Florida Boating

Saturday, August 18, 2012


By Barb Hansen
August, 2012

For all our faults we boaters are self-sufficient people. We plan. We practice. Before a trip we check everything from fuses to foghorns, charts to chocks. Tanks are topped off. Spares are secured. For a weekend cruise we stock the fridge for a fortnight.

 This is fun, actually. Planning the cruise is part of the cruise. See, virtue really is its own reward.

 Pre-cruise we tune the TV to The Weather Channel. Online, we check real-time satellite images. If a tropical storm or worse is a possibility, we call off the cruise.

Certainly, the human survival instinct motivates us. Boaters know how quickly the sea gets angry and becomes life threatening. We read about others who have died at sea or survived, barely. So, we prepare. We play what-if games. Better safe than sorry is more than a cliché.

And there is this. No boater wants the embarrassment of being rescued by another vessel or, heaven forbid, the Coast Guard. Chastened, the embarrassed skipper imagines what other boaters might be saying back at the dock, mean things like, “He just ran out of gas; is that pitiful or what?” Or, “You won’t believe this, but they were using an old chart.”

To a vessel operator, embarrassment of that sort may not be a fate worse than death, but it’s right up there.
Another current of thought – you could put it at the core of the boating belief system – is the ideal of freedom. We are free to sail where and when we want. But we also accept the corresponding responsibility. If others are willing to rescue us when we’re in trouble, we ought to try hard not to get into trouble in the first place.

It seems like every hurricane season we have a case where thousands who should and could have evacuated, did not.  They probably told themselves, Hey, we haven’t had a storm here since forever. It won’t hit us. They never do. That rationale reminds me of the Steven Wright line: “I plan to live forever. So far, so good.”

Even minor hurricanes and tropical storms can cause power outages and flooding (and multiple deaths) as the U.S. East Coast discovered in 2011. And hurricanes are not the only threat out there; think tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding, power failures. Keep thinking.

Well, if just a few individuals get into trouble the police or fire departments may come to their rescue. But when thousands get into trouble, first responders will not have the manpower or resources to rescue everybody. Boaters already know this, so we tend to rely on ourselves.

 A fine and fragile line separates our comfortable lives from hardship or even death. Self-sufficiency helps boaters stay on the bright side of that line.


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