Rebel Yell by Jason Scott

Part VII



Cruising seems to be one series of surprises and headaches, pleasures and delights, trouble and learning. Of all these, learning and the application of those lessons is the most important to a blue water sailor. No avocation brings home so forcefully the adage that, if you don’t learn quickly from your mistakes, you are doomed to failure, or worse.
. . . . . Jason


When the day’s sail is over and the salts for the day are gathered discussing the events done, conversation, as true as the movement of the navigation stars, moves inexorably to individual tales of accomplishment spiced with much hearsay of what others have done while indulging in what some have called The Ultimate Sport. As much as I love the time I’ve been under sail, for me, these are the moments which sort of put the Pussars in the punch!

As the conversation moves on and mellows according to the mood of the moment and the content of the glass, there is sure to be someone in the group who asks those of us who have made blue water voyages a couple of inevitable questions.

“What about the great storms you were in?”

. . . or more often,

“Have you ever been shipwrecked?”

The first question has its stories which have been recounted herein. Let’s talk about the real thing . . . potential shipwreck!

I must admit that, while I’ve been unbelievably close to disaster many times, I’ve never been beached, driven up on a reef or had a boat sink under me (discounting that damned dinghy).

How can that be so? Being so close so many times and never being augured in! I am a firm believer that planning ahead for what action to take1 when faced with potential disaster is what makes the difference between being able to keep the boat afloat or collecting the insurance.

Potential losers in any enterprise which involves a degree of risk (and what is worthwhile if it doesn’t?) can almost always be spotted quite easily. They’re the ones who are consistently flaunting the odds by either not knowing what they are doing or deliberately ignoring them.2 You know the type . . . the cliffhangers. The type of person who puts off changing that frayed rope,3 never puts safety wires on critical fittings,4 leaves dock with an essential piece of navigation gear working marginally5 or sets off to sea without checking the weather.6 But, it goes even further than that: you can still do all of those things right and be a loser it you do not plan for contingency.

Those of us who have flown airplanes for fun (and survived) always practice engine-off landings. Always know where that alternate airport is. Always fly high enough over rough terrain to be able to glide in safely and always set down in bad weather regardless of our expertise in blind flying.

It is the same thing in yachting and, in particular, blue water racing or cruising. The survivor will be the sailor who has thought of what can go wrong and practiced, at least in his mind, what he will do under moments of critical stress. When faced with potential disaster, there is no time to think of alternatives . . . you must act out a predetermined plan! It is often just the edge required to counteract what old Mother Nature is bound to throw at you sooner or later if you sail long enough. Just to test your respect!

Even then, sometimes the old girl throws in more than one problem at a time . . . to find out who is fit to survive in what can be her most hostile environment. Luck can carry one through several single fallures but multiple failures at the same time are something else. If you are a marginal type sailor that is where you get your come-uppance.

I have had many such brushes with disaster which could be handled with just good seamanship and a little luck. There was one occasion where multiple failures (three of them) almost did me in! It happened on the leg where we had started across the Indian Ocean on our way to the Seychelles.

Part VII, Contents

  1. Chapter One - Harbingers of Things to Come

  2. Harbinger #1 ... A Case of Otium Cum Dignatante
    Harbinger #2 ... The Parting of The Sea of Matrimony
    Harbinger #3 ... Danger on the Passage to Java
    Harbinger #4 ... The Invisible Island
    Harbinger #5 ... Somebody’s Out to Get Us
    Mayday! The Final Indignity
^^Rebel Yell
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