The Choice is yours "Exploring a radical lifestyle. "Dave and Jaja Martin's new DVD 'Iceblink' and their book 'Into the Light' will take you anywhere."
Photo Gallery
Book & DVD
Upcoming Events
Contact Us

By Dave and Jaja Martin


Safety at Sea

An elderly couple have expressed concerns about their ability to handle their 39-foot steel sloop. They wanted to know what they could do to make the boat "safe, comfortable, and easy to handle--all on a small budget."

In general, it is possible to make any boat "easy to handle" by installing things like electric winches, electric roller furling main and genoa, electric windlass, dinghy davits, etc... However, these items will kill a small budget while simultaneously creating an electrical nightmare. Anyway, I know this is going to sound crass, but if anyone believes that their boat is too big to handle, perhaps they need a smaller boat. A small boat, say something between 28 to 33 feet, will not only be cheaper to maintain, and park in marinas, it will also be "easier" to handle without the aid of mechanical devices.

If you like your big boat, the other alternative is to take along crew.

Safety Equipment

It is my belief that the concept "safety at sea" goes much, much deeper than only installing devices that will assist me in abandoning my boat. If buying all the latest and greatest safety gear increases one's confidence offshore, that's a good thing. But it's important to remember that every dollar spent on safety equipment is not going to decrease the odds of encountering gales, or experiencing any number of shipboard problems. Basically, if all I do before going to sea is buy safety gear, I haven't actually done anything to make my boat categorically more safe.

For me, "safety at sea" is more of a state-of-mind than a long list of safety equipment. It means I have focused on a stout rig, strong sails, oversized ground tackle. It means I have loaded my boat with good clothing, warm bedding, and nutritional food. It means I have quality paper charts, and that I know how to navigate out-of-sight-of-land WITHOUT A GPS. (By this I mean either by instincts or with a sextant.) It also means that I understand and can repair the vital gear on my boat. This means that I have the necessary spares, tools, and product literature. Being "safe" is an attitude. It's the way I choose to look at my situation. In any dire situation am I going to be a victor? Or a victim?

Another important aspect to safety is being in good physical health. Sailing offshore can be very strenuous. Being in prime physical shape can only increase one's safety. Being physical promotes agility. Agility increases confidence. Confidence is the root of safety. If I feel strong, I will be more apt to make decisions based on my abilities. In that "dire situation" I will be more likely to solve my own problems rather than call for assistance.

Swimming and bike riding are great ways to get into shape, and stay in shape. Another great way to stay in shape while cruising is to trade the pudgy rubber dinghy for a hard dinghy, sell the gas-guzzling outboard, and use the oars. Embrace physical exertion instead of finding ways to mechanize it. A sound "body and boat" will help to create a more pleasurable cruising experience.

Previous -- Next -- Articles home

Welcome | Home | Articles | Photos | Book & DVD
Upcoming Events |Contact Us | Links