February 3, 2013

Take more care at night

GEORGE DAY, a former editor of Cruising World magazine, wrote this in his book Safety at Sea: “There is a strong correlation between losing sight of a victim and the fatality of that victim.” In other words, if you fall overboard and the crew on board can’t see you, you’re likely to die. This is especially true at night.

At sea in anything except a dead calm, your chances of being saved at night are very bleak indeed. In fact, if you don’t have a light on you, your chances are about zero. Even if you’re wearing one of those personal strobe lights that attach to your arm, your chances aren’t a whole lot better.

An electronic flash may look quite bright, but when it’s so low down on the surface of the water its range is very limited.

At five knots, a boat travels about 10,000 yards in 60 minutes. She therefore covers 100 yards in 36 seconds, so by the time the first minute has elapsed the victim is nearly 200 yards away. Given the usual conditions of swells, breaking waves, and spray that’s too far.

The message is clear: You should take extra precautions to stay aboard at night. Wear a harness and make sure there are strong attachment points in the cockpit and on deck.

I know this sounds like advice you’d expect to get from a socialist-liberal nanny government, but I’m only doing what I know to be right. On the other hand, I regret to say I can’t count the number of times I’ve reneged on a promise to my wife that I’d faithfully wear a harness and lifejacket whenever I was on watch in the cockpit alone.

I suspect many of you are guilty of the same crime. I promise to try to be better in future, and I would urge you to give it a go, too.

Today’s Thought
Who can hope to be safe? who sufficiently cautious?
Guard himself as he may, every moment’s an ambush.
— Horace, Odes

Confucius, he say if man think by the inch and talk by the yard, he will be kicked by the foot.

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

1 comment:

Jack said...


Lucky excape....