How "afraid" should we be of sailing? - Page 32 - SailNet Community
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post #311 of 392 Old 02-27-2017
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

I worked in the Office of Boating Safety for over 20 years. Those are the people who compile those statistics. They are interesting statistics, But other than the number of fatalities dropping dramatically since they began keeping them in the early 70's, nothing much has changed as far as type of boats involved, except the addition of Personal water craft in the 90's. We used to say that if you could eliminate canoes/kayaks and jon boats, you could reduce the fatalities by 25%. But that's not likely to happen. And you need to look beyond the stats to see what has happened. In my first years in boating safety I was tasked with reviewing boating accidents, and determining causes and remedies. I reviewed hundreds of accidents over a three year period. Here a some conclusions.

Sailboats have always been a small number of fatalities and accidents. Why? lots of reasons. As mentioned, speed is one. Other than really high tech Americas Cup type boats, sailboats just don't go very fast. Speed kills. Lower the speed and you lower the number of fatalities. But another factor is simply most of us (I include myself, because I started sailing when I was about 12) took some sort of class or training and safety was stressed. Another is that in most youth sailing programs wearing a lifejacket is required and it becomes a lifelong habit. Plus we learn how to get ourselves out of things like a capsize.

Another factor here is simply that most people who get into sailing as an adult realize they need some training. Sailboats are not turn key boats. There are literally thousands of people who buy a powerboat and all they ask is "how do I start they engine?" In many states now there is a boating course or exam requirement, and that is good, but there is still no requirement to actually get hands on training on how to operate a powerboat.

Drinking. It is much more common for powerboats to operated by someone under the influence, than sailboats. why? the three B's, Boats Booze, babes (sorry ladies) For some reason powerboats with big engines are associated with those three. Just go look at a forum like PerformanceBoats.com. Not so with sailboats (yes we keep the boats and babes part, LOL) but most sailors know that the booze comes after the sail, not during or before. (By the way, these are my own opinions, not those of the Coast Guard)

Also, there are many safety standards for powerboats,such as safe horsepower, safe loading, flotation, and the list goes on. But there are practically none for sailboats. Why is that? Because, as I said, sailboats are simply not involved much in serious accidents. A collision in a sailboat rarely involves more than minor damage ad rarely involves injuries or death. Federal requirements for boats are based on demonstrated need, and the need for that in sailboats simply cannot be demonstrated.

So Sailing is relatively safe, and most of the serious accidents are because the operator put themselves in a dangerous situation such as sailing into massive storms, or attempting something they do not have the experience or training to tackle. Oddly enough, if you look at the Coast Guard statistics on rescues at sea where a person or persons were taken off of a sailboat because of the weather or high seas, the boat almost always survives just fine and is found later and returned to their owner.

So keep on sailing. Of the many boating activities it is by far one of the safest.

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Last edited by peikenberry; 02-27-2017 at 03:28 PM. Reason: PS: By the way, I own both a sailing dinghy and a powerboat. I am not prejudiced against powerboats. I just prefer sail.
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post #312 of 392 Old 02-27-2017
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

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...but most sailors know that the booze comes after the sail, not during or before.
I think someone needs to send that memo out again, because there are a whole lot of sailors out there that I don't think ever got it.
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post #313 of 392 Old 02-27-2017
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

Been gone from here for awhile off cruising. See things much the same.
We carry no firearms. Reality is scenarios I've heard about from fellow cruisers are:
Quiet boarding while you're asleep- petty thief (dinghy etc.) or sudden assault by multiple armed vermin. If you think a hand gun would be of any benefit you are fooling yourself. Being caught with an Uzi or the like in the countries we've seen means a life behind bars. Even then unless you are sleeping with it under your pillow it's meaningless. Things move too fast.
Catastrophes are usually a cascade of difficulties from little things. Currently in harbor fixing waterpump to genset. It goes on when there's no wind/sun to make water. Although we carry multiple flats of "survival" water it the kind of thing that really affects your life. Just like no food unless the propane stove works. Hence we carry survival food needing no heat or refrigeration.
We are replacing the wire between ssb tuner and insulated backstay. Small thing but on passage it's needed to get Chris Parker although satphone is our backup.
We are getting rid of splitter to improve AIS signal.
All little things but the kind of things that could cascade into big troubles. There's a stressor that doesn't go away " what did I forget? What didn't I do"?
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post #314 of 392 Old 02-27-2017
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

