Safety First!

“So, what happens if you don’t show up where you’re supposed to be?”

This is the question that many of our friends have asked. And, after last summer, who can blame them? The vast majority of the repairs we have had to do are from damage done by taking on so much water.

We owe that bilge pump. But we also owe it to each other: Rob’s ingenuity in getting off the rocks as well as his navigational skill; my calmness and focus and helmsmanship. Sailing is a hobby that carries with it some risk, but we are prepared to deal with that. The most important thing to understand about all of life is its unpredictability. At least with sailing, we clearly understand–without any denial–that it is there. So what do we do about it?

Our first line of defense is our sensibility. We will not pilot the boat after drinking. We will check the weather radar, and we will not go out if there is a storm on the horizon. We will drop the sails if the conditions become such that we can not control the direction of the boat (such as the squall we went through last summer). We would rather be stuck in port than put our family in danger. Also–learning from last year–we will stay in depths above what our boat draws, not cutting it close. We will stay far away from points and shoals.

Our next step is to follow the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. Self-sufficiency is the game here. We carry with us a set of tools for repairing the engine (which we had to do during Labor Day weekend last year). We have a sewing machine for repairing the sails. We carry extra line. We even have a West System fiberglass repair kit, along with a snorkel and mask. This could have stopped the leak last summer, and gotten us safely to Bay City. We have a fire extinguisher, and we use safety lines in storms.

The final step we take–and the only step most people think of–is the least important to us. That is being able to call for help. We aim to be truly self-sufficient, because that’s really what’s going to keep us safe. But, should that fail, and should the worst happen, we want to be able to get help. We will be checking in with our dock neighbor from Bay City, and we will have our vessel information on this blog, under “About the Boat.” We will post our intended destinations and estimated times of arrival on Facebook. When we are out of cell phone range, such as when we go to Beaver Island, we will have contacts on the island, waiting for us to arrive on time. We will each have cell phones, which we will put in waterproof cases and attach to our life jackets during a storm. We have a radio, and we have towing insurance. We also have handheld flares, which I consider to be somewhat of a joke (but flare guns are illegal in Canada).

We have all of these things that we hope not to use.

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