Life continually presents us with choices. As I viewed news and weather maps from across the U.S. last week, I was very tempted to hibernate…although, that choice might have lacked some credibility since I’m in the Pacific Northwest. Only our windshields were frosted over in the early mornings. Whereas, scenes from the east coast – waves frozen in mid-arc, boats trapped in ice, impassable (or should I say, impossible?) streets, frozen and ruptured pipes, looming icicle daggers, and the many captive travelers in limbo at airports – offered much more overwhelming evidence to support that latter choice. Then, there were the horrific mudslides in California – a reminder that warmer temperatures don’t always correlate to pleasant conditions.
We can’t deny the signs that winter is underway, or the unpleasant realities that it sometimes brings – but, we can view the beginning of each new year as an opportunity to enjoy indoor time, reflect, reassess goals, make new plans, prepare for the upcoming months, catch up on lingering projects or deferred maintenance, read, and take classes.
Early this month, I attended a “Suddenly in Command” class, offered by our Coast Guard Auxiliary. It focused on the importance of having at least one other knowledgeable person on board who can take over in case the skipper is suddenly no longer able. It was thought provoking.
Could any of your passengers use the radio or describe their location? Would they know how to respond if the vessel suddenly started taking on water? What if a fire broke out? Our instructors emphasized the importance of taking time to practice skills such as the use of the radio, bilge pumps, fire extinguishers and flares. They also taught us about new technologies and apps, and showed us their signaling equipment and nautical charts.
“Man Overboard” drills are especially important to physically practice. Don’t just read about or discuss them! As most of you know, it’s key not to lose sight of a person (or people) in the water, to navigate back to them quickly, take care not injure them with the propeller, and to get them back aboard. This latter effort can often be physically challenging, especially if they are injured, hypothermic, bigger and heavier (or wearing more water-logged clothing) than you – an added reason that all of us might want to include some personal fitness goals and strength training among our New Year’s resolutions.
Attendees in our class included enthusiastic new boaters; others who have recently acquired different vessels; three very young people with their parents; and several others without boats who anticipate opportunities to get out on the water as passengers with friends or family.
Our instructors offered to conduct free onboard Vessel Safety Checks. They also encouraged the experienced boaters in the group to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary – it’s a great way to share our experience and knowledge, and to give back to the boating community. Most importantly, they reiterated one of the main tenets of boating – it’s not optional to ignore a distress call. We are obligated by law to help other boaters in distress until first responders can arrive.
I’ll wrap up this post with two hopeful stories that I discovered this past year. Both capture this same wonderful spirit of boaters giving back to the community and helping each other! The first showcases a sailing club for those who need some assistance to get out on the water; the other, veterans who sail to overcome PTSD.
We can choose whether to interpret our experiences in positive or negative ways. Let’s opt for the former.
Cheers to this new year!