For all our faults we boaters are self-sufficient
people. We plan. We practice. Before a trip we
check everything from fuses to foghorns, charts to
chocks. Tanks are topped off. Spares are secured.
For a weekend cruise we stock the fridge for a
This is fun, actually. Planning the cruise is part
of the cruise. See, virtue really is its own
Pre-cruise we tune the TV to The Weather Channel.
Online, we check real-time satellite images. If a
tropical storm or worse is a possibility, we call
off the cruise.
Certainly, the human survival instinct motivates
us. Boaters know how quickly the sea gets angry
and becomes life threatening. We read about others
who have died at sea or survived, barely. So, we
prepare. We play what-if games. Better safe than
sorry is more than a cliché.
And there is this. No boater wants the
embarrassment of being rescued by another vessel
or, heaven forbid, the Coast Guard. Chastened, the
embarrassed skipper imagines what other boaters
might be saying back at the dock, mean things
like, “He just ran out of gas; is that pitiful or
what?” Or, “You won’t believe this, but they were
using an old chart.”
To a vessel operator, embarrassment of that sort
may not be a fate worse than death, but it’s right
Another current of thought – you could put it at
the core of the boating belief system – is the
ideal of freedom. We are free to sail where and
when we want. But we also accept the corresponding
responsibility. If others are willing to rescue us
when we’re in trouble, we ought to try hard not to
get into trouble in the first place.
It seems like every hurricane season we have a
case where thousands who should and could have
evacuated, did not. They probably told
themselves, Hey, we haven’t had a storm here since
forever. It won’t hit us. They never do. That
rationale reminds me of the Steven Wright line: “I
plan to live forever. So far, so good.”
Even minor hurricanes
and tropical storms can cause power outages and
flooding (and multiple deaths) as the U.S. East
Coast discovered in 2011. And hurricanes are not
the only threat out there; think tornadoes,
earthquakes, flooding, power failures. Keep
Well, if just a few individuals get into trouble
the police or fire departments may come to their
rescue. But when thousands get into trouble, first
responders will not have the manpower or resources
to rescue everybody. Boaters already know this, so
we tend to rely on ourselves.
A fine and fragile line separates
our comfortable lives from hardship or even death.
Self-sufficiency helps boaters stay on the bright
side of that line.