WHAT’S THE WORST THING that can happen to a sailor at sea? Here are some of the answers you’ll get if you ask around:
► Mast failure. Nothing makes your heart beat faster than the sight of your mast going overboard, or so I’m told. The seriousness of the situation depends on many things, of course, especially how far away you are from land and rescue services.
► Anchor dragging onto a lee shore. Naturally, this only happens in the worst weather when it will cause maximum harm. Depending on the forecast, and how fast the anchor is moving, and how far offshore you are, it can be white-knuckle time. The answer is to retrieve your anchor and put out to sea as soon as the wind starts blowing hard onshore.
► Engine failure while entering a strange marina. It happens with puzzling frequency. It’s as if engines know when best to punish you. One answer is to have a stern anchor set up and ready to hurl overboard within seconds.
► A leak in the water tank at sea. It really gets your attention when you wake up to find your floorboards awash in fresh water. Whether you die of thirst or not depends on your knowledge of extracting lymphatic fluid from fish, as Dr. Alain Bombard did, and how much moisture there is in those cans of baked beans in the galley.
► Seasickness. For those afflicted, nothing is worse, even death itself. In fact, some in the deepest throes of this maritime misery have been known to beg to be allowed to die. Don’t let them. Force-feed them with dry crackers, keep them hydrated, and give them a steady supply of brown paper bags. And don’t expect any thanks.
► Some other suggestions I’ve come across::
— Going hard aground at high spring tide in front of the yacht club.
— Turning turtle at sea; and, poignantly,
— Getting too old to sail.
The true test of seamanship is how a sailor reacts when things go wrong.
— John Vigor
“You quite sure you captured this gator yourself?”
“Howcome it’s all dirty along one side?”
“Hit the mud when it fell out of the tree.”(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for another Mainly about Boats column.)