Surviving Disaster At Sea … Don’t Take It Lightly

While taking 5 weeks of courses in basic survival and communication at MITAGS, the educational facility of Masters, Mates & Pilots, I ran into the 50th commemorative edition of How to Abandon Ship, published by Cornell Maritime Press. Written in June 1942, at the height of torpedoed American and allied merchant ships, its colorful accounts were intentioned for sailors with valuable lessons shared by the authors Phil Richards and John J. Banigan. Their basic thesis suggested the simple things, that made the difference between survival and disaster, as they had experienced it.

Aside from the book’s fascinating accounts of incredible human drama confronted at sea, two statements stand out in my own mind, which I feel, are most applicable to every sailor who sets out from his local marina. Whether it be for a couple of hours around the harbor or a long planned blue water cruise most sailors are ill prepared to meet potential disasters.

Having survived being washed overboard myself in rough weather on a 300 ton supply vessel 22 years ago, what stands out in my own mind, aside from my stupidity, is how completely helpless I became, in just a matter of seconds after disaster struck. Confronted with bobbing up and down in 15 ft seas, without a life preserver 50 miles offshore, what went through my mind was all the tuition money my mother and father wasted on my education. Not a living soul knew I went over the side. As quickly as disaster struck, I was saved only through a chance of good fortune.

Recalling my own experience, the two statements referenced struck me like a bolt of lightening, because I instinctively knew them to be probably universally applicable to those who share life threatening situations at sea. To a greater or lesser extent we are all guilty of ignorance and indifference; however, both of these defects are easily correctable which is the purpose of this link.

Both statements taken from the introduction over 60 years ago were applicable then as now: 1) Don’t let human nature trick you into indifference. A man will readily pay for comfort and a good appearance, but he is reluctant to part with dollars to protect his most precious possession his own life. 2) Most casualties at sea are the result of PANIC which is the product of ignorance at sea.


To my mind the one hazard that typifies the above statements is a four letter word FIRE. On land fire happens to other people, but even if it visits your own life circumstances, rarely do you have to deal with it personally. Your priority is not to fight fire but instinctively to escape from it. At sea it’s an entirely different story, you MUST deal with it. Yet I’ve found as a yacht surveyor, examining equipment, that most people are inadequately prepared to deal with this potential life and death situation. The good news is that this state is easily correctable with a little effort on your part to learn something about fire. On a recreational vessel you generally are required to carry up to three fire extinguishers. First I suggest you wipe the dust off them and take a good hard look at the instructions for their respective employment. Then visualize how you would use it if a fire broke out in the galley. Next visualize how you would engage if a fire broke out in the engine compartment. This is your first fire drill and should be visualized and practiced often. This is not quite enough however, you need to practice using the extinguisher against a real fire. Visit your local fire department or volunteer fire department and tell them you are interested in learning how to put out a fire, in order to potentially prevent harm to your boat or family should you be confronted with this situation. At the least, in your back yard or some area outdoors, get a large metal pan or shallow bin. Put some gasoline in the pan and carefully light it on fire. Now from a dead start put the fire out with your extinguisher. You cannot imagine how much you will learn from this experience. The most practical school I’ve ever experienced was fire fighting school where I have been required to attend several times throughout the years. The key to dealing with a fire is “ACTING QUICKLY” with your extinguishers while the flames are still small. When you drill often, you develop the ability to act effectively and spontaneously to the hazard. Following my two simple suggestions will perhaps wet your appetite in learning a little about the fascinating subject of firefighting, but more importantly, get you to think about fire, a major step in dealing with ignorance and indifference, the major barriers to survival at sea..

To hammer home my point…a fire breaks out in the galley area.. flames are trying to reach up toward the curtains…HOW QUICKLY are you prepared to act? If you have had no fire plan…SECONDS count… the fire has the potential to quickly accelerate…now it’s much harder to deal with.. Having no pre-plan you have been fumbling with the fire extinguisher and bumbling around for a bucket in the lazarette. Your actions are counterproductive.You may soon be confronted with a mayday situation.. Abandoning Ship.

