The Nautical Blog

Suddenly in Command: Preparation is Key

“Thank you for the article – the message is fantastic – appropriate, timely and perfect. I love the photo, it speaks volumes…well done.”
Sam Swoyer, TONE

It’s funny how things happen. I struggled with this article’s topic until 2 weeks before it was due.  I was waiting for a friend at the beach when I saw this couple struggling in their inflatable dinghy. At first I thought their motor crapped out on them. Then I noticed he was trying to untangle the fishing line he ran over and dragged along for a bit. She was totally embarrassed. I immediately raised my camera and started snapping pictures knowing this would be my next article.

This article was published in Spring 2018 Nor’Easter for TONE (Tartan Owners Northeast).   For the rest of the series go here.

“The myth that you are self-reliant out there can get you killed,” says Mario Vittone, blogger for Soundings Magazine. “While the idea that everything is your fault is vital to your safety.”

We’ve all read those stories where people go overboard, get heart attacks or stranded at sea. Whether true or embellished by the media, this could happen to you or someone on your boat. So, it’s best to be prepared as much as possible. Being that it’s winter in the Northeast, it’s a great time to put your plan in place for once you set sail again. After all, this is the year you’ll be working less and spending more time on the boat. Lots of day sails with your newly retired friends from work and a few week-long trips are on the calendar with both friends and family.

couple in life raft. He's trying to untangle fishing line.

If you were ever a Scout you learned the motto “Be Prepared”. In Boy Scouts it meant you are ready, willing, and able to do what is necessary in any situation that comes along. In Girl Scouts the motto “Be Prepared” went one step further; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency. Somewhere along the line many of us forgot what it takes to be on a sailboat. Sailing, itself is fun. It’s being suddenly in command that becomes difficult; once disaster hits.

Before you set sail

There are several ways you can prepare for that day. Take classes; for example. Sometimes it can be overwhelming for a partner to learn from their mate. If that’s the case, take a class online. Or in a classroom setting. These include: boat safety, suddenly in command, navigation, First Aid/CPR, weather, and maintenance to name a few.

Make a list of what equipment is on board your vessel. Then add or replace things before you set sail. Where’s the first aid kit, flares, EPIRB? Do you know how to use each one? What happens if the head doesn’t work properly? How do you shut [it] down to avoid overflow? Put all this into a notebook. Add emergency numbers and if necessary, a list of where things are located on the boat.

Prepare your guests; once onboard

Most important! Find out if anyone else on your boat can operate it. Just in case you become incapacitated. Or at least, they can start the engine, run the boat or shut it down. This includes the VHF radio – don’t rely on a mobile phone. Cell reception on the water doesn’t work for everyone. Have them all take a turn using the radio. It’s so easy to do nowadays; especially with Automated Radio Checks (ARC). Show your guests where you keep the pfd’s and the notebook you prepared.

Remember, the key here is not to panic when you’re suddenly in command. It doesn’t do you or anyone else on the boat any good. Take action. Don’t be blind when towing the line. Be Prepared!

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