Saturday, October 21st, 2017

Reef Safe Suncare      

Knotical Knews #24: A Tragedy At The Inlet



     Is your life worth $140.00?

    That's not a whole lot of money even in this economy is it?

   West Marine Ultimate Safety Harness: $69.99

   West Marine 6′ Standard Safety Tether: $69.99

   I know it is bad form to speak ill of the dead and that is not what I am here to do. There is however a lesson to be learned for all boaters, whether recreational or professional. The photos below show a sequence of events that could have, and should have, turned out much differently. I am not going to call into question the ability or the boat handling decisions of Capt. Tom Henry.  He was a 20 year professional with 10 years experience of coming in and out of Jupiter Inlet but despite all his expertise it just goes to show it only takes one moment, one bad roll of your boat, and you are in deep trouble.


 I have found myself in situations similar to those in the beginning sequence and make no mistake it is an event that will make you tighten every muscle and say a few prayers as you come up and over the back of the wave and descend into the trough. Now you have a following swell behind you and have created a huge bow wave and depression due to the hull's displacement of the water in the trough. That in itself is scary enough but throw in a severe roll to port and then a violent snap-roll to starboard as the vessel rights itself and it is a disaster in the making.


    I have long advocated and taught our yacht owners that if they are going to be on their yacht alone or at the helm by themselves, or navigating at night they should utilize a safety harness, tether, some form of kill switch to stop the engines, and of course a PFD. Even being in an enclosed cockpit does not insulate you from danger. You can still be thrown from behind the helm and injured or knocked unconscious.


   Overkill? Maybe, but then again a safety harness and tether would have kept Capt. Henry from falling overboard and breaking two vertebrae in his neck on the gunwale or gunnel. He would have picked himself up with perhaps a bruised body and ego and made it to the dock where he would perhaps have hoisted a few beers and joked about the “close call” he had when coming into the inlet. Instead he was pulled from the water by nearby lifeguards and rushed to the hospital. He passed away after being taken off of life support a couple of days later. He was 61 years old.


   If you are at the helm of your vessel, especially one with an upper helm station, and your passengers are down below, no one would know if you fell overboard. If your vessel was on autopilot all you would see as you surfaced is the stern of your boat getting further and further away. If your vessel was under manual control it may very well turn and come right back at you and run you over. Either way if your vessel was not equipped with a kill switch system your vessel would continue on its way and you would be left to tread water.

   Remember this:

   Depth sounders tell you how deep the water was. They do not tell you how deep or shallow it is ahead.

  Radar does not see debris, some small boats, and rogue waves.

   Autopilots do not mean you can leave the helm unattended even for a minute. If you have to leave the helm and you don't have an experienced person available to maintain a watch, stop the vessel until you are able to properly take control of the helm once again.

   And most importantly:

   PFD's don't do anyone any good if they are not being worn.

   Capt. Patrick

  What do you say that we lighten the mood a bit with a “Hidden In Plain Sight” bonus feature?

   Watch and listen as Greg and Bill talk about where to buy black market fuel, where to buy an “O”, and the art of whispering all in 45 seconds!

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