You have acted slowly and ineffectively with no pre-plan, the fire is now out of control. You have retreated to the only safe spot..the cockpit…can you maneuver the vessel putting the wind to your back…keeping the flames and or smoke away from your ability to breathe fresh air…close off all ventilation to inside…If your VHF radio is not accessible at this point you are in deep trouble.

Hopefully it’s in your cockpit… Channel 16: “Mayday…Mayday…Mayday.. this is the vessel Reckless-2 position is (check your GPS, no excuse not to have GPS today). Give out your position. If you are not far offshore, perhaps in a popular descriptive area, give that too…”I am on fire…may need to abandon ship need immediate assistance over”…Hopefully somone will come back to you on first call. YOU MUST FOCUS at this point in getting immediate help.Your VHF has a range of approximately 25 nautical miles at high power.

You are now in a critical life and death situation. Depending upon how much safety equipment you have, critical decisions come fast, you are confronted with the inevitability of going overboard or burning to death…We fortunately find a couple of greasy life preservers.( the others useless, inside under the settee.) If it weren’t for the Coast Guard Regs., we would perhaps be deficient in this area as well. They have been aboard for years, “have you ever gone to the trouble of putting one on before, or been in the water with one on?”. Unless someone has heard your mayday, and resources are mounted to come to your rescue, and you must go over the side with only a life vest, you are now in deep, deep trouble.. HOW LONG do you think you will last? Unless you are in Florida summer waters not too long. The body loses heat 25 times faster in water than on land. When the body temperature goes down to 94 degrees, the body’s systems close down. The clock is ticking. Our only real possibility of survival is that someone sees the vessel burning. Don’t stray too far however, perhaps the fire will put itself out. That being said what equipment would increase your chances of survival. First off, if you have a life raft, or dinghy, you will probably survive the ordeal in coastal waters. Another consideration, donning an immersion suit rather than a life vest is infinitely better. They cost about $350.00, They will keep you floating and insulated indefinitely. It’s like laying in a water bed on your back, they conserve energy,.and you can paddle with your arms quite easily with little energy expended. This of course will buy you a considerable amount of time over a life vest. Time of course is your most precious needed commodity.

You have abandoned ship, invested into a liferaft, and immersion suit, rule of thumb, no water or food for 24 hrs. Should you have a hand-held emergency VHF radio you have obviously increased your immediate help chances by continuing your mayday distress call. Having little or no luck raising help on your VHF mayday call, if you invested a $1000.00 in an EPIRB and registered it properly, chances are you will receive search and rescue help. An EPIRB is an (Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon) . The $1000.00 Category A type will send out a radio signal on 406 MHz, a satellite frequency. Your position will automatically be relayed to NOAA in Washington, who will then alert the Coast Guard Search & Rescue. This system is considerably more responsive and reliable to an alternative, a $225.00 Class B EPIRB. It sends out a signal on 121.5 civilian distress frequency, monitored, in addition, by aircraft and 243.0 MHz military distress frequency. This system has it’s faults because it has been found that 95% of the emissions have been false alarms…common sense suggesting that help may be slow in coming. There is another automatic signaling device not generally employed on small pleasure vessels, but worth mentioning, called a SART. (Search and Rescue Radar Transponder) When activated a SART will emit a radar signal. When interrogated by a 3 cm X band radar unit, it will emit a pattern of 12 dots, the inner being the range and bearing of the SART. When the SART is interrogated the yellow light will turn green and an audible signal will go off indicating the signal has been apprehended or interrogated by potential rescuers.

Giving the aforementioned scenario, potentially very real, has allowed me the opportunity to quickly introduce, for your consideration, safety equipment in dealing with possible mayday disasters; both, in training yourself and crew, along with assessing the acquisition of safety equipment aboard your vessel.

