Expecting the Unexpected

Freezing and alone, three-hundred miles at sea in the dark, rescue swimmer Mike Odom lashes his arms to his life raft. He knows he’ll be dead soon and wants us to find his body – If he gets thrown out again we’ll never find him. The three sailors that he put in the back of the helicopter with me don’t know that we don’t have enough gas to get back. Not into this headwind. Pilot Jay Balda is thinking that his crew might be dead soon and its all his fault. Mark, our flight mechanic, is silently staring at the broken hoist cable thinking it’s his. I’m crying now, afraid for my friend and terrified for myself. I just want to live. But the two with the best chance to make it are on the forty foot sailing vessel Mirage, the one we flew out to “rescue.” They’re on their way to St. Thomas, making six knots under sail in a watertight boat. I’m blaming someone else. I had been a Coast Guard rescue swimmer less than a year that night in January of 1995. For a long time I was angry and thought it was about fault. It wasn’t. The Mirage crew did the best they could with the information they had. Their experience led them to believe that being offshore was easy and fun and nothing really goes wrong. Their experience with heavy weather was purely conversational. When a late winter storm churned up an angry sea and they took a hard knock down they weren’t emotionally or physically ready for it. My friends and I and the three men who jumped from their seaworthy boat got lucky nineteen years ago. A miraculous 180 degree shift in wind direction just when we needed it most allowed us to land in Wilmington, North Carolina instead of in the ocean. Thanks to the heroics of our C-130 crew – who shut down two engines so they could stay on-scene – Mike wasn’t lost. He was recovered, albeit unconscious from hypothermia, five and a half hours later by a second helicopter.  He was back in the water on another rescue just a few days later. Even with a favorable forecast, heavy weather can come up suddenly. To understand how to be ready for it I interviewed the experts and found out success in foul weather is about spending some time playing and practicing in it – on purpose. […]

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By |September 4th, 2014|Boating Safety, Coast Guard, Risk, Water Safety|21 Comments

Are You Missing Something?

You've been sailing for years and planning this next trip for months. You've created the perfect sail plan, stocked the galley, the weather is shaping up perfectly and the boat has been checked and rechecked. She’s ready. You’re ready. You cast off the lines – outbound for wherever – confident that you have thought of [...]

By |July 5th, 2014|Boating Safety, Risk, SAR, Survival, Water Safety|1 Comment

Dangerous Distance

Boating is about getting away from it all, but if you don’t consider all of the things you are getting away from – like hospitals – you can wish you were back in civilization pretty quick.  In a post at Yachting, I wrote that “a safe boater fully understands and considers the hazards, and makes decisions about risk based on that understanding.”  That is an easy concept for things like fires, weather, and water temperatures. Don’t forget to consider the distance from shore as a hazard too. I’m not talking about fuel calculations and having enough reserve; I’m talking about the dangerous kind distance – the distance from definitive medical care. Every mile from the dock is another four minutes (in a fast boat) from a hospital. In the middle of even a short run from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport for example, you are a good two or three hours – at least – from advanced medical care.  Distance can be dangerous if you’re not truly prepared for an unexpected problem; and it takes more than just having a first aid kit aboard to be truly prepared. Thomas Bliss, director of the training firm Northwest Response, recommends at least moderately advanced first aid training for captains who ventures offshore. “The minimum should be the American Red Cross CPRO First Aid, CPR & AED training for the professional rescuer, or an equivalent,” says Bliss. “I have seen many injuries on vessels and most required direct pressure, more than just a Band-Aid.” “For the professional rescuer” in the title may sound daunting, but it isn’t.   I’ve taken these courses and they do not assume prior medical training; they are just more advanced than basic first aid and CPR courses and include some advanced wound care and equipment use. Having packs of gauze and bandages in a kit and knowing how to use them effectively are two different things. Spending a few bucks and learning how to properly care for common medical problems from a professional every couple of years is a good idea. “Basic emergency medical response courses run from $80 to $110 depending on the course.” […]

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By |May 31st, 2013|Boating Safety, Risk|2 Comments

Call for Videos from Tough Mudder Mid-Atlantic 2013

Since writing about the tragic death of Avishek Sengupta at a Tough Mudder in West Virginia, I have received dozens of emails and comments regarding the event. Some have agreed with my opinions, and some have not. But there is a way that we can all be more sure of what happened that day. A [...]

By |May 25th, 2013|Risk|2 Comments

Update: Tough Mudder – Witnesses Describe Rescue as Slow / Disorganized

(If you were there - please help:  A Call for Videos) A recent article by Andrew Metcalf at Patch includes witnesses describing the rescue efforts (or lack of rescue efforts) after Sengupta’s friends reported that he did not surface from the jump.  Nicholas Sayers was at the Walk The Plank obstacle watching his sister participate in the [...]

