Actually, it was only one seminar. But you get the idea: that whole good-and-bad-simultaneously thing.
I’ve been meaning to attend the Safety At Sea seminar for some time now. And since it was here in Annapolis, as it is each spring, I was able to do so this year. So I spent this past weekend on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy listening to really cool presentations by sailing experts and also got to enjoy some hands-on fun in the Naval Academy pool playing with life jackets, pumps, throw ropes and life rafts.
And it really was two different seminars.
I came out of Saturday’s lectures thinking, “Holy shit. EVERYTHING about sailing offshore not only CAN kill you, it will. In fact, it’s going to. And soon.” One boat inspector told us just how fast THIS much water can come into your boat from just a one-inch hole. A two-inch hole? You’re screwed. And jeez, hit something big and put a serious hole in the boat? Kiss your ass goodbye.
A doctor (who was actually quite entertaining) talked about how debilitating seasickness is. But boy oh boy, if you think THAT’S bad, just get injured at sea and you’ll find out what really bad is.
Misery upon misery upon misery will be visited upon those who are silly enough to buy a boat and contemplate a life at sea. That was the message from the Safety At Sea seminar. So I came out of Saturday’s session thinking, “I think I’ll sell my boat and go walkabout on this wonderful planet — via plane — for a while.” ‘Course, then I realized that I’d probably board a Boeing 737 Max 8 and, well, we know how well THOSE things have been flying lately.
And then Sunday happened. Sailing author John Kretschmer spoke of his love for being at sea — and he’s been out there for some really nasty stuff. He keeps going back out there…that’s how much he loves it. And the way he characterized what it’s like out there, and the fact that it wasn’t so much about buying more damned stuff for the boat, got me back into the concept of sailing over the horizon and searching for golden shores, warm water, cold water even and good times. After Kretschmer’s presentation, and while walking to the Naval Academy pool, I was not only fired up again but I also felt like I could do this, and soon…and that felt good.
The thing is: NONE of the presenters told me or taught me anything I didn’t already know. Have I done some of the things those with more experience than me have done? No. And that’s why my chief takeaway from the sessions was the need to practice, practice, practice before you really go for it.
Which is why I signed up for the seminar in the first place: because for Sunday’s pool session participants donned their foul-weather gear and inflatable life jackets and played with things that we all have but have never used — and hope never to have to use.
My life jacket inflated properly upon hitting the water. The manual bilge pumps that I have on board for emergencies really do move a lot of water. The Lifesling and throw bags deployed their rescue gear as I expected. And while climbing into a life raft from the water wasn’t easy, it also wasn’t as hard as I’d always heard it was. Granted, I wasn’t climbing into the raft after abandoning my sinking ship in the middle of a gale. And yes, now I know I need to inspect some parts on my pumps and check the packing of my Lifesling (see above re: practice, practice, practice). But now if, God forbid, I should ever have to use any of this survival gear in real life, it won’t be for the first time. And for that, the seminar was a far, far better event than I had expected.