Safe sailing is no accident

Published on January 5th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
It is hard to tell if people are more reckless today than in the past. The immense availability of news now exposes any misstep, while the vast tools for rescue may encourage that step, even justify it. However, it is evident that with all the progress we enjoy, self-reliance and personal responsibility isn’t what it used to be.

This observation comes from George Day in the Cruising Compass:

In the last month, there have been four dramatic Coast Guard rescues of sailors who got into trouble miles off the North American coast. We carry these stories in Cruising Compass because they are news, and they can be cautionary tales. Yet, we have to wonder about the wisdom of amateur cruising sailors heading offshore in December in the North Atlantic and North Pacific in relatively small boats.

Certainly, it is their choice, but by making what looks to me like reckless decisions, they put the lives of Coast Guard helicopter and cutter crews in danger; plus, the rescues cost taxpayers a bundle. I wouldn’t be in favor of mandatory boat inspections by the Coast Guard before a crew heads offshore as New Zealand tried some years ago.

Instead, I think we need to look at ourselves, the cruising and blue water community, in the mirror; we should speak up when someone in our community announces plans to do something reckless. Sailing and cruising has always had mentors with experience who bring new sailors along. But perhaps in the age of COVID and YouTube, that mentoring process has broken down.

Safe sailing and seamanlike passage making is no accident. It depends upon the three Ps: planning, preparation and practice. Every sailor who buys a cruising boat with ambitions to sail offshore should know this.

The understandable rebuttal is how rescue services train for these moments, so the expense is mute and better served on people in need. However, is this money being spent because the next Darwin Award recipient is around the corner? It is immensely gratifying for there to be an international network of support… they just shouldn’t be part of the equation for going to sea.

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