A deckhand was recovering the anchor on the foredeck and using a remote control to operate the capstan while simultaneously looking over the side to monitor the anchor chain and reporting this to the bridge.
While they were busy looking over the side, they did not realise that the chain had become stuck in the spurling pipe, causing the chain to pile up. Eventually it piled up so high that the chain lifted out of the teeth on the gypsy and began running freely back into the water. Fortunately, the bitter end held and the anchor was recovered.
The deckhand acted quickly and, realising that there was no way of stopping the anchor chain, managed to escape. There were no injuries but it had the potential to be a very serious accident.
Monitoring the chain required the deckhand to look over the side of the yacht, while controlling the anchor winch required them to watch the fo’c’stle. Both tasks required the deckhand’s constant attention, which placed them in an impossible position. This distraction meant that they did not notice that the chain was building up in the spurling pipe.
The inappropriate tasking was a result of inadequate risk assessment by the vessel’s management as well as allocating insufficient crew to the task. This suggests that there was a culture of putting achievement of the task ahead of safety.
Human factors and other issues identified in this report
Distraction – Giving one person two tasks at the same time will very likely lead to important information being missed and greatly increases the risk of an incident.
Pressure – Was there a lack of available personnel to properly staff the activity? How many tasks are being carried out onboard your yacht without adequate personnel?
Culture – Was the deckhand empowered to speak up and seek additional support to safely achieve the task?