Another beautiful day with sunshine and wind, contrary to what the weather guy predicted, and yet another day spent sitting inside somewhere rather than out practicing our ‘heavy weather’ sailing techniques. This time, at least we were attending the Safety At Sea Seminar, sponsored by The Sailing Foundation. We figured we’d take the class as it would help us feel as though we were preparing for our voyage, even though it’s still several years in the future. After all, it’s marketed for both experienced and novice mariners. So we figured, “That’s us!” What they don’t really state, but what I could have figured out had I read between the lines a little more, is that their target audience is racing sailors. That’s why it’s conveniently timed to coincide with the Vic Maui and Pacific Cup races. And, after all, it’s designed to satisfy the US Sailing requirements for sailors in offshore races. Duh. Why didn’t I notice that before we signed up?
The day started off pretty cool with all the big names that were there to share their wealth of information and experience: John Rousmaniere, Chuck Hawley, Carol Hasse, Paul Miller. What a line up of speakers! I had stars in my eyes, imagining asking for autographs. The morning was spent listening to them talk about how to avoid conditions that lead to accidents, communications at sea, storm sails, in-water safety equipment, losses of masts, rudders, and steering, and how to organize your crew and establish watch schedules. It was during this last session that I realized they weren’t really talking to me, with my ‘crew’ of just myself and Mike. They were talking to the racing sailors. Oh. Still, good information for the most part, especially since things learned in the world of racing have a way of trickling down to the cruiser/voyagers among us.
Toward the end of the morning, I noticed that many of the presentations seemed rushed, like the presenter had to talk fast to get it all in. And no one had an opportunity to go into much depth on their presentation. Between 8:30 and noon, we had six different presentations. My mind was a-whirl. My head was heavy with words. I didn’t have anything to rest my head on. The room was so crowded Mike and I were sitting in chairs by the wall with no table to use. All students know the importance of a desk. It gives you something to keep your head from bumping your knees when you begin to fall asleep. I was ready for lunch.
The afternoon included examining recent fatal accidents in the racing sailing community, heavy weather boat handling, man overboard prevention and rescue, assisting other vessels, and medical concerns. Does that sound like way too much to cover in an afternoon? It was. By 2:00 I was falling asleep, and it wasn’t from low blood sugar. It was from the sheer number of words entering my brain as one presenter after another rushed through topics. It was also from sitting in an overly crowded room that was hot and stuffy. I barely made it through the medical presentation, and I had been waiting for that one. Good thing the doctor who presented basically just read his slides to us. We can find them on the seminar website. So I didn’t really have to listen after all.
So if you are cruisers who would like to take a voyage across the sea someday and you haven’t taken this class, here’s my recommendation: this is really designed to satisfy an education requirement for sailors who sign up for these big ocean races. There is nothing wrong with that. And there is still a lot of useful information that we can all relate to and use. But if you want to really hear what these speakers have to say, and learn more than just the bare minimum about any of these topics, this isn’t the venue for it. Go hear them talk somewhere else where they have time to do their topics justice and share some of their personal experiences. I wanted to hear their stories. Pretty much anyone could have delivered the information they provided, because they didn’t have an opportunity to really flesh out the details from their personal experiences. (Except for Paul Miller, who is a professor, and a really good teacher. He was able to tell all kinds of stories to get his points across.)
I guess the real lesson of the day is that there is plenty of opportunity to spend a lot of money taking classes that have to do with sailing. Not all of them are going to be worth your money as a cruising sailor. We paid $250 for both of us to attend the first day of this seminar, and I came away with precious little learning of new things. I don’t begrudge the amount because I know these things are very expensive to organize. However, I already know how and why I should use my PFD, safety harness, and jack lines. Likewise, I already know it’s easier to prevent falls from the boat than it is to rescue someone once they are in the water. I’m already well aware that sleep deprivation and long watches make for bad company and even worse mistakes. I know there is no shame in heaving to in heavy weather, and I know how to do it (at least around here). I’ve been a firm believer in ‘preventers’ (that prevent booms from swinging wildly and killing people) ever since I knew they existed.
So did I get 250$ worth of learning? Nope, I did not. But I did get to see some pretty famous people in the sailing community. I also now understand why having someone like Carol Hasse come and assess our sail plan and make recommendations would be money well spent. And, I will probably find a first aid class for cruisers as I learned just enough during the doctor’s presentation to make me a danger to self and others.
In the end, I’m glad we didn’t sign up for the second day, which would have cost even more. That’s the day where people get to jump into the swimming pool with all their foul weather gear on and practice getting into a man-overboard raft. I think I already did that back in 1974 when I was training to be a lifeguard. We don’t need the certification offered by this seminar in order to go voyaging. Maybe we’ll figure out some other way to get wet and cold and swim around in our clothes. Lesson learned.