Monday, November 23, 2009

Sail With a Friend

It's not that I'm paranoid, but there really are people out there trying to read my mind...

First of all it was the Wizard of Berkeley twice trying to guess the subjects of my group writing projects before I announced them...

Now the Old Man of Lake Eustis has attempted to guess the subject of the final instalment of my series on How Not to Die on Your Laser.

And the spooky thing is that both of them did accurately read my mind! Am I that predictable? Or do these two old geezers have supernatural powers?

So, yes, the fifth of Tillerman's Tips on How Not to Die on Your Laser is Sail With a Friend.

What? What's that he said? Tillerman said you should always sail in company, sail with other Lasers, sail with a friend? Is this the same Tillerman who actually boasted in Anti-Social Bastard that he sailed 50 times on his own last year? The same Tillerman who wrote posts about sailing alone early in the season on the Sakonnet River such as So Where the Bloody Hell Are You? and who also wrote about sailing alone in the dark days of December in posts such as Paint it Black? What a hypocrite.

You are right. I am a hypocrite. But it is true that if you want to play it really safe you should never go off Lasering on the sea on your own. Shit happens. Bad shit sometimes happens. Here are just a few of the things that could happen when you go Lasering. If any one of these things happened while you are on your own a mile from shore you might never get home...
  • injure yourself
  • break the mast
  • break the boom
  • break the rudder
  • break the mast-step
  • break the gooseneck
  • rip a fitting off the boom
  • have a heart-attack or a stroke
  • get run over by a ferry or powerboat
  • fall off the boat and lose contact with it
  • hit a rock and knock a huge hole in the hull...
OK. There's probably many more things I could list but that's scared me enough for now.

My son and I had a conversation about sailing a Laser alone on the day that the two of us went for a blast in the waves at the mouth of the Sakonnet River. I wrote about it in Fat Boy and Little Man.

"So is it really any safer with two of us? If one of us breaks a mast or a boom, say, in waves and wind like this, there's no way that the other one is going to be able to tow the damaged boat back to shore."

"True. We may have to abandon the broken boat. But with one good Laser we can make sure that the two of us make it alive back to the beach."


And that's the point. If you are sailing with at least one other friend in a Laser, he can help you in all sorts of ways. If you get separated from your boat, he can pick you up and sail you back to it. (Been there, done that.) If your boat breaks he can perhaps help you do some kind of jury-rig repair. Worst case, he can pick you up and take you back to safety even if you have to abandon your boat.

So, yes, it's a good rule never to sail alone.

Is that going to stop me from sailing alone? No. Absolutely not. I discovered last year that some of the most rewarding experiences on the water come from solitary sails. And there are things you can do to make sailing on your own somewhat less risky...

Oh no! I feel another series coming on. Tillerman's Top X Tips on How to Stay Safe When Sailing Alone on Your Laser.

Watch this space.


Pat said...

Although Yogi Berra thought that , "predicting is hard, especially about the future",

Let's see what might be in the Sail alone posts...

cell phone in a dry bag;
people on shore have a "float plan" (where you are and when you expect to be back and a good description of you and your boat);
making your boat visible;
wet/dry suit, life vest, layers/foulies as needed and with spare protection to deal with changes in conditions;
for keelboaters, having some tools, spares, provisions, and signaling gear on board to deal with common emergencies;
not sailing alone in unfamiliar waters;
observing a safe "bottle to throttle" interval;
trying to avoid sailing in areas where a catastrophic rig failure would send you into more dangerous waters;
thinking ahead about how you might deal with emergencies;
keeping an energy reserve.

Anonymous said...

How about a waterproof handheld VHF intstead of or in addition to the cell? The Coast Guard's direction finding equipment works at VHF, not at cell frequencies.

Steve in Baltimore

Sam Chapin said...

I thought you would do it. Good job. And now we wait for the next ten.

Pat said...

Or, you could have a "Spot" device or personal EPIRB.

PeconicPuffin said...

Consider the windsurfer, who can carry precious little extra should he/she choose to sail alone, as I occasionally do.

My own list-o-tips includes:

-wearing a helmet.
-freshly inspected lines.
-a spare line, long enough to jerry rig any number of repairs.
-freshly inspected hardware.
-choice of sailing venue (if I lose my rig and am left clinging to my board will I be blown to shore?) and "is there sufficient friendly water traffic to make me comfortable more than a mile from shore? If not, stay within a mile, which I can probably swim."
-getting off the water before I'm fully fatigued. With no reserves available in the form of friends, and the likelihood of making a serious mistake increasing with fatigue, get off the water soon. Also take more frequent breaks.
-extra attention to hydration and a bite to eat before launching.

-Overdressing/exaggerating the "stay warm" factor (wearing a hood when you might otherwise not, choosing the heavier wetsuit if the choice is close etc. ) The one advantage windsurfers have is we're dressed to be in the water (since falling in is a certainty.)

My favorite tactic is to use the long list of fellow windsurfers I have in my cellphone to scare up a sailing companion or two.

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