I have two objectives in this link the first has been to point out that lurking behind a beautiful sunny Sunday family cruise patiently awaits potential danger that requires pre-planning. The second objective is to provide increased understanding in the roll of communications and the many innovations that are being filtered down to the recreational boater from the commercial sector.

Again referencing the above disaster scenario, an unprepared captain and crew with little more than life vests are probably not going to survive unless they are able to send off an effective distress call culminating in a quick response from rescuers.

Simply put when the Titanic sank in 1912, there was enough public outcry to initiate changes first in laws then improvements in communication for responding to distress at sea. There has been essentially no major changes until the advent of satellite, computers and microprocessor technology. Then the IMO (International Maritime Organization) turned this sector upside down with the introduction of the GMDSS system which is the Global Maritime Distress Safety System. The implementation of this system is now Federal law in the U.S. as well as International law for ships worldwide. The U.S. Coast Guard has the authority to enforce these regulations as it relates to vessels over 300 tons in the U.S. What this simply means is that all vessels less than 300 tons are unregulated. This has become somewhat of a serious issue reaching the U.S. Supreme Court as it relates to smaller commercial vessels. Contention at the Supreme Court level, in mandating compliance of communication equipment for these vessels through Federal Regulatory Agencies. Somewhat understandably, the recreational sector wants no part of this, with the potential of regulation filtering down into the boating community at the Federal and State level.

At the risk of perhaps boring you in explanations pertaining to Federal and International Regulations , what does it realistically relate to you and survival at sea? Good Question….There are areas in this innovative technology that pertain very directly to the recreational yachtsman that has NOT quite accurately filtered down. Why?…Fuzzy understanding as to what it all means, and how it will work for the millions of boaters out there. Let me be more specific, it’s a can of worms because the whole industry group doesn’t quite understand it, so how could this translate into effective marketing strategy and promotion. I have a great amount of respect for West Marine..I religiously use their catalogs in my work and their explanations are right to the point. Retailers however are caught right in the middle of the confusion. Although my catalog is a bit dated, the tune hasn’t changed much and they still don’t have it right. This is how they explained DSC technology awhile back, the heart of GMDSS, which is the specific area of our concern as it applies to the yachtsman.. Quoting West Marine (probably the largest purveyors of marine equipment for the boating industry). Digital Selective Calling is a relatively new technology that has been widely touted but has been poorly handled in our opinion. The idea behind DSC is that a radio can call another radio using digital messages much like a modem on a computer. If you knew the DSC code of the specific vessel being called, the radio on the vessel called would receive the message and all other radios would be unaffected. Mayday messages could also be transmitted with the vessels GPS position (GPS receiver necessary) so that rescuing agencies would know where to find you. ” The author to my mind gives a slight impression of a cavalier appreciation for the significance of a Mayday message…almost as an afterthought.”

“The next paragraph goes on”. One of the main reasons for DSC is to free vessels over 300 tons from having to monitor channel 16 after 1998. Theoretically, you won’t be able to hail a large vessel after 1998 if you don’t have DSC equipped radio. While it reduces the labor costs of ships, this change strikes us as being decidedly unseamanlike? “The PRIORITY in communication is response to distress, not ROUTINE traffic, such as calling your stockbroker. This is the purpose of the link to get this very point across to you. Routine traffic at sea without a doubt, has very much it’s place however..not to diminish its purpose”.

I went down to my local West Marine Store last week, two VHF radios for sale from the same well know mfg., one was equipped with a DSC controller and one without, “they were the same price”… I asked the salesman if he had any call for DSC /VHF radios . He predictably said no. I told him I was doing an article on it…He said he would be anxious to read it. So let me get to work now and simply explain it and end this somewhat innane attack/defense necessary perhaps to get one’s attention to the inevitable; sooner rather than later.

