April 12, 2012

Thinking ahead

ONE OF THE MOST important elements of seamanship is the ability to think ahead, to imagine dangers before they happen, and to work out plans for dealing with them if they do. This kind of forethought can earn you lots of points in the black box, points you need to get you out of trouble when the chips are down.

Thomas Fleming Day, yachting editor and author, understood this well. In his book, On Yachts and Yacht Handling, published more than 100 years ago, he says:

One day when running down wind, I said to the young fellow at the wheel, who was anxious to learn the seaman's trade, "What would you do if one of us fell overboard?"

"I don't know," he answered.

"Haven't you ever thought, planned out, what you would do in such an emergency?"

No, he hadn't. "Well," I said, "you think it out; put the boat in different positions and under different sail, and plan out what you would do if such an accident happened."

A day or two after, while the same lad was at the wheel, we lost the dingey (sic). Without calling me from down below or hesitating, he wore round and recovered the boat, executing the manoeuvre in so clever a manner as to call praise from all the old hands. When, shortly after, I relieved him at the wheel, he said: "I thought that out the other day after you spoke about what to do if a man falls overboard."

Again, I was on the bridge of a steamer chatting with the mate. "What do you do to pass away the long night watches?" I asked him.

"Well," he answered, "I spend hours thinking and planning out what I would do if certain things happened. I put the ship into every possible danger—fire, collision, shifting cargo, broken shaft, and unexpected land.  I then plan how best to meet the emergency created. I place other ships in every position—green to port, red to starboard, lights dead ahead, lights on the beam, lights everywhere—then plan to work my ship clear of them. I have some run into me, am sinking, lower boats, save my own crew and rescue others. I pick up lame ducks, pass hawsers, make fast and tow them in. Everything that could possibly happen I have happen, and plan the ways and means of meeting them over and over again. That is how I while away my eight hours in the scuppers."

There was a seaman who had prepared himself for an emergency; a commander who had ready for instant use a plan, so, let the occasion demand it, he could stand forth the man of the hour.

Let me advise you who would learn the seaman's art to copy that mate.

Today's Thought
He who is not prepared today will be less so tomorrow.
— Ovid, Remediorum Amoris.

Four pearls of Scottish wisdom to remember:
1. Forgive your enemy but remember the bastard’s name.
2. Help a man when he is in trouble, and he will remember you when he is in trouble again.
3. Many people are alive only because it’s illegal to shoot them.
4. Alcohol does not solve any problem. But then, neither does milk.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

No comments: