Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Lesson for Private Boaters: Thoughts on the three football players lost at sea.

I love boating. One of my dreams is to retire on a 40+ foot sailboat and travel around the whole world at a very low cost. I just have to convince my wife Melinda over the next few decades that this is a good idea. Because of my interest in boating, this news article caught my eye:

Semper Paratus, for all of you who may not know, roughly translates in Latin to "Always Ready", or possibly as "Always Prepared." It is the motto of the United States Coast Guard.
In this news story, four professional football players found themselves in deep dung when their 21 foot boat capsized off the coast of Florida during a storm. Only one survived, after 48 hours in the water with nothing but his life preserver. The Coasties have since called off the search, after searching an area of roughly 24,000 square miles. The survivor, Nick Schuyler was in critical condition and found clinging to capsized boat with a pretty bad case of hypothermia. The rest were nowhere to be found.

Not to demean the deceased, I thought it prudent to critically analyze the events inasmuch as the information is available to insure that something like this never happens to me or my friends and family on my watch (as I hope to invite many people to go on sailing trips with us over the years).

The first thing that seems apparent is that none of the four people on board the small vessel really knew what they were doing. One of the most fundamental principles of seamanship is to know what you are sailing into. Unbeknownst to these football players, they were sailing into a rather massive storm that was reported on the radio but they unfortunately missed the memo. If planning a trip into the ocean or any big body of water, it is a good idea to be in the know about weather conditions, with the best up-to-date information available.

Unfortunately, it seems obvious that all four men were drinking alcoholic beverages and this impaired their situational awareness, judgement, and hand-eye coordination. If skilled, a boater can maneuver his boat successfully even through an ugly storm. If drunk, he is capsized. There is a good reason why sailors in the olden days were given such harsh penalties if they were found drunk on duty. "What shall we do with the drunken sailor" is a classic song that illustrates these penalties in a humorous way.

The biggest mistake these men made, though, was the lack of proper equipment in their boat. It is good that they all had life preservers on, but this did not help those who probably died of hypothermia or shark attacks (which abound in the Caribbean). Where was their inflatable raft? Where was their waterproof satelite phone or S.O.S. beacon? Signal flare gun?

If I were a professional football player heading into the open sea on my own boat, I would equip myself with all of these things:

All of the following (minus the raft) would be in a waterproof duffle bag, which also doubles as a flotation device in a pinch. Each person should also have their life preserver on while above deck.

-Signal mirror
-Three liters of water per person
-Concentrated emergency rations: three days worth per person
-H&K Flare Gun, with a lanyard loop.
-About 10-20 emergency flare cartridges, 26.5 mm, in a waterproof case
-Inflatable raft (even capsized and in the water, they could have blown it up while floating with their life preservers. Inside the raft, the sun would dry their clothing within minutes to hours following the storm, and they would not have died of hypothermia) The raft and duffle should be strapped to the inside of the boat so that if capsized, one could simply swim under, unhook it, and bring it back out from underneath.
-Waterproof Satellite phone, with the numbers of the Coast Guard and local police programmed in.
-Extra battery for the Satellite phone, double sealed in two ziplock bags.
-GPS, also with extra battery. (This would seriously speed up the rescue process; if you were able to tell the Coast Guard your exact coordinates over the phone, you could be rescued within a matter of a few hours).
-Maglight or LED light with extra batteries, also waterproof and shockproof.
-Diving knife (carefully sheathed)
-Lensatic compass
-Basic first aid kit, with disinfectant, surgical tape, bandages, burn cream, powerful sunscreen, a tourniquet, and a few packages of Quikclot.

It is important that before each outing, you double check to insure that the batteries for the GPS as well as the SatPhone are fully charged, and everything else is dry and in good order. It's true that some of these things are somewhat expensive, but as I said, these four men were professional football players, and probably not hurting for cash. An investment of a couple of thousand dollars would have almost certainly saved their lives. If you are going to buy a boat, at least invest in a few things that are worth every penny if you even need to use them once. It is the cheapest life insurance policy a sea-goer could buy.

Remember also: nobody should go out on the open sea if they cannot swim. This should seem obvious, but I have been astounded over the years by how many people have drowned with a loved one shouting nearby, "Please help him/her! He/she can't swim!"

Anyways, if you ever go out on a boat, I hope this information is helpful.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Welcome to Semper Paratus

Welcome to Semper Paratus, dedicated to practical preparedness and self-reliance. It is my hope that through the articles and anecdotes shared here, you will leave more informed and better prepared than when you came.

Feel free to peruse the posts and copy/paste any information that you see, which cover many topics ranging from how to grow your own food, raise livestock, garden, reinforce your house, create your own off-grid power, and other skills related to preparedness. I've pulled these posts from many sources, and some of them are of my own creation. I hope you find them useful and educational.
Thanks for reading, and remember to "Be Prepared."