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Underway Column Editorial by Editor Bill Sisson | Soundings Online Column

Century-old lessons from the 'bottom of the world'

"I called to the other men that the sky was clearing, and then a moment later realized that what I had seen was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave. During 26 years experience of the ocean in all its moods I had not encountered a wave so gigantic.

“It was a mighty upheaval of ocean, a thing quite apart from the big white-capped seas that had been our tireless enemies for many days. I shouted, ‘For God’s sakes, hold on! It’s got us!’ ”

— Sir Ernest Shackleton, “South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage”

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Better boats, smart standards and the one that got away

In our watery world, the pièce de résistance of a happy boating lifestyle is a well-built, well-maintained, safe and reliable boat.

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You don’t need to learn every lesson the hard way

By chance, I recently opened a notebook containing some thoughts and scribblings I made more than five years ago as I was researching a column. This is what I wrote, in part: “One of the most important safety decisions you may make this season is whether to leave your slip or anchorage or to stay put and let a bit of weather pass, the fog lift or to do a bit of maintenance that is overdue.”

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Sandy and I met twice to do the storm dance

I first met Sandy in South Florida, where I was running around like mad in squally conditions, trying to cover the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Her wind gusts and rain were no more welcome there than they were to be in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

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The storms that shape who we are, how we live

About 24 hours before Superstorm Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey, my brother and I stooped in the drizzle and found the old mark on the front walk of the family home in southwestern Rhode Island that depicted just how far the water rose during the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. I paced it off: six good strides — roughly 18 feet — to the front steps.

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