Your on board VHF radio is defaulted to the Internationally recognizable voice distress Channel 16. If you need to make a distress call..just key the mic and make your call. The Coast Guard and any and all potential rescuers are monitoring Channel 16. In fact everyone is on Channel 16. “Now the problems begin”. Since everyone with a VHF is on Channel 16, it is in addition, used as a hailing channel. Let’s say the name of your boat is Dizzy Girl and you want to talk to another boat Freedom 4…you hail over 16 by saying ..This is Dizzy Girl calling Freedom 4, come in Freedom 4. If Freedom 4 hears your call, their response will be ..this is Freedom 4 back to Dizzy Girl, what channel do you want to go over to…DizzyGirl to Freedom 4 how about Channel 68. Roger Roger..Channel 68 being a working channel for conversation, both vessels now manually switching to 68. This system both commercially and recreationally has been in place since time began. If anyone has sailed around the Miami Ft. Lauderdale area, Channel 16 is completely clogged up. Hailing anyone on 16 is a miracle in itself with so many boats…not to mention the primary purpose of 16. as a distress frequency. This is not only a problem in the aforementioned area, but all over, as recreational boating has had such explosive growth over the past 50 years. DSC does away with all that. The same as direct calling did away with Clarise the local community switchboard telephone operator 75 years ago. She would plug your party line in…and knew everyone’s business as characterized in the old movies.

Now let’s give Dizzy Girl and Freedom 4 new VHF radios with DSC technology. These VHF radios have inside them a DSC controller. The radio interfaces with the vessels GPS system. Your VHF is still defaulted to Ch.16 but if you want to call Freedom 4 in DSC mode the call is made on Ch 70, the DSC frequency…You push a few buttons…(about as difficult as working your microwave ) for a routine call… Punch in his 9 digit number called an MMSI (Marine Mobile Service Identification) similar as if a 7 digit telephone number.. pick a working channel such as 68 and press SEND (no voice hailing it’s digital). When the call is made your radio will automatically go over to 68 and so will Freedom 4 which is ringing, alerting him that he has received a call. All Freedom 4 does is key his mic and talk…his radio has automatically gone over to 68. Stepping back a second, even the casual thinker will appreciate the fact that much of that hailing traffic on 16 would be cleared up. Now if and when a mayday comes in on voice 16, you don’t have all that routine hailing clogging the airways, not to mention the obvious annoyance… hour after hour listening to mindless hailing traffic. “If that’s what he means by seamanship…God Bless him.”

Before we get into what I consider the real benefit of DSC, I need to clearly define a couple of terms as it relates to communication already mentioned. Essentially you have two catagories of traffic, Priority and Routine. There are three kinds of priority traffic…1-Distress: This is your top priority your mayday traffic…imminent danger of sinking, fire and several more. A little lower in priority is your 2-Urgency: Instead of mayday, mayday, mayday you use pan pan, pan pan, pan pan. Cousin Jimmy breaks a leg or even uncle Louie gets a heart attack…the distress is urgent but the vessel is not going down.. The third least in priority is what you might hear rather regularly from the Coast Guard. 3- Safety: securite, securite, securite…(French word)..this indicates a priority of safety meteorological or navigational warnings. The second category we bundle up as Routine Traffic.. If it is necessary to find out whether your friends aboard Freedom 4 made it to Bob’s Lobster Barn (quite valid) without DSC you hail them through Ch16, realistically, annoying all the other monitors; then upon, mutual voice agreement, you switch to a working station in order to find out how the lobster was. Communicating through DSC/ Ch 70 digitally, with your automatic selection of a working channel capability, you have bypassed 16 with direct digital hailing. The efficiency is 100%, not to mention the difficulties in raising anyone in the Miami area, with all the traffic on 16…what a mess.

