (DWSC) Health and Safety policy here >>
The day starts early; first step is to check current and expected weather conditions, making an assessment if cover can be adequately provided for the reservoir.
Assuming the british weather is in our favour, the next step is to ready the patrol boats required. After a discussion with the permanent staff to check the day’s events, we use the club jeep to bring the boats up the hill from the storage yard, checking equipment, fuel, and vessel condition, before finally launching into the reservoir. Depending on the weather conditions and the day’s events, it may be just one – or all four ribs & the rigiflex that need launching. Remember to test your radio before launching!
As the duty patrol boat coxswain you have overall responsibility for providing cover for all persons using the reservoir. This includes other patrol boat and event coxswains, dinghy and keelboat sailors, board sailors and members of the general public who are on the water side of the concrete walls.
If your duty falls on an event/club racing day, you will also find yourself asked to help the RO (race officer) to lay marks – depending on the event & RO, this may just be a case of roughly “chucking them in”, or using transits + GPS to exactly measure distances and angles between buoys!
If the day is a little breezy or busy, you may decide it best to spend your duty on the water attending any incidents that may arise. On windless or quieter days, it may be more suitable to spend time ashore, saving fuel, but keeping a very close lookout for incidents that may occur.
Incidents will vary – from just standing by a capsize, providing reassurance to the sailor – to towing in a disabled vessel after a mast has broken. And although you always hope to prevent any medical emergencies, as a patrol boat coxswain you must always be fully prepared to deal with them if they arise. This is partly why we require all club coxswains at DWSC to hold powerboat level 2, patrol boat, and first aid training certificates before undertaking a patrol boat duty (training is provided by the club if you’re interested)!
The day ends with the reserve of the start – using the club Jeep to pull the boats off the water, check their condition, refuel, and place securely back in the storage yard.
Time for a well deserved beer!