Almeisan's Lessons

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The sailors aboard Almeisan did many things correctly:

they wore safety harnesses, had a working EPIRB and the latest life raft, and they never panicked. In hindsight, we learn additional lessons:

  • Install the storm shutters as soon as the seas get rough. Don't wait until you feel the seas are dangerous, because in the chaos and confusion you might forget. That is what happened on Almeisan.
  • Test your life raft before a lengthy trip and make sure the tether is thick enough for a good grip.
  • Always have a drogue on board to slow the vessel in giant seas. This was the one trip where Tom and Loch did not bring it along because in their prior trips the boat had performed well in storms.
  • Loch Reidy, who survived 30 hours in the sea, says his foam PFD saved his life and says if he'd had an inflatable PFD on he probably would not be alive. The inflatable model may have been torn by the crashing seas or leaked and Loch is certain he could not have blown it back up. Loch also wishes his bug-out bag had a pair of swimming goggles as the salt water made it difficult for him to see.
  • Loch was spotted by a Coast Guard C-130 that saw the faint light of the survivor's strobe. Loch actually had two strobe lights: his own and the one he removed from Tom's body. Only one of the two was still working when the C-130 flew by.
  • Even if the National Weather Service says a storm will only give your position a glancing blow, consider altering course or postponing your trip. Never let a preset schedule pressure you into continuing the voyage as planned.
  • For a trip the duration of this one from the United States to Bermuda, consider having backups of essential items, such as radio and EPIRB. In my research, I've interviewed survivors whose radio and EPIRB malfunctioned.

See related article:

- Holding on for dear life in the waves.

This article originally appeared in the New England Home Waters Section of the April 2010 issue.