Referencing again to our fire and abandon ship scenario. The real intangible advantage of DSC is its distress or panic button. Just press the button for 5 seconds, a mayday distress will automatically go out to the Coast Guard and every other vessel with DSC…not only will their alarms go off relating to your distress but your vessels identity and more importantly your position accuracy uncompromised. You can also manually send out distress, urgency and safety messages. This can be followed up with voice communication over Channel 16. If this system as suggsted is unseamanlike then the sun sets in the east and rises in the west. Think about it… we are talking about survival at sea. Routine traffic has its place over VHF/DSC…keep information relating to Bob’s Lobster Barn off channel 16…and on to channel 70 so we don’t have to listen to it…simple enough?

It has not been my intention to present this topic in a contentious vein or use West Marine as a foil in making a point that much misinformation in this area is out there; but, to try to bear out, in as few words as possible the practical application of DSC technology and let you decide its obvious merits.

Irrespective of the reasons why there is considerable denial about the benefits of this technology, an obvious objection voiced, came from Captain Ron Crook at MITAGS. Ron a former Sealand Captain also owner of a Benateau 45 voiced the idea when I told him I was going to do a link on this subject area suggested “Every kid will be pressing the distress button setting off a distress alarm.” A legitimate and obvious perception ,but junior is going to have a sore behind for several weeks when the old man gets fined several hundred dollars. It’s impossible to anonymously set off a distress because of the MMSI number…Setting off a distress purposefully would be like making a crank call on your home phone, its rather counterproductive. Secondly it’s hard to justify the button pushed by mistake because it needs to be held for 5 seconds before being activated…As a last resort, the protocol for canceling the distress is to immediately go on voice Channel 16 and cancel the DSC communication. That being said, to my mind, there isn’t any legitimate reason for ignoring progress in employing this technology in the recreational boating sector on a large scale.

Since probably 95% of the boating public need not go any further than the 25 mile range serviced by VHF, I was tempted to leave it at that and move on to piracy and anti-terrorism protection. But I felt that I really had more to say particularly in light of the worldwide satellite communication offerings.

VHF means “Very High Frequency” This is in the range of 30 MHz to 300 MHz. What that means is this. The frequency of Channel 16 and 70 respectively are 156.8 MHz and 156.525 MHz “whose going to remember that stuff” ?…so the ITU in Switzerland, enforced through the FCC in the US, assignment of channel numbers…particularly in the VHF range. Each frequency in this VHF range has a channel number associated with it…”Makes life easy”.

If you want to go beyond the 25 mile range you need to look to the Middle and High frequency ranges…Middle 150-200 mile range… High perhaps up to a 1000 miles or more. MF/ 300 KHz to 3000 KHz or 3 MHz…HF/ 3 MHz to 30 MHz. The obvious questions are these… Why are their ranges so much greater than VHF? ANS: VHF is a line of sight transmission meaning antenna to antenna..based upon the average antenna above the vessels… the range is generally about 25 miles. The power output of a VHF doesn’t exceed 25 watts for this range. On the other hand MF/HF unit called a transceiver or a single sideband is normally 150 watts sending out a skywave which is refracted off the atmosphere..sending it a lot further distance, oftentimes predicated on atmospheric conditions. Whereas the price of the two VHF units earlier referenced was $170.00, “Quite a good buy in my opinion”, a sideband will run a minimum of $1500 to $3000. This equipment is mandatory on commercial vessels, worth mentioning because it scans 6 frequencies 1 in MF, and 5 in HF for DSC distress traffic. VHF/MF/HF are termed your terrestrial communications systems.

However you may choose to spend your money is your own business. You may even opt to get an $8,000 worldwide satellite telephone system; but, I’ll put my resources in GMDSS Inmarsat Sat C system. The price of this equipment is coming down quickly, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it in the $1000 range shortly. You would also interface it with a PC unit and printer. “The printer is a dot matrix and the PC is circa 386 (pre windows) vintage…”fine for text messaging files”.

