Tough Crowd

Soundings - - Underway - Jeanne Craig [email protected]­me­ By Jeanne Craig

My early boat­ing ed­u­ca­tion be­gan at a Coast Guard Aux­il­iary class near Ja­maica Bay in Brook­lyn, New York. I re­mem­ber the seg­ment on seamanship, be­cause the in­struc­tor opened his lec­ture with well-worn ad­vice: The best way to stay safe in rough seas, he said, is to stay at the dock. The class re­sponded with good- na­tured groans and eye­ball rolling, but ev­ery­one knew to take the les­son se­ri­ously. Weather can go south quickly, and seas can get dan­ger­ous with­out warn­ing.

And yet, there are sit­u­a­tions when avoid­ing rough con­di­tions can be dif­fi­cult. Nearly ev­ery cap­tain— pro­fes­sional and recre­ational— has a story about the time a thun­der­storm or a line of squalls caught him or her un­aware.

Louisa Beck­ett, who wrote this month’s fea­ture on how to han­dle a boat in chal­leng­ing con­di­tions, is no ex­cep­tion. She’s braved a few rough cross­ings in the course of her ca­reer as a marine jour­nal­ist.

“I still re­mem­ber a run I took a cou­ple of decades ago aboard a 35-foot ex­press mo­to­ry­acht from Mi­ami to Bi­mini in the Ba­hamas on a sea trial,” she says. “As we were cross­ing the Gulf Stream, the seas un­ex­pect­edly kicked up to 8-plus feet on the nose. While I con­cen­trated on driv­ing up and down the steep waves, the boat dealer who was with me went down be­low and came up with a box, which he put on the seat be­tween us. At the end of the trip, he ad­mit­ted the box held an EPIRB.”

To re­search her fea­ture, Louisa in­ter­viewed a few pro­fes­sional sport­fish­ing cap­tains, who of­ten en­counter sloppy seas in their quest to bat­tle big game. They tap their real- world ex­pe­ri­ence when of­fer­ing tips on how to cope when you’re caught off guard. They, too, ac­knowl­edge that even the most well- pre­pared and cau­tious skip­pers can get into trou­ble off­shore.

For­tu­nately, there are ded­i­cated pro­fes­sion­als and vol­un­teers who make it their busi­ness to get boaters out of trou­ble and back home. Among them are the mem­bers of the Nor­we­gian So­ci­ety for Sea Res­cue. Sound­ings Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor Pim Van Hem­men re­ports on this gov­ern­ment- sup­ported char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion that, in his words, “saves a boater’s ba­con if the engine quits or the bilge catches fire.” To do the re­search, Pim trav­eled to Tromso, Nor­way, where he boarded a res­cue boat lo­cated about 240 miles above the Arc­tic Circle.

“I’ve done my fair share of boat­ing over the past 57 years, but go­ing on pa­trol with the RS was spe­cial,” Pim says. “The scenery alone was hard to beat, but it was the crew’s skill set that blew me away. They’re not just mas­ter mariners who op­er­ate in cold and dan­ger­ous wa­ters un­der some­times hor­rific con­di­tions. They’re also me­chan­ics, fire­fight­ers, divers, EMTs and tug­boat op­er­a­tors. It ex­plains how the Vik­ings crossed the ocean in their long­ships. Nor­we­gians are tough.”

For­tu­nately, I’ve never needed the help of a res­cue team on the wa­ter, but like you, I take com­fort in know­ing these com­pe­tent pro­fes­sion­als are out there keep­ing watch. They’re just one more rea­son why I love boat­ing.

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