Apparently the odds of dying in an airplane crash are three million to one; are there any statistics regarding the same kind of odds for cruising?
Mark Matthews responds:
The odds of dying while cruising are probably about the same as winning the lottery. Though your odds will increase, of course, should you let your guard down.
According to a study commissioned by the US Coast Guard a few years ago, the sailing community suffers 12 deaths per million hours of sailing. Among recreational deaths, canoeists and kayakers lead the list with 42 fatalities per million hours of activity. Since there are so many different kinds of sailing, breaking down how many deaths happened while cruising is a bit more difficult.
The task of accurate record-keeping regarding this issue is even further complicated by determining an accurate definition for a cruising death? If someone cruises to an exotic locale and then contracts a case of food poisoning that sends them to cruiser's heaven, is that considered a cruising death any more than falling overboard would be?
Most long-distance cruisers have a heightened awareness of the importance of not going overboard. That said, life afloat can still be dangerous. Olympic-class sailors have drowned in their home waters, and though attacks by pirates are extremely rare, they do occur. Just like life on shore, there's no guarantee that a sailor won't be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
While there's no doubt that cruising occasionally puts you in harm's way, the benefits in my experience far outweigh not going cruising at all.