If you ever get a book on this stuff (VHF/MF/HF/ GMDSS/ SAT C) it will soon put you to sleep, leaving you to believe, that a dual degree in brain surgery with a minor in rocket science is needed to begin to understand particularly all the acronyms and coding associated with all the respective areas mentioned; but, in reality the equipment is quite simple to operate. Anyone at all who operates a computer with the ability to fetch their E-mail will need hardly more than a 15 minute orientation to understand and operate in the Inmarsat C system environment. (International Maritime Satellite Consortium). Again with limited resources dedicated to this area, I would certainly opt for Sat C over MF/HF equipment.

In a nutshell, this is how the Sat C system works. There are 4 geostationary satellites: 1 in the Western Atlantic Region, 1 in the Eastern Atlantic Region, 1 in the Pacific Region and 1 in the Indian Ocean Region. Off your terminal you access the applicable satellite, follow the logic question line…accessing the info. from your sub-menus and files… press SEND and that’s it…routine traffic in the form of a fax will probably be received in less than a half hour to your recipient… “and it’s not that expensive”. The system has a text editor on it…so you can type out whatever information you may choose, store it as a file then when you are ready to send…voila…go along what the above procedure I just outlined. The messaging goes up to the satellite stored then forwarded to a Coast Earth Station then appropriately forwarded to the intended party.

The significance of the system should not be measured by its ability to handle routine traffic (must call my stockbroker syndrome) but to send and receive messaging related to distress, urgency and safety. Each terminal identity number IMN Inmarsat number coincidentally has 9 digits…”same amount of digits as an MMSI number in the terrestrial system”…no relationship however. Your Sat C system interfaces with your GPS system, consequently along with your identity number, if it be necessary to send a mayday, just press the TWO panic buttons simultaneously and your distress will be uploaded to the satellite, immediately downloaded to the Coast Earth Station who will immediately contact the Rescue Coordinating Center who will appropriately respond to your distress. Besides the hot key, time permitting the distress communication can also be sent out manually, stating the nature of the distress and other comments you may want to include in the transmission.

Recognizing the invaluable service it performs for blue water cruising vessels, Sat C. also has another outstanding ability.You will automatically receive Marine Safety Information relating to weather and navigation…allowing you to keep your voyage plan considerations updated. Sat C is a proven reliable system..There are other systems out there, even with voice, but I caution, because their support systems might have shortcomings, and it was not my intention to examine a few other valid possibilities, but to relate only from experience.

Surviving bad weather at sea is hardly worth the mention. It makes for good drama in the movies or on TV. This is generally due to careless disregard by the seamen. Realistically bad weather is easily avoidable with the quality of weather forecasting and communications today. I just mentioned in the paragraph above the integral part of Marine Safety Information in the Sat C. system. If you are unfortunate enough, we’ve discussed distress and urgency messaging to formulate proper judgment.

Sat C employs a rather compact omni-directional antenna but unlike Sat A, no voice capability. I’m not going into Sat A …even on large ships it’s being phased out….as they say on the Sopranos “Forget about it”

An old friend Dave called me up a week ago Saturday, we were both watching the first game of the American Russian face off in the Olympic hockey prelims, the game that ended in a 2-2 tie. He told me he had just bought a 50 foot sailboat, and asked me if I wanted to sail with him around the world. I uttered the last three words found on the preceding paragraph. He asked me about communications equipment and I pretty much gave him the same recommendations I gave in the preceding paragraphs on the topic. I told him I was recently back from Baltimore where I had just taken a course among others on anti-terrorism. I told him about doing this link and suggested he reference it. I had something to say which to my mind is perhaps rather timely. “Maybe sailing around the world in a 50 is not a bad idea after all, we’ll see”.

One evening while at MITAGS, I approached Jack Lynch, ex Navy Seal, who was finishing up a class on small arms training. Companies are requiring this training from Merchant Marine Officers more and more becoming an integral part of anti-terrorism and piracy at sea response. Like any other American, my feelings of September 11, are very strong , but I am also very angry what has happened recently. Two incidents in particular, to innocent people, cruising on their vessels. The incident in Brazil received a fair amount of worldwide coverage when it was found that a well known Americas Cup Captain from New Zealand got shot by pirates who boarded his vessel in the Amazon. No questions asked, shot and killed him. The other incident was a German family cruising. Their vessel was boarded, the pirates threw two children overboard, shot them, then robbed the man and wife and left.

