There’s an old adage among pilots: “Those who have and those who will,” meaning that sooner or later, every pilot will come close to landing an airplane without extending the landing gear. Similarly, when it comes to spending time on boats, be it offshore passagemaking, fishing, or day sailing, eventually we’re all going to have some sort of emergency. Safer Offshore: Crisis Management and Emergency Repairs at Sea, by Ed Mapes, is another in a long list of books that deal with on-the-water emergencies. It’s quite evident early on that Mapes knows what he’s talking about and his 30-plus years of experience are clearly visible. His easy-to-read style makes this a very user-friendly book.
There are 14 chapters that cover subjects ranging from communications, helicopter evacuation, abandoning ship, fires, running aground, towing, and many others. At the end of the book there’s an appendix with lists of what every offshore vessel should carry to repair engines, sails, rigging, electrical systems, plumbing, etc. These aren’t just random lists of “stuff,” but items that Mapes has found, again from his experience, to be vital to ensure a smooth passage if (when) things go wrong.
This past summer, while out for a daysail, I was caught by a storm about two miles offshore. I knew Tortuga, my 26-foot Westerly Centaur, could handle the conditions, but there was a small fishing boat with two adults and two small kids that had run out of gas and was in dire straits. Having never towed anyone with my boat, I felt uncomfortable taking on the task at that point so I flagged down a powerboat and they towed in the unfortunate party. Everyone involved survived, none the worse for wear. I was asked to review Safer Offshore shortly after the experience, and the first thing I did was read the section on towing. I hope I’m never put in that situation again, but if I am, I’ll feel more comfortable and I’ll have the confidence to take on the task. Safer Offshore; Crisis Management and Emergency Repairs at Sea would be a valuable tool to keep on your boat or on your bookshelf for review in the off-season.