This past weekend the boating Internet forums ‘came alive’ with discussion about the tragic results after a thunderstorm blew through a sailboat race on Mobile Bay, AL. Conduct a www-search using the terms ‘Dauphin Island Regatta’ to find the latest.
Details are still ‘fluid’ and the specifics on what happened are still being collected. I, like any person that spends time on the water, sends heartfelt condolences to the persons lost during this incident, and best hopes for the rescue of those listed as missing as I type this post.
What I find very disturbing is the number of comments about people ‘putting on their life preserver (aka, personal flotation device (PFD)) as, or AFTER or just before the storm hit the fleet. In my opinion no person should be on a small craft without wearing a PFD. I get on the edge of anger when I see boat photos in sailing magazines where people are not wearing a life preserver. The is no excuse in these publications for any person showing safe boating practices!
I’ll admit there are situations where a PFD isn’t worn. Being on-deck isn’t one. I also believe that when below during a race a PFD should be worn if the companionway is open.
Another concern is not having the correct number of comfortable PFDs on-board. One video on the net shows an entire crew putting on cheap orange ‘square foam’ types. I admit this type of life preserver does work … but seeing a video where EVERYONE is putting on this type ‘screams’ that safety measures are not taken seriously by captain. Again, in my opinion, EVERYONE taking part in a race MUST being wearing a comfortable PFD ALL THE TIME.
I use an automatically inflating PFD made by Mustang Survival. I spent a couple hundred bucks on this equipment … money well spent. Mine also has an integrated safety harness.
On AIR BORN I carry two automatically inflating PFDs for guests in addition to two of the ‘orange square foam’ types. AIR BORN does not leave the dock without everyone having put on, and correctly adjusted, their PFD.
Before I get off my soapbox I’ll add a few more cautionary statements:
- when you are alone at the boat on a dock WEAR A PFD.
- If you are alone at the boat and moving around the deck WEAR A PFD.
In the two cases above you may slip or trip off dock or boat and not be able to get back on boat/dock. Additionally you may hit your head while falling overboard, or fell overboard because something hit your head, and be in the water dazed or unconscious.
Please take safety seriously.