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Date: 17 December 2013. Air Horn Saves the Day.

Aboard any boat safety has to be a paramount concern, even above the decadence and good life I promote! And yet all too often safety equipment is expensive.  Fortunately, not everything is costly and for Seaweed one thoughtful Christmas gift surely made a difference for Skipper and I. Let me tell you about it.

A couple of Christmases back a friend (Doc aboard Safira) gave many of the folks in the anchorage an air horn from the Dollar Tree. I tucked his next to the companionway into my cabin. Yes, I've got an official Coast Guard approved model for inspections, but having a spare seemed like a Good Idea. Frankly, if I'd have seen them at the store I'd have bought myself one. It was a great gift.

I suspect that choice was a result of an experience a fellow cruiser had. You see Stono II's outboard conked out as he was attempting to cross a river. The current caught him and it could have been ugly. Picture being swept to sea in a marshmallow otherwise known as a rubber dinghy without a means of raising help... Okay, legally he probably did have one of those toy whistles however when the wind is kicking they aren't all they are cracked up to be. (In my opinion they aren't very loud though I confess the hearing isn't what it once was. Nothing is.)

One thing you may have noted is how often boaters refer to each other by the names of our boats. Please, PLEASE chose something that is not pornographic.  You'll be in phones and address books listed by your boat name so one that is easy to spell would be helpful too. Something simple, easy to spell, and not-too-ketchy (rolling eyes) would be wonderful.

In any event, I'm not sure if the horn idea was a direct result of Stono II being in his dinghy without a hand-held VHF and no way to call for help or not, but for Christmas Safira gifted many of us with little air horns. I had one (it's a part of the safety gear required aboard) but took his and tucked it in the corner by my companionway.

So one morning I'm up, futzing around in my cabin and as is the norm did a 360 scan to see what was going on in my world. Just up river and heading toward me was a small center console boat. The individual aboard was wiping down the seats, facing aft and didn't realize how close he was to colliding with me. He was on a direct bow to bow collision course!

Quickly I grabbed the Safira horn and gave a couple of blasts which alerted the fellow to the impending crash and he immediately went to the helm and swing the boat hard to starboard. With a "sorry" as he passed thrown in, I could tell it was one of those "weak-knee" moments we've all had...

There's no need to remind me that five rapid blasts of a horn indicates danger. I would have done so but that the gent was alerted and on his way to the helm before the five could have gotten out. In my view there was no need to continue as danger was averted as soon as he turned the wheel.

How did it happen you may ask? Let's first look at the chart of the Carrabelle River:

The gentleman was heading out toward the mouth of the river along the edge of Timber Island. With the current pushing him along a bit faster than he imagined, there is no doubt he was unaware of how close he was to my boat. His attention was not on his surroundings and he was distracted by a chore (wiping dew off the seats and windshield) that should have been done prior to leaving the dock.

I'm anchored near the red star, to the north of a secondary channel. Yes, I am well off the channel and on the opposite side of the river (and oyster beds plus sandbars) from the designated channel. Also Seaweed is one of the few boats that does display a black ball when anchored. That's in the regulations incidentally.

The center console boat came within 10' of mine, and yes, he did say "sorry" though I suspect his voice was almost as wobbly as my knees. As he was going fishing I was rather hoping he'd express his regrets with something tangible like a fresh-caught fish, but alas, that was not to be.

Situational awareness saved the day, along with an air horn that was easily accessible. It's just something to think about as you decide where to stow your stuff. I now have a third air horn and tucked it out back by one of my fire extinguishers.


Read the instructions on the container. You don't shake the air horn first.
I only mention that because I didn't know it myself!

Damage was averted and it was a lesson for both of us -- me, in having an air horn handy (rather than stored in a drawer) and him to pay a bit more attention when underway. We've all done stupid things, or are liars. For me, the thing I took away was to be aware when I hear a boat heading my way and that maybe having everything tidy is a super idea. That and it confirmed that the air horn placement was pretty doggone good.

Do you have more than one horn on your boat?
Is the second placed so if you needed it RIGHT NOW you could get to it easily?

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