safety at sea

Seven More Stupid Things You Can Do Out on the Water

If the pirates on board this ship had bothered to check the forecast instead of their rations of rum, they might have avoided this frightening weather maker

This past week we’ve been celebrating National Safe Boating Week, and I talked about stupid things boaters do out there on the water. The whole point of Safe Boating Week is to make boaters more conscientious of exercising common sense and diligence not only this week but throughout the summer and beyond.

One of the things I mentioned was carrying and using life jackets. A second was the failure to check the weather forecast. After all, do you really think a member of the Coast Guard should not go home to his/her family tonight because they died getting you out of a dangerous situation you should never have put yourself into?

The third stupid thing I mentioned was operating a boat while intoxicated. Pirates used to do it, and the consequences were often devastating. Blackbeard’s head was hanging from the bowsprit of Capt. Maynard’s ship when he brought survivors of Blackbeard’s crew to Williamsburg. Nothing glorious or funny about that. In fact, the only place where drinking and operating a vehicle is funny is in the movies. Everyone in the audience has a great time, and then the words The End flash on the screen and everyone goes home happy. Except in real life, where after a DUI or a BUI, there’s a wake of dead and mangled bodies and a swath of broken lives.

Playing it forward, I think the next stupid thing boaters do is to fail to make sure all their systems are functioning properly. That funny noise you heard your engine make last time you were out.  Well, are you going to check it out before weighing anchor tomorrow? That funny smell coming from below deck that smells oddly like burning wires, did you give that any thought when you got back to the marina?

Did you know it doesn’t cost you a red cent to have your boat inspected by someone who is a qualified expert, as good as any you’ll find in the best of marinas? These men and women are professional, friendly, and knowledgeable. And they won’t try to sell you on repairs you don’t need. Have you ever heard of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary?

You’ll find them across the United States, in marinas, bays, and channels, and they will inspect your boat for free. The only thing you need to pay is a little respect and attention. Contrary to what some boaters say, the Coast Guard and their right arm, Coast Guard Auxiliarists, who number over 26,000, are not wet blankets with the sole purpose of ruining your plans for fun out on the water. By 2017, the 200th birthday of the Coast Guard, these men and women, who serve in this unique military branch, saved over 4,188 lives and performed over 16,907 rescues. Maybe one day, your life or one of your loved ones will be added to that number.

To find out more information on this dedicated group of men and women who still serve their country without pay, or to request an inspection of your floating bucket of bolts, go to http://www.cgaux.org/vsc/ .

The fifth stupid thing boaters do is to fail to learn the basic rules of boating safety and navigation. Taking a basic course with neither your head nor your heart in it can be dangerous for the simple reason that you think you know all about operating a boat. The British poet, Alexander Pope was right 300 years ago, and he’s still right. “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” And nothing’s more dangerous than an arrogant, know-it-all boater except maybe a drunken, arrogant, know-it-all boater.

There are all kinds of courses you can take. Some of them excellent, and some pretty pathetic. If you want a fair recommendation, ask the experts who have to deal with the mess, ignorant and stupid boaters leave in their wake. As if you couldn’t guess, contact http://www.cgaux.org/boatinged/ and look for boating courses.

Another stupid thing that annoys the bejessus out of safe boaters are the fools that operate their boat recklessly. They’re the ones who hot dog it in the bay and marina, cross your path, leaving you little time to react, while you have to deal with their wake. It’s the equivalent of someone crossing three lanes of traffic to make it to their exit ramp. Everyone else be damned. Many of these boaters are either so drunk or are texting and don’t even know they’re bearing down on you, leaving you little time to react. When these guys get caught, they should be used as chum by the local fishing fleet.

Letting your Uncle Joe, who up to now has only seen pictures of a boat, take the helm, is probably just as stupid as being a hotdog. Why would you do that? You have an expensive piece of equipment, and you’re letting someone with no experience take control, while you’re aft getting ripped on vodka and orange juice?

The eighth stupid thing you can probably do is to go out without filing a plan with someone. If you fail to come home at the end of the day, your wife is going to sound pretty stupid. “Where did he go?” “I don’t know?” “What time did he weigh anchor?’ “I don’t know.” “Was he expecting to stop somewhere?” “I don’t know.” “Do you know anything?” “I know I’ll be happy if you wait four weeks before starting a Search and Rescue.”

Seriously, bad things can happen out on the river as well as the sea, and the sooner the professionals know they should be looking for you, and as soon as they have a clue where to look, the better are your chances of being rescued.

