THE SE­CRET OF SEA­MAN­SHIP

Savvy skip­pers learn to keep the ocean where it be­longs.

Yachting - - INSIGHTS -

Ityp­i­cally delete emails with odd at­tach­ments, but a boat­ing video with a freaky ti­tle from my pal Tom? I couldn’t re­sist. He’d been shop­ping for a 40-foot cen­ter con­sole, so I fig­ured the video was yet another vic­to­ryat-sea prod­uct pitch. ¶ All seemed well at first, with the cen­ter con­sole ne­go­ti­at­ing an in­let. Then a wave astern be­gan to curl gen­tly. The stern lifted. And the bow, in­stead of ris­ing, sub­tly ex­e­cuted a swan dive. ¶ Poof! Down she went. I re­called an il­lus­tra­tion of a clas­sic broach from my aged copy of Charles F. Chap­man’s mis­sive on sea­man­ship. It’s bizarre how slowly, yet quickly, things can go south at sea. ¶ Tom, an ex­pe­ri­enced yachts­man, of­fered his two cents: “It looked to me like the boat was a type with rel­a­tively flat af­ter sec­tions and a fine en­try. She seemed a bit down in the tooth [the bow] as well.” ¶ Her de­sign may not have been ideal for in­let work, but ul­ti­mately, I said, it’s a skip­per’s tim­ing, judg­ment and aware­ness of his sled’s lim­i­ta­tions that count. I con­fessed that I’d sur­vived sim­i­lar er­rors in judg­ment. ¶ My first com­mand was a 13foot Bos­ton Whaler. While the 13 was “unsinkable,” I did my best to prove oth­er­wise. Call it stuffed, pooped or swamped, I’d filled her with an ocean of sea­wa­ter, yet I’d bet that she re­mains unsunk to­day. It was all for amuse­ment, of course. In such “emer­gen­cies,” I’d har­ness the en­tire team of her Ev­in­rude’s 18 horses. Her bow would lift, and the sea­wa­ter would flow past me like a river over her buoy­ant be­hind. ¶ Af­ter con­vinc­ing my dad that I was trust­wor­thy and re­spon­si­ble, I took the wheel of his 20-foot SeaCraft. I was in­structed to stay in­shore and well away from the in­let, an or­der that I ig­nored. I’d learned enough about boats and mar­ket­ing to un­der­stand that “full flota­tion” did not nec­es­sar­ily mean sunny-side-up. I was more cau­tious with the SeaCraft, yet she could burp out a bel­ly­ful of sea­wa­ter over her low-cut tran­som. ¶ My 1981 25-foot Mako was among a new gen­er­a­tion of larger cen­ter con­soles with a closed stern. With plenty of dead­rise aft and deep, slightly con­vex sec­tions for­ward, she was great for run­ning in­lets. She had the horse­power to keep time with the seas, and while slog­ging in a trough, her trim an­gle was suf­fi­cient to pre­vent a face plant. This was a good thing, since her cock­pit of­fered no quick es­cape for sea­wa­ter. Her pair of 1-inch cock­pit drains taught me to re­spect the sea. ¶ The les­son was not for­got­ten when I moved up to a larger con­vert­ible de­sign. Even though she had a cock­pit tran­som door, I never in­vited the sea to pass through it. I bal­anced my ves­sel’s fuel load for sea con­di­tions and avoided hot-dog­ging while back­ing down on fish. Tran­som or plat­form doors only keep the sea out if they’re closed. ¶ Fortunately, a kid on a surf­board res­cued the skip­per in the video. To avoid such hu­mil­i­a­tion or worse, it’s best to keep the wa­ter where it be­longs: in the sea.

WHILE THE 13 WAS “UNSINKABLE,” I DID MY BEST TO PROVE OTH­ER­WISE. CALL IT STUFFED, POOPED OR SWAMPED, I’D FILLED HER WITH AN OCEAN OF SEA­WA­TER, YET I’D BET THAT SHE RE­MAINS UNSUNK TO­DAY.

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