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Self-Sufficiency is a Virtue
b
y Barb Hansen
October 3, 2005

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 fortnight.

This is fun, actually. Planning the cruise is part of the cruise. See, virtue really is its own reward.

Pre-cruise we tune the TV to The Weather Channel. 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’ve read about others who 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, God forbid, the Coast Guard. Chastened, that 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 up there.

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.”

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 it seems to me some should have made other plans.

Super hurricanes like Katrina and Rita remind us that there is a fine and fragile line that separates our comfortable lives from hardship or death. Good planning helps us boaters stay on the bright side of that line.

PS to readers: If you have not already donated to the relief effort, we hope you will. You never know when the tide will turn and you and your family might need help. Barb Hansen

 

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