After two major collisions with substantial loss of American lives between US Navy destroyers and merchant ships, many of us went to websites that provide histories of the movements of the ships in the area up to the minute of the collision. Using the AIS transponders that are on all of the commercial vessels, and some of the recreational vessels, you can clearly see the paths of the vessels heading in and out of some of the most constrained and confusing waterways in the world.
When we think about boating safety, all of us can come up with a specific story, perhaps several, that previously taught us about the ocean, how sailboats perform, and how to avoid trouble. Frequently, these stories involved trouble of one sort or another, since the school of hard knocks provides a pretty effective education.
In the early 1970s, a new method of categorizing life jackets was introduced by the Coast Guard and Underwriter’s Laboratories, using five “types” and a new, strange name for life jackets: the Personal Flotation Device.
The five types fell into recognizable styles: Type I were for commercial use and had the most buoyancy; Type IIs were inexpensive “yoke” style; Type III were vests that were more comfortable, but had relatively low buoyancy; Type IV were “throwable devices” for man overboard; and Type V were anything that didn’t fit into the previous definitions.
In August of 2014, Fortress Anchors conducted an extensive anchor test on Chesapeake Bay, south of Solomon’s Island, in deep, sticky mud. I was asked to be the impartial observer, based on my participation in anchor tests for several decades.
On the night of November 29, 2014, while competing in the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, Vestas Wind ran aground on Cargados Carajos Shoal shortly after local sunset. The crew consisted of eight seasoned professional sailors with multiple Volvo Ocean Races in their past; the vessel was essentially new and in perfect condition; the visibility was excellent except for lack of moonlight; and the shoal was charted on virtually every paper chart of the west Indian Ocean from extremely small scale 1:45 million charts to an extremely detailed 1:75,000 chart.
A new set of Safety Equipment Requirements (SERs) replaced the ISAF (formally ORC) Offshore Special Regulations in the US, effective January 2014. These new requirements were adapted and successfully used in the 2014 Pacific Cup and the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race and have since been adopted broadly in a wide range of offshore races.