December 26, 2013

Better to cling like a monkey

IT CAN BE QUITE A SURPRISE to see how much safety gear there is aboard some yachts, and how little aboard others. A lot of it has to do with the owner’s philosophy.

In the middle of the last century, when men such as Marcel Bardiaux and Bernard Moitessier were sailing around the world, they spurned even such elementary safety features as stanchions and lifelines.

“They give you a false sense of security,” Moitessier once told me.  “they catch you below the hip. They can catapult you overboard. Better to learn to cling like a monkey, like me.”

Times have changed, of course,  It’s difficult now to find a yacht that doesn’t have lifelines. But the old spirit hasn’t vanished entirely.  Some of the safest boats afloat have the simplest equipment — but it’s combined with a thorough knowledge of how to use it, should the need arise.  It’s pretty pointless to own thousands of dollars’ worth of lifesaving gear if you and your crew haven’t practiced using it.

So be very careful when choosing safety equipment. Safety is an emotional subject and store clerks know this. Try not to buy anything you can’t imagine yourself attempting to use in pitch darkness on a stormy night.

As for lifelines and tethers, I believe in them thoroughly. Bardiaux and Moitessier were sailing’s heroes, sailing’s supermen. The rest of us need all the help we can get.

Today’s Thought
Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver five minutes longer.
— Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President

Why does a chicken coop have two doors?
Because if it had four doors it would be a chicken sedan.

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

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