PFDs--all the time?
Jim Banta writes:
<em>Just how long do you think you can swim in even 70 degree water.. I sail in a lake that changes it''s</em> [sic] <em>temp from 75 degrees in the blazing heat of summer to near 40 degrees in the winter chill. I want to tell you right now with or without a PFD you will die if left long enough for 40 or 75 degree water to lower your core tempature too much.. And don''t think it takes alot </em>[sic] <em>of time. It''s best to make it near imposible to end up over board. Put on some arangement of harness and jack lines have a rope dragging behind you, have a ladder in place or ready to deploy from the water. You can''t swim at 4 knots as long as a boat can sail at that speed. Don''t pin your life on your ablity to swim.</em>
Mr. Banta chides me for stating that the ability to swim can be an important factor in survivability; he also seems to understand me as suggesting that I believe if one can swim, it is unnecessary to take any other precautions for one''s safety. This is a misrepresentation of my post, and creates a <em>reductio-ad-absurdum </em>argument, to wit: the ability to swim negates any need for caution or safety systems to avoid entering the water in the first place. Because of Mr. Banta''s criticism, I wind up painted as a simpleton, for only a simpleton would pose such an idea.
I believe Mr. Banta''s misunderstanding of my post is simply the result of failing to consider the wider context of this thread, in which I advocate the use of PFDs in general and extol the convenience of SOSpenders in particular (I said I <em>own</em> a SOSender inflatable/harness, for crying out loud!), thereby challenging the "PFDs are inconvenient" argument, and urge others to consider their responsibility for their own safety and the safety of guests on board their vessels. This in itself shows that I am not an advocate of a "swimming skill is a panacea" mentality. (I shudder at the thought).
But, to illustrate my proposition that all sailors should also be swimmers, please note that this thread also includes the incidence of a competent and otherwise safety-conscious sailor falling into the water in relatively mild conditions and dying (when swimming ability certainly would have saved his life, even if it only allowed him to keep his face out of the water to breathe and shout for help!); and a first-hand anecdote of someone who saved himself solely with his own swimming ability and clear thinking. Both incidents occured just when someone''s guard was down and it was least expected that anyone would be fighting for his life. In those circumstances, what goes over the side with you is not your PFD, but your ability to swim and reason. Both examples, I think, validate my point.
When I identified myself as a lifeguard, I hoped it would suggest some training in safety on, in and around the water, not just the possession of a pair of red swimtrunks and a whistle on a lanyard. I know whereof I speak. <u>The No. 1 preventable cause of drowning in the U. S. is non-existent or poor swimming ability</u>. The annual death toll floats (no pun intended) at around 6,000 every year, the bulk of which occur in early summer. This fact impacts sailors as well as the public-at-large. Sailors are not immune to drowning, and is the reason for my comment that the embarrassing words "he was not a strong swimmer" should never appear in the obituary of a sailor.
It is inconceivable to me that people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on boats and thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, and untold hours of thought, on safety systems, and be so foolhardy as to actually cast off from the dock while remaining non-swimmers. I might suggest the reason for that is that learning to swim requires hours of inconvenient instruction and practice. One can''t become a competent swimmer by writing a check at West Marine. If any of you out there is a non-swimming sailor, in my very humble opinion, you are a fool.
For clarity''s sake, allow me to summarize: <b>the ability to swim is an important, cost-effective and <u>often over-looked</u> safety skill, which, when included in an overall safely plan, can allow self- and other-rescue of sailors (and their guests), particularly in more mundane, and therefore deceiving, circumstances</b>, as well as a provide an increased confidence and enhanced enjoyment in, on and around the water. I am not suggesting anything beyond that (except the afore-mentioned fool bit, but I think that is pretty clear).
That being said, Mr. Banta''s points about hypothermia as a real threat to life should be heeded by all: in water temperatures in the range Mr. Banta cites, the initial shock of entering the water, combined with the quick onset of hypothermic effects, including an insidious loss of reasoning ability, make attempts at self-rescue a challenging endeavor after only a few moments: e. g., gripping strength and mental resolve diminish so quickly that pulling onself back to a trailing swim ladder along a single line in bulky winter clothing and footwear becomes a major physical and mental challenge. A quick viewing of footage of Coast Guard rescues in cold water shows just how incapacitated people become shortly after entering extremely cold water, even when wearing PFDs. Arguments of increased drag notwithstanding, if you sail in cold water and trail a safety line, which I think a sensible single-handed or "skipper + guests" practice whatever the water temperature, I suggest tying in ladder-type loops, or at least knotting the line every foot, especially if a strong pull will not disengage your auto-pilot or shut your engine''s throttle.
Jim, sorry to take you to task, but it was only in self-defense: your posts are consistently well-reasoned and obviously borne from a wealth of experience, and a concern for everyone''s safety and the good reputation of our sport, which I benefit from every time I log on. I take you for a sober and competent captain. I think you just misread me.