The ninth stupid thing a boater can do is fail to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. The weather looks overcast, muses many a boater as he weighs anchor at 7:00 am. “Aww, shucks! I left that stuff in another bag in the car.” Two hours later the fog and mist have burned away. Want to know the next thing that’s going to burn away? The epidermis on a boater’s exposed skin. With no hat, a bald man’s head is a solar panel for the sun’s rays, and his nose, ears, and neck become ground zero for melanoma. And with no covering for his eyes, he is about to inflict serious damage on his retinas. And I’m betting it won’t be the first time either.

That brings us to the tenth stupid thing that boaters do, but I’m done. I’m leaving number ten to you. What do you think is a stupid, stupid thing that a stupid, stupid boater does? This piece won’t be complete without your contribution. So whether you’re an inveterate boater, an armchair sailor, a Navy frogman, or a member of the USCG, let me hear from you.

My pirate ship is moored at an undisclosed location, and I’m sitting under a palm tree in my Key West Garden here in Murrells Inlet. A bottle of Repel 40 deet sits on my table next to my Panama Jack 70 sunblock. My Margaritaville glass, once filled with water, is nearly empty. It’s important to stay hydrated in this humid SC weather, so I think my refill is going to be a Foster’s, mate! I’m in dock, my bare feet on terra firma, but the dreams of the sea still call my name. Maybe I’ll answer tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s looking at you, kid! And stay safe out there on the water. And don’t forget to behave yourself. Or you may be reading about yourself in this blog next week.

 

 

 

 

                                     Bill Hegerich

                                      The Uncommon Mariner

 

To leave a comment, click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/seven-more-stupid-things-you-can-do-out-on-the-water/

The Three Most Stupid Things You Can Do on the Water

 

The three-man crew, er, I mean two man and one woman crew, of the Silent Lady out of St. Thomas, USVI. First thing they made sure of was where our life jackets were. The second thing was where the rum was. Arrggh!

Boating season is in full swing here in South Carolina, not that you won’t find impassioned boaters active here and elsewhere in the United States year-round. But somehow the warm weather seems to attract more than the water’s share of wackos who think they are impervious to their really bad choices. Once we get into the dead heat of summer, it’s hard not to pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV and learn about the antics of some moron that brought about someone’s serious injury or death.

Below are three really bad things to do with your boat, though I’m sure seasoned boaters and the United States Coast Guard can easily add to this list. Before reading any further, maybe you ought to take a couple of Dramamine tablets and a life jacket. It won’t keep you from getting seasick, but when you sail with some of the characters I’m about to introduce, you might be tempted to jump overboard.

First, there are the boaters that don’t carry life jackets or bother to use them. I know the Coast Guard would agree with me 100% on this. While laws generally vary from state to state, generally, children, operators of personal water craft, and water skiers are supposed to wear one. They should also fit snugly which is why adult life jackets are deathtraps for children.

A lot of operators of boats always assume a boating accident isn’t going to happen to them. Assumption is the mother of all Screw-ups. Actually, I wanted to use a more colorful phrase because I can’t make this point too strongly, but I think wordpress would banish me even if it saved a life. A lot more than collisions can cause a person to drown. Losing balance and falling overboard while fishing, for instance. Or rough seas that end up swamping your boat.

A lot of people complain wearing a lifejacket is too restrictive. Well, if you think wearing one of those things is uncomfortable, imagine how comfortable it is to be gasping for air underwater while your lungs fill with water. If you want a thorough list of Do’s and Don’ts for lifejacket usage visit the United States Coast Guard at http://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/life-jacket-wear-wearing-your-life-jacket.php. 

Another common yet equally stupid thing for boaters to do is not check the weather forecast. They got their sandwiches packed; enough beer to float their vessel, enough ice to sink the Titanic, and a wide variety of fishing tackle that would make Ernest Hemingway look like a namby-pamby. Yet somehow checking the forecast doesn’t fit into their idea of a fun day.

What these knuckleheads don’t realize is that Mother Nature changes her moods out on the sea as frequently as the weather in Miami in the middle of a hot August afternoon. As my good friend, Jimmy, from Miami says: “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” When you’re a few miles offshore, and a weather maker blows up from nowhere, it’s a little too late to run for shelter. There’s really no excuse for not checking  the forecast when you have an expert site like https://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm to go to.

You can probably guess at the next thing stupid boaters do. That’s why I’m lumping them with drunken pirates. A third of boating accidents are alcohol-related. Blackbeard would probably still be alive today, raiding ships off North Carolina if he had a clear head the day Lieutenant Maynard sailed into the shallow inlets of Beaufort, NC looking for him. Instead, with a false sense of bravado, fueled by his nightlong rum-swilling, he pursued Maynard’s ship after it was grounded. (His own ship was freed only minutes before by the rising tide.) Had he been sober, Blackbeard might have weighed anchor and escaped.  Instead, he led his drunken men aboard Maynard’s ship, where the lieutenant surprised him with well-armed men concealed below deck.

