Mario Vittone is a retired U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, who for 22 years rescued boaters in distress from the turbulent waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. He served two tours as a rescue swimmer at Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and one at Air Station New Orleans, Louisiana. Vittone was also an instructor and course developer at the Aviation Technical Training Center in Elizabeth City before retiring in 2013. An expert in immersion hypothermia, drowning, sea survival and safety at sea, he today writes and lectures on boating safety and search-and-rescue topics for popular print publications.
LIFELINES: Safety And Rescue At Sea will be Vittone's weekly blog for Soundings, sharing what he's learned about planning ahead, to better ensure that all your adventures afloat have happy endings.
When I was in the U.S. Coast Guard, I couldn’t say this; but I believe the phrase “Always wear your life jacket” is terrible advice.
Last week in Lifelines, Mario Vittone dispelled a massive myth in his post Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning, which went viral and will save lives. This week, Vittone tackles the fallacy that untrained, but otherwise competent swimmers, can't make an attempt to save someone who's drowning and tells us how to (safely) do it.
Mention drowning and we all tend to envision a person in the water waving his hands, splashing and screaming for help. That’s not even remotely close to what a drowning person looks like, writes Mario Vittone in this week’s Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog.
At a meeting with 250 boaters last year, I asked for a show of hands: “How many of you have registered your DSC radio and have an MMSI number?
You don’t have to be able to deadlift 400 pounds, but you do need to be able to keep your cool under pressure if you want to become a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, writes Mario Vittone in this week’s Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog.
The Coast Guard uses a computer model — among other tools — to aid in the determination of whether it should continue searching for someone. Mario Vittone discusses the factors taken into account when calling off a search in this week’s Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea.
No one likes to change when it comes to new rules or regulations that restrict free will. Professionals should decide for themselves what is right or wrong, based on their knowledge and experience, and apply it to operate their vessel safely and effectively. The only problem is just how often that model fails. Mario Vittone explains why experience is a rotten teacher in this week's installment of Lifelines: Safety And Rescue at Sea.
After working an incident where an angler and his two sons lost their lives, Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Mario Vittone changed his focus to helping boaters prepare for the worst. He writes about the case, and his upcoming Boaters University video series, in this week’s Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog.
How do you find out if the captain on your next fishing charter or head boat excursion is a capable one? Mario Vittone writes about the three questions he asks, when in doubt, in this week’s Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog.
Mario Vittone takes a 41-degree dip in the Delaware River in this week’s Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog. Watch his video to learn a simple cold-water immersion strategy that could save your life.
What’s the one man overboard device you should pack in your life jacket? The answer is, “Yes,” writes Mario Vittone in this week’s Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog.
There's a 40 percent chance you'll never be seen again — alive or dead —if you fall overboard at sea. It is perhaps the most dangerous boating situation you can find yourself in, writes Mario Vittone in this week's Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog.
It’s odorless, colorless and lurks aboard every boat with an engine — carbon monoxide, the silent killer. Read Mario Vittone’s latest Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog to find out how a little knowledge, preventative maintenance and $99 can save your life.
Exploding lava, missing and unlighted buoys, channel shoaling and daymark destruction are just a few things you can find in a Coast Guard Local Notice To Mariners (LNM). Mario Vittone explains why you should check the LNM for your area every week in his latest Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea blog.
In this week's Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea, Mario Vittone recommends three pieces of electronic gear you should keep onboard as backups. It’s not as expensive a proposition as you might think. WATCH.
If you find yourself floating in a life raft, you better hope that you are as resourceful, and as smart as, Steve Callahan. Find out why in this week's installment of Mario Vittone's blog Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea.
The offseason is a good time to catch up with boat maintenance, revise your checklists and update your float plan. In this week’s Lifelines blog, Mario Vittone discusses three off-the-dock tasks you can complete to prevent potentially fatal mistakes out on the water next season. WATCH
There's a mind-numbing number of federal and international regulations for the safe operation of vessels at sea. In this week's Lifelines, Mario Vittone boils them down into five areas of concern to help you make smart decisions on the water.
Most of us will never run regulated small passenger vessels, which have to go through frequent required inspections. In this week’s Lifelines blog, Mario Vittone points out how you can make your boat safer by borrowing from the Coast Guard’s inspection playbook.
The basic first aid kits found in most marine supply shops just aren’t up to the task of handling an actual medical emergency. In his latest installment of Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea, Mario Vittone discusses the first aid gear you should have aboard and the training you should get to use it properly. READ MORE
The season never ends for die-hard boaters. But cold water is still cold, and potentially deadly. In his latest installment of Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea, Mario Vittone points out why you should consider wearing a dry suit for winter boating.
Victims of cold-water immersion aren't out of trouble after being rescued. In his latest installment of Lifelines: Safety And Rescue At Sea, Mario Vittone discusses what to do — and what not to do — when treating someone with hypothermia.
The dangers of falling overboard are amplified when the water temperature is below 60 degrees. In this week’s Lifelines blog, retired Coast Guard rescue swimmer Mario Vittone talks about four things that can happen to the body in cold water — and dispels a myth or two.
You never know when you might be stuck on your boat out on the water. This time of year, when a sunny, 78° day can turn into a cold, rainy night in a matter of hours, being prepared can mean the difference between surviving until you're rescued and hypothermia - or worse.
Most drownings with life jackets relate to cold water, which we are going to get into a lot in the coming weeks. Still, boaters frequently don’t survive accidents because a piece of safety gear they relied on failed, or because they didn’t use it correctly. A life jacket is not a seat belt.
When you hear the name Chesley Sullenberger, competence and heroic calm under enormous pressure come to mind, don’t they? Sullenberger, who expertly piloted stricken US Airways Flight 1549 to a 155-life-saving landing on the Hudson River, will long be remembered as the very picture of experience. He was a flight instructor, developed vital flight safety programs and amassed an enormous number of safe flying hours. The passengers aboard Flight 1549 couldn’t have asked for a better pilot on that morning in January 2009.
Only once in my career as a USCG helicopter rescue swimmer did I ever launch on a flare sighting that turned into an actual rescue. Three commercial fishermen were at anchor, sleeping, when their shrimp boat caught fire. By the time they got on deck, the wheelhouse was ablaze, and the only thing on the boat not on fire was these three guys, the Type 2 PFDs they were wearing and the one flare they grabbed out of the flare locker.
It’s overcast, pitch black and drizzling — only a storm and waves could make the search conditions worse and we were all thinking the same thing; on an open skiff, with nowhere to hide, the kid must be freezing. Coast Guard rescue crews take every search seriously, but we look harder out the window for kids in peril. We should. Get over it.
Every hour of every day, many thousands of airline pilots do something that, on the face of it, seems silly. Just before landing, the flying pilot lowers the landing gear, and three bright green lights illuminate.
I love EPRIBs. When asked what one thing I would take with me offshore, I always answer; an EPIRB. There is simply no valid argument against the devices. I recommend them to friends, insist on them for family and think anyone who goes to sea without one is just plain stupid.
Retired rescue swimmer Mario Vittone and helicopter pilot Dan Molthen spent countless hours looking for lost boaters, yet neither had ever seen the one document boaters are encouraged to create prior to getting underway: a float plan.
When people fall overboard, more often than not it’s at the marina when stepping on or off the boat.