Our Dispatches e-newsletter often delivers news of accidents — capsizes, sinkings, search-and-rescue missions. Sometimes they are the result of the forces of nature or an equipment failure; sometimes they are the result of questionable seamanship skills.
Piloting a powerboat offshore, in rough seas or through an ocean inlet with a good sea running takes sharp handling skills, common sense and knowledge of wind, current and tides, expert boat operators say.
But how do you learn to run in challenging conditions?
Click play for a sampling of expert boat-handling tips.
There’s no substitute for experience and logging as much time on the water as possible, according to two experts we interviewed for our February cover story on seamanship. The two give their tips for running in various conditions.
Chris Fertig is a former Coast Guardsman who served in a unit that chased drug-runners in the Caribbean. He drove powerboats hard, fast and for long distances, and he has significant rough-water experience.
Last August, Fertig broke the New York to Bermuda powerboat record in a 37-foot center console, averaging 38 mph over 780 miles. At one point, he had to navigate 8-foot seas on his way to beating the Bermuda Challenge mark by 44 minutes.
The other expert we interviewed for our story is Tom Guthlein, a retired 18-year Coast Guard surfman. Surfmen are coxswains who are qualified to operate rescue boats in breaking surf conditions.
Guthlein also was an instructor at the Coast Guard’s National Motor Lifeboat School. He is a recipient of the agency’s Joshua James Ancient Keeper Award in recognition of longevity as a commanding officer or officer in charge of a boat unit and outstanding performance in boat operations.