When you’re out on the water, anything can happen, from a malfunctioning engine to a man overboard, to an encounter with an intoxicated boater mindlessly bearing down on you. It’s true you probably won’t meet any pirates out there, but the point is you have to be ready to deal with any crisis. Being three sheets to the wind because of too much rum is hazardous for both you, your guests, and your boat.

While the irresponsible boater may think it’s no big deal to get caught while under the influence, he might consider penalties could include suspension of driving and boating licenses, fines, and possible jail time. Not a lot of fun if you sober up in jail and realize you got Bubba for a cellmate and he’s been lonely for a long, long time. Visit https://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/boating-under-the-influence.php  where the Coast Guard gives you a whole lot more to think about before taking that first shot of rum.

Boating Safety Week is held this year from May 18 to May 24, in the effort to make boaters a lot more conscientious about their choices out on the water. I think boat safety is so important, it needs more than just seven days. I think it needs to be extended throughout the summer and beyond. Visit me again here and find out the next three stupid things even pirates wouldn’t do with their boat.

Until then, smooth sailing on the high seas, and if you get on board someone else’s ship, be sure you get your fair share of rum, but first make sure to ask for your life jacket.

 

Bill Hegerich

The Uncommon Mariner

PS. Want more fun out on the water? Want to join a pirate crew that’s saavy and safe? Check out https://www.coolboatsusvi.com/silent-lady.html

 

To leave a comment, visit me at https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/the-three-most-stupid-things-you-can-do-on-the-water/   Maybe you can guess what the next three things are that stupid boaters do.

 

Tragedy Fells Five Mariners on High Seas

A mariner died recently on a cruise ship when a lifeboat he was testing in a safety drill malfunctioned. According to reports, he was in the boat along with four others lifting it up and down when suddenly the cable broke and the five mariners were thrown. Two others were seriously hurt and taken to the hospital. Two escaped with minor injuries.

Never at any time were passengers onboard at risk of injury or death. The Harmony of the Seas, owned by Royal Caribbean, was docked in Marseilles, France when the tests were being conducted for the crew. Muster drills for passengers are usually held within an hour or two of sailing and do not involve them entering lifeboats.

All cruise lines that I know of conduct safety drills for the crew when in port while most passengers are off ship enjoying themselves. Conducting these drills are essential for the safety of everyone on board. No one wants a crew that doesn’t know exactly what their function is in an emergency.

After investigating the incident, authorities discovered two disturbing things that helped create the situation. One was a rope wire that was corrosive despite being coated with plenty of grease. While you might think a wire cable lathered in grease would be protected from salt air, it obviously was not the case. In fact, authorities determined that it covered up the problem, preventing anyone from seeing just how corroded the cable really was.

Authorities fixed another cause of the accident on the way the cable was wired. Because it was not mounted properly, repeated friction and tension caused it to prematurely wear. The lifeboat had actually been manipulated up and down several times with the mariners in it to make sure it was properly functioning. It was during this time that the cable malfunctioned. In essence, the workers in the lifeboat risked their lives for passengers who one day might have had to use that very lifeboat in an emergency situation. Continue reading →

Abandon Ship

Those two words are perhaps the most terrifying any passenger on the high seas can hear. On Wednesday, August 17, a ferry with 511 passengers and crew caught fire while en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Santo Domingo.  Miraculously, no one was killed as the Puerto Rico Coast Guard and local officials rushed to the scene.

It’s a voyage the ferry makes several times a week. This time a fire in the engine room changed routine into a near disaster when a fuel hose burst and spewed dangerous fuel everywhere. The fire spread to other parts of the Caribbean Fantasy, and when the ship lost power, it drifted finally grounding off Punta Salinas. While the hull sustained no damage from the fire, pictures reveal a different story for other parts of the ship.

More than a hundred people suffered smoke inhalation, dehydration, and shock. Though passengers were evacuated into life rafts by slide, several passengers suffered broken bones in the process.

The story has a happy ending because everyone did what they were supposed to do. Owners and authorities made sure proper equipment was on board. This included enough life vests for both passengers and crew, proper functioning slides, and enough life boats to accommodate everyone on board.

The story also has a happy ending because the captain, instead of trying to play hero and guide the ship into port, properly ordered the dreaded “Abandon Ship” command. Most importantly, everyone survived because the passengers kept their composure and did not panic in the face of a terrifying ordeal.

I shudder to think what would have happened in other parts of the world where ferry disasters are far too common and the loss of life seemingly routine. You don’t have to go too far back in the news to discover how bad it could have been for travelers on the Caribbean Fantasy.

On April 16, 2014, the South Korean ferry Sewol went down claiming 304 souls, most of them school children. When its sister ship was seized and inspected, authorities discovered the lifeboats would not release, and when one finally did by hard kicking, it barely inflated in the water. Continue reading →