Our Captain Ben Harris, reflects on a recent own boat tuition trip to Cowes with Solent Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter joining in on the exercise.
"With all the great weather we are having on the south coast any one would think Britain had moved to the Med! Flat calm seas with the sun shining, JD's clients and I take to the water on a Fairline Turbo 36, destination Cowes.
I try on occasion, if I can, to pre book the rescue helicopter (depending on how busy they are) and the type of boat we are training on to come and carry out a safe exercise with us. On this occasion they obliged and it was like a scene out of a bond movie with them radioing us up saying they are coming after us. They came from nowhere!
Location: East of Newtown Creek in the Solent, right after a brief anchor practice.
The video says it all, but what can't be expressed across in writing is how loud and how close this most amazing bit of machinery gets to you, but more importantly it wakes you up to the fact they seriously save lives.
I have edited and bullet pointed below the MCA's guide to the Hi line exercise and hope this information is of some use in the future to those of you whom may require the assistance of a helicopter"
  • In certain weather conditions it may not be possible to winch the helicopter Winch-man or the strop (rescue harness) from a position directly above a vessel to the vessel's deck. Under such circumstances a weighted rope extension to the winch wire may be lowered to the vessel. This extension is known as a Hi-Line Heaving-in Line and is connected via a weak link to the aircraft's winch hook.
  • When the Hi-Line technique is used, once the weighted line is placed on the deck, one crew member must handle the line. He should take up the slack on the Hi-Line and haul in ONLY when instructed to do so by the helicopter crew by radio message or hand signal. The Hi-Line must NOT be secured to any part of the vessel.
  • A second crew member should coil the slack line into a bucket or similar container clear of obstructions. It is advisable for the handling crew to wear protective gloves to prevent rope burns.
  • If the helicopter has to break away during the operation the line must be paid out or, if necessary, released completely ensuring that the line passes clear outboard.
  • As the Hi-Line is paid out, the helicopter will move to one side of the vessel and descend.
  • Normally the winch-man will be winched out; the ship's crew should continue to take in the slack.
  • As the winch-man or strop approach the vessel the earthing lead or hook must make contact with the vessel to discharge the static electricity before the vessel's crew make contact with the wire.
  • Considerable effort may be needed when pulling the Winch-man onboard.
  • Once the casualty has been secured in the strop, the Winch-man, if he is present, or a member of the vessel's crew, should indicate that all is ready by making a hand signal. The helicopter will commence to winch in the wire. As this occurs a crew member should pay out the Hi-Line, maintaining sufficient firmness to prevent any swing.
  • If the operation involves a single recovery the Hi-Line should be released once the end is reached. If further winching is required to take place then the crew member should maintain a hold on the Hi-Line and repeat the process for the next lift.
  • If multiple lifts are required two strops may be delivered with the hook and it is required that a casualty is placed into both strops in the normal manner.


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