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Heads-Up Out There!

I was planning to write about the exciting conclusion of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 for this month’s Editor’s Log, but felt compelled to instead throw out a public service message. Here we are in the middle of a wonderful summer sailing season in the Northeast, but several occurrences, both locally and elsewhere in the boating world, have had an impact on me. I, as with all of you, enjoy ‘letting it all go’ when I step aboard the boat. It is a place I am comfortable and capable. It is this that I have been thinking about.

The experts say that most automobile accidents happen within a few miles of our homes. It’s believed that because we develop a comfort level with our closest surroundings, we are less likely to remain vigilant once in that ‘zone.’ Our boats, in many ways, are like our cars. We are intimate with them. We know their power, maneuverability, and even quirks. So it stands to reason that even with such familiarity with our boats, accidents can happen – and likely will in areas we are most familiar.

In our Checking In section, you will read about a new Connecticut boating law that honors the memory of 16-year-old Emily Fedorko, whose life was cut short while having fun on the water last summer. From what I have heard and read of this young lady, she had sufficient boating knowledge and experience, but in a moment tragedy struck. It can happen to any of us. While reading about the Volvo Ocean Race leg start from Lorient, France, I learned of a Maxi trimaran collision with an official VOR RIB that injured four people, one seriously. It’s likely that professional drivers were aboard both boats, but there was a lot of commotion in the area.

Just the other day, while sitting with my family having lunch, I looked up to see a powerboat sinking, haven been driven onto the opposite shore of the harbor. The boat had struck rocks outside the channel, and was disabled and taking on water – all with a family and kids aboard. All of these incidents crossed my path one way or another in one afternoon.

Although all of these incidents are unique, they have a simple and central theme. Aside from the inherent dangers of being on the water, such as unpredictable weather, we often place ourselves (most often unknowingly) in harm’s way with the decisions we make.

Ever pick up your cell phone while motoring down the channel, or even pulling into your slip? What about having just one more beer ‘cause it’s extra muggy out there? Or handing the wheel to an inexperienced guest so that he or she could feel the thrill of being Captain? There are literally hundreds of simple decisions that can turn a beautiful day into a bad one.

So, my public service message is this: Slow down, ta ke it easy, and keep a sharp eye. Don’t be a danger to yourself or others, and be on the lookout for people and situations that can put you in harm’s way. Allow yourself time to get where you’re going, to have a look around and to take that extra moment to ensure that everything’s as it should be. Even though you may know your boat and surroundings, there are always those out there who don’t and besides, a split second of complacency can have a lasting effect.

For Pete’s sake, have fun out there. Don’t forget why we sail! But, pick your head up and look around. Stay safe – there is plenty more summer to enjoy.

See you on the water.

Chris Gill


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