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.
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.
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.
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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