Safety at Sea
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."
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
you like your big boat, the other alternative is to take along crew.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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