What is the issue?Every year, hundreds of yachts are lost. The thought of a boat foundering always envisages pictures of enormous natural forces overwhelming a beleaguered sailing craft as set out in thousands of romanticist paintings. Yet, this is far from the most likely way that a vessel will be lost.
The more likely reasons are from a failure of ground tackle, a yacht breaking free whilst unattended, gear failure, fire, explosion, crew exhaustion or crew failure, faulty navigation or many other events or oversights. Our natural bias on being overwhelmed by a seaway, causes us to overlook immediate dangers that are far more dangerous to the vessel and we do so at our own peril.
Why address this?Keeping the vessel afloat and out of harm's way, can save an owner's life, and the lives of the crew, not to mention untold damage and expense.
How to address this?Otto von Bismarck perhaps expressed it best when he said 'Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.' This is positively the best perspective one can take when combined with the book ‘Total Loss’ by Jack Coote.
'Total Loss' is a collection of about 50 firsthand accounts by people who lost their boats. It is only edited by Jack Coote with discussions and lessons and conclusions at the end. The book was truly invaluable to me. Launching my attempted circumnavigation, I have to admit, I truly knew nothing about sailing. This book's blow-by-blow narrative made for compelling reading and its learnings and outcomes are completely accessible to any reader regardless of seagoing experience.
At launch time I had a land-based ‘minimum of a few things to get right’ strategy which was not working out very well at sea. Through this initial bad experience and 'Total Loss', I started to learn that good seagoing outcomes seemed to depend more upon what you ‘avoided doing wrong’, rather than what you ‘do right’. And, by extension, it is a lot easier not to get yourself into a mess, than get yourself out of one once in it. The book's stories became very much ingrained in my thinking and stayed with me. Hence, I had a heightened awareness of many more situations of jeopardy than I realised and avoided them assiduously. In the event, I really had very few issues at all in the three-year circumnavigation.
In retrospect, this was perhaps the most important book I read before setting off and I very much recommend it. As the philosopher George Santayana observed... those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.' And believe me, misadventures at sea with a boat are not something you want to repeat.
With thanks to:Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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