Monday, August 11, 2008

What Would You Have Done?

Hope you enjoyed reading the story of guest blogger Hal Weidner's encounter with Hurricane Cleo in mid-Atlantic in 1958, in which he narrowly escaped with his life and lost the good sailing vessel So Long to the ocean depths.

Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 1
Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 2

Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 3

Now I know less than nothing about ocean sailing. But I know some of my readers do, such as Edward who has just completed a Serious Ocean Going Race to Hawaii. Hal has suggested the question. "What would you have done differently?"

But as I suspect few of you were crossing oceans in 1958, let me suggest another slightly different question....

What would be different if you attempted the same voyage in 2008? In particular what technologies would you be using that would have headed off the disaster that Hal experienced or would have allowed you to cope with it better?


EVK4 said...

I think I would have made the same decision in 1958 as I would in 2008. Don't go in August. Pilot charts would have said the same thing then that they do now, leave to cross the Atlantic in May or June at the latest.

There may have been a very good reason that they had to go in August but then again, maybe not.

tillerman said...

You see that's just the kind of thing that a Serious Ocean Going Racer would think of that an old geezer Laser sailor like me would totally miss. August to me would only mean, "do I have enough time to fit in the voyage between the Buzzards Bay Regatta and the New England Laser Masters?"

By the way, Columbus set sail in August but what did he know?

Team Gherkin said...

After reading that story, it made me never want to go outside - ever! heh heh.

Not much of a problem, when I'm 125 miles from the ocean here. I'm happy enough pottering about on our ever-increasing drought-shinking inland lakes and dams.

Mal :)

EVK4 said...

Tillerman: "By the way, Columbus set sail in August but what did he know?"

What could he have known? That he was heading East? And getting to the new world in October (at the end of the hurricane season). Actually, all he would have known was he was going East and that there were sea monsters out there. Big scary ugly scaly sea monsters. With sharp teeth.

Team Gherkin said...

"... Big scary ugly scaly sea monsters. With sharp teeth..."

Hey! You shouldn't talk about Tillerman like that!!! :D

tillerman said...

Exactly Edward. That's my point. Not only did Columbus not know what land lay between him and China or India or wherever he thought he was going, I assume that Europeans in 1492 knew nothing about the Atlantic hurricane season either.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia for what it's worth, the earliest definite report of a hurricane (by a European) was made by Columbus in 1495.

Carol Anne said...

When you phrase the question to include the changes in technology, you make it a simpler question. In 2008, we have satellite imagery and various other means of monitoring such weather phenomena as hurricanes, so we can plan a voyage (if it turns out that we MUST sail in August) when there isn't a hurricane in the way. In 1958, the best that the meteorologists could do was make a guess that there MIGHT be a hurricane out there.

Also, in 2008, we have weatherfax and the like, so even after we set sail, if we learn there's a hurricane in our path, we can alter course. In 1958, that technology wasn't available. Of course, one of the problems with the 1958 journey was that even the technology of the time either wasn't on the boat, or wasn't working.

This brings me to the question that was originally asked -- even in 1958, I wouldn't have set sail without so much as a working radio. Sure, things may break along the way, including the radio, but to start the journey without one seems foolhardy.

Pat said...

Two thoughts...

In 1958, people had different notions about what was "safe enough". Most people then alive had experienced that hardships of the worldwide Depression and the horrors of World War II, when millions died. Even otherwise privileged British yachtsmen had been strafed and bombed as they came to the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force and French army at Dunkirk. This was a time when the last Windjammers had only just given up the struggle to hang on commercially with their brutal and dangerous routes around the southern capes. For a generation used to scarce resources and "making do", a working radio may not have seemed quite so mandatory.

Fifty years ago, people were far less dependent upon technology. And, the advanced technologies of the day could be fragile and expensive. And, there probably didn't exist the modern debate about whether we could devote massive high-tech rescue efforts to save those who ventured out foolishly unprepared.

Second, even today, people have to draw the line at some point. Risk acceptance and budgets vary hugely from crew to crew. You could always spend more than you have on safety gear or bigger, better, and safer boats. Yet at some point, you have to either put to sea with what you have, or remain forever ashore.

Some people may even have consciously made the decision to risk death or loss at sea rather than remain imprisoned on the hard. For the restless spirit who feels too confined by the orderliness of modern life, the sea remains one of the freest domains upon the planet.

tillerman said...

Great points pat.

There is a comment in part 1 of Hal's story that they didn't think the loss of their radio was a big deal as "no rescue would come anyway". Though I'm not sure I follow the logic of that totally. Surely a radio could have been used to send an SOS to nearby shipping?

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