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Boating Know-How with Mike Saylor

It may be summertime, but beware of hypothermia

A TowBoatUS skipper was tossed into Florida’s St. Augustine Inlet last fall while trying to free a grounded 48-foot sailboat. The skipper was dressed in shorts, a T-shirt, sweatshirt and baseball cap, and he was close to dying of hypothermia by the time he was rescued more than three hours later. This was Florida, where the water is warm.

Indeed, the water was relatively warm, but the skipper was wearing cotton clothing and, on the water, cotton kills. I know cotton is cool and comfortable in hot weather. It absorbs perspiration and keeps you comfortable. Cotton does this because it is hydrophilic. It loves moisture.

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When chaos reigns supreme on the water

It’s all too common. You set out for a pleasant day on the water and things just don’t go right. Seasickness rears its ugly head. The engine fails. You foul the prop. The list goes on. Sometimes it’s a matter of carelessness; sometimes it’s Mother Nature. Let’s have a look at some of the ways a day on the water can go wrong.

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Your eyes can be a technological wonder

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.” I don’t recall where those words of wisdom came from, but they’re true. Every year, all manner of vessels come to sad ends because the people who were on watch did not see what was developing before their very eyes.

You don’t need the dark of night, dense fog or driving precipitation to miss a developing situation that will put you in harm’s way. A lack of situational awareness can develop from a lack of attention.

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There are plenty of ways to boat on the cheap

I  think it was the water rat in “The Wind in the Willows” who said (and I paraphrase) there is nothing quite as worthwhile as messing around in boats. I couldn’t agree more. In today’s economy, though, can boating be affordable? I think it can, and it’s worth the effort as long as it doesn’t wipe you out.

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Teamwork can take the angst out of docking

There is nothing quite as funny or sad as an ill-prepared and insecure skipper and crew docking or anchoring — usually husband and wife, girlfriend or significant other. It’s funny if you realize what a spectacle you made of yourself in the past. It’s sad when you realize what a spectacle you made of yourself in the past.
When I taught sailing, we would tackle this toughest and most critical problem for new boaters from the get-go. I would explain that when they mastered these steps everything that followed would be a piece of cake. (So I exaggerated a little.)

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