Interesting thread. When discussing the topic "fear" it is about one persons fear vs another persons bliss. We encounter fear as a natural protection instinct when we are uncomfortable with our surroundings. Fear can be debilitating and prevent one from acting promptly and properly to adjust to surroundings to keep them safe. Some say the only thing to fear is fear itself. A small amount of fear though can keep you alert and respectful of natures power in the ocean. I have had my knees shake when hiking on a cliff ledge to the point i had to crawl back....but when offshore one night I was the one who went on the foredeck to fix the roller furler, it had to be done and fear played no part but to keep me alert as waves pushed me into the lifelines. I am recalling my first offshore trip from PNW to Hawaii. We did all the usual safety precautions but I had one crew that insisted that the longer we stayed at sea the more the risk. This meant that he wanted to pound the boat to windward when we encountered a low pressure system just to keep us on the rum line. I disagreed, that it was safer to steer away and head off the wind for a day or two away from rough conditions until more favorable wind/waves would back us to our direction. Pounding to windward is hard on the boat and fatiguing to the crew and when people are tired is when accidents happen. The shock loading on the mast and rigging and keel is tremendous when the boat crashes and falls down off waves etc. Its no wonder racing boats are dismasted. but that happens to cruising boats for another reason: failing to adequately maintain standing rigging. There are times when going to windward is required, lee shore, or general prevailing winds etc. but otherwise the one thing that you can count on is change out there and going with the flow of wind/waves is always preferred and I believe safer. That may be the difference of philosophy between racers and cruisers. After 3 ocean crossings I am most concerned with collision floating objects debris, logs, docks, containers etc. and so slow down at night to minimize damage from impact and post vigilant day watches. It is when we become complacent that is dangerous. Anytime you get in the car you are depending on the other guy not to cross the center line etc.
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post #315 of 392 Old 02-27-2017
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

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I think someone needs to send that memo out again, because there are a whole lot of sailors out there that I don't think ever got it
I didn't say "all" . One thing you learn in the military is that there is always that 10% (sometimes more) that doesn't get the word.

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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

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..... or sudden assault by multiple armed vermin. If you think a hand gun would be of any benefit you are fooling yourself.......
I'm firmly camped in the Fooling Yourself group.
You didn't list 12g.
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post #317 of 392 Old 02-27-2017
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

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Originally Posted by peikenberry View Post
...Sailboats have always been a small number of fatalities and accidents. Why? lots of reasons. As mentioned, speed is one. Ö Another factor here is simply that most people who get into sailing as an adult realize they need some training. Sailboats are not turn key boats. There are literally thousands of people who buy a powerboat and all they ask is "how do I start they engine?" In many states now there is a boating course or exam requirement, and that is good, but there is still no requirement to actually get hands on training on how to operate a powerboat.
I recall talking with a long-time Canadian Coast Guard member. We got talking SAR experience and he echoed your findings. He said it is rarely sailors that get into trouble. The vast majority of emergency calls come from powerboaters. When I asked why, he said (like you) that it was b/c sailors tend to be more skilled boaters.

My experience with booze on sailboats also agree with your observations. The cruisers I know do not drink while the boat is underway. The beer comes out once the hook is well set, or dock lines are secured, but never underway.

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We carry no firearms. Reality is scenarios I've heard about from fellow cruisers are:
Quiet boarding while you're asleep- petty thief (dinghy etc.) or sudden assault by multiple armed vermin. If you think a hand gun would be of any benefit you are fooling yourself. Being caught with an Uzi or the like in the countries we've seen means a life behind bars. Even then unless you are sleeping with it under your pillow it's meaningless. Things move too fast.
This is consistent with what most cruisers say. They are mostly a useless tool Ö unless youíre in polar bear country

Why go fast, when you can go slow.
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post #318 of 392 Old 02-27-2017
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

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....The vast majority of emergency calls come from powerboaters.......
1- buy it
2- have it fueled
3 - load cooler
4- see how fast she will go

Because it's easy is why
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

Things usually go bad when I get complacent, cocky, push the envelope, take avoidable risks, or when I'm in a hurry. There always comes punishment for such behavior, sooner or later, and then we sober up, become more humble, more prudent, more respectful.
And that is not just in sailing. The whole life is like that.
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Re: How "afraid" should we be of sailing?

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Things usually go bad when I get complacent, cocky, push the envelope, take avoidable risks, or when I'm in a hurry. There always comes punishment for such behavior, sooner or later, and then we sober up, become more humble, more prudent, more respectful.
And that is not just in sailing. The whole life is like that.
Good post.
I'll add fatigued to that list, for me.
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