By |April 25th, 2013|Opinion, Risk, Water Safety|11 Comments

The Unaccounted-For Variables: Where Tough Mudder Failed

I was saddened to hear of the death this past Sunday of twenty-eight-year old Avishek Sengupta, who drowned at a Tough Mudder event in West Virginia. Saddened, but not at all surprised. Tough Mudder is one of those pay-to-play obstacle challenges that allow anyone with an entry fee and the willingness to sign a waiver the chance to do things usually reserved for elite military combat professionals. Perhaps that’s why injury and even death at such events is sad but not surprising. The training done by elite military combat professionals involves a lot more than setting up an obstacle course and sending the troops in. They go through months of build up and monitoring, the training is extremely well supervised, and their emergency response plans are well-thought-out, practiced, and proven. By comparison, an event like Tough Mudder is a free-for-all. Here is why: […]

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By |April 23rd, 2013|Life, Opinion, Risk, Water Safety|53 Comments

A vízbefúlás nem látszik vízbefúlásnak

Translations: – English –  汉语 – tiếng Việt – Español – Italiano –  Français – Português – română – Deutsch– Suomi – Svenska –  Čeština – Русско -Íslenska – Nederlands – Audio Version Az új kapitány ruhástul a vízbe vetette magát a fedélzetről és teljes sebességgel úszni kezdett. A volt vízimentő, szemét mindvégig az áldozaton tartva, egyenesen a lehorgonyzott vitorlás és a strand között úszkáló tulajdonos pár felé tartott. “Szerintem azt hiszi, fuldoklasz” mondta a férj a feleségének. Egymást fröcskölték a vízben és a feleség sikított, de mostanra már a lábukon álltak a nyakig érő vízben. “Jól vagyunk, mit csinál ez az ember?” kérdezte a feleség mérgelődve. “Minden rendben velünk!” kiabálta a férj, kezével is intve, hogy menjen el, de a kapitány keményen úszott tovább. ”Félre!” üvöltött rá a férjre, ahogy a meglepett tulajdonosok között elúszott. Közvetlenül mögöttük, alig három méterre tőlük kilenc éves lányuk fuldoklott a vízben. A vízfelszín felett, a kapitány kezei közt immár biztonságban, kitört belőle a sírás: „Apa!” “Honnan tudhatta a kapitány – 15 méterrel távolabbról – azt, amit az apa 3 méterről sem ismert fel? A vízbefulladás nem jár azzal a vad, fröcskölő segélykiáltással, amire a legtöbb ember számít. A kapitányt szakértők és hosszú évek tapasztalata képezték ki arra, hogy felismerje a vízbefúlást. Az apa ugyanakkor televízióból tanulta, hogyan is néz ki a vízbefúlás. Ha gyakran töltesz időt vízen, vagy víz közelében (azaz: ez szinte mindannyiunkra igaz) akkor tudnod kellene neked is és a legénységednek is, mire figyeljetek, ha bárki is vízben van. A kislány, amíg el nem sírta magát „Apa!”, egy hangot sem ejtett. Mint a parti őrség volt vízimentőjét, engem ez a történet egyáltalán nem lepett meg. A vízbefúlás a legtöbb esetben egy megtévesztően csendes esemény. A vízfelszín karokkal történő erőteljes csapkodása és a hangos kiáltozás, ezek a vízbefúláshoz kapcsolt drámai jelzések, amiket a televízióból megtanultunk, a való életben ritkán fordulnak elő. Az ösztönös vízbefúlási reakció (The Instinctive Drowning Response)– Dr. Francesco A. Pia nevezte el így – az, amit a vízben lévő ember tesz azért, hogy vélt vagy valós fulladását elkerülje. És ez nem úgy néz ki, mint amire a legtöbb ember számít. Nincs semmiféle csapkodás, nincs erőteljes karlengetés, nincs integetés, sem kiáltozás, semmiféle segélykérés. Ahhoz, hogy képet kapj arról, hogy a felszíni vízbefúlás mennyire egy drámaiatlan, csendes esemény, fontold végig ezt: a vízbefúlás a 15 év alatti gyerekek balesetből származó elhalálozásának második leggyakoribb oka (a járműbalesetek után). A közel 750 gyermek közül, akik az elkövetkező évben vízbe fúlnak közel 375 fog a szüleitől vagy más felnőttől mintegy 20 méteren belül vízbe fúlni. Ezeknek a vízbefulladásoknak a 10 százalékában a felnőtt végig fogja ezt nézni, anélkül, hogy tudná, mi történik (forrás: CDC). A vízbefúlás nem látszik vízbefúlásnak – Dr. Pia a parti őrség „On Scene” folyóiratának cikkében leírta az ösztönös vízbefúlási reakciókat, melyek a következők: […]

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By |February 10th, 2013|Boating Safety, Risk, Water Safety|2 Comments

Swim at Your Own Risk

My good friend Vincent Daniello was spending the day with his family at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  It should have been a fun time in the sun and surf, but Vince was finding it very hard to cool off.  Being a conscientious dad, he doesn't swim at unguarded beaches - especially with his kids [...]

By |July 6th, 2012|NDPA, Risk, Water Safety|14 Comments

Boy Nearly Drowns at Phoenix Hotel

Hotel employees trained in CPR helped a father revive his drowned son. Keeping a constant watch and staying in arms reach of his small child would have been a better plan, though I think he just learned that the hard way. Stay within arms reach of your small children whenever they play in the water.

By |May 20th, 2012|NDPA, Risk, Water Safety|2 Comments

The 2012 GAP Attention Survey

I have a confession:  I'm not a big fan of data.  It leaves too much information out, allows too many assumptions in, and it seems to provide more questions than answers.  But if there is one thing about data I have come to love, it's that it is an awesome tool in the changing of [...]

By |April 1st, 2012|Risk, Water Safety|5 Comments