To my mind they are not human beings, they are a lower form of evil, that must be dealt with in the strongest quickest manner. The same systematic pre planning measures earlier discussed must be employed in this area. “It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse”.

Many criminals and potential pirates view the cruising public as easy marks. You cannot lay at anchor or even berth at a strange marina without a security plan. This means that someone, particularly at night has to be standing watch capable of forcefully reacting to any threat. That means no one lays a hand or foot on your vessel without your permission, particularly if crew is aboard.

The cruising public are a sociable breed who love to share stories and a cocktail or two with others. Unfortunately the environment also abounds with hustlers and low life’s of all disguises and description. Become instinctively suspicious of those who don’t appear to ring true. If others ask your voyage plan, then ask you to ferry them …”you don’t run a ferry service”. Some will try to ingratiate themselves on you with this set up. Beware of the good looking gal with the bikini and the boyfriend, they may be the scum of the earth…At the least you must get references on people, before they can be trusted in a seagoing situation.

No vessel has a right to come upon another vessel. If it’s a police or customs vessel you have the right to validate their intentions, before allowing any official aboard…be suspicious, why would they be approaching you, what is your proximity to a harbor approach. Are there any official markings on the vessel, are they flying any official looking flags, are there other vessels in proximity, are you near an anchorage. What do they have to say for themselves. Can you validate their presence by radio through a third party. Don’t let anyone aboard who claims to be some form of official unless it adds up to your satisfaction.

On the high seas there is absolutely no excuse for a vessel to come upon you. If they have a distress situation that’s what Channel 16 is for..and if they were in distress how the devil and why are they coming at you. Make it quite clear they do not have permission to approach or board your vessel, develop an aggressive somewhat combative attitude.

The best way to display a forceful and aggressive attitude against any potential intruder on the high seas is you and a crew member, start cocking two pump action shot guns. Make it quite clear to their intrusive presence..”You are not a nice guy”. Make it clear that if they don’t make any sense and get any closer you may shoot…”Probably 95% will take off….If they tell you they are low in fuel…keep them at a distance, at the most radio help for them… watching them closely. If they seem to be playing you….start aiming and tell them to back off. If you need to shoot the first couple of shells should be what are called pumpkin balls… They will put a hole in a fiberglass hull. That may clear them out fast. If it’s up close and personal, the next shell is double 00 shot…followed up with blowing their heads off with a nice pattern of bird shot. The scenarios are mine, the selection of guns and ammunition were what I queried Jack about, who took me back and showed me the guns and ammo. Tucked away on the vessel a 45 is recommended over a 9mm. “you want to bring them down fast.” Chances are it will never get to be a shoot-out at OK Corral. Pumping those shot guns empty, was very very intimidating. When you discourage them and they take off, radio the authorities, before this scum can look for easier prey.

No, I’m not a blood thirsty gun toting cowboy, ( as suggested in more than one E-mail). I don’t have a gun at home, because I have no need for one. When your are confronted as in the very real scenario above, and action is the only recourse, there is no second place. You either repel the attack or become a casualty. The entire link has been about having the proper tools and pre-planning in dealing with disaster in the most effective way possible.

Most civil authorities are trying to discourage vessels from carrying arms, even merchant vessels. My attitude, is this, my life is only important to me and my family. To those banana republics around the world who would try to discourage carrying arms on a cruising vessel, I’m only a statistic and paper work. On September 11th to my mind the rules changed.

If this link can potentially make a difference in perhaps saving the life of one person, who puts out to sea, regardless of the size of his vessel or crew, it has been worth the trouble a hundred times over.



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