Last week the stark reminder that we are surrounded by danger was forcefully driven home with a brutally sad event. One of our fellow live aboards fell in and drowned.
I did not know Morris very well as he was new to our community. I met him a couple of weeks ago when he invited me aboard his new boat to show me around. He was excited and slightly apprehensive as this was going to be his first winter aboard his boat. A tall, rugged, but nice looking man, Morris told me about his new boat/home, showing me his new electric fireplace and his galley setup. We chatted about winters in Canada and he related some of his fears about not being able to stay warm enough and worries about the ice. I reassured him that all would be well and that we loved winters on the boat, telling him that, in fact, we like winters better than summers on the boat. We said our goodbyes assuring each other that we would keep in contact and check in on each other during the upcoming months. That was the last time I saw him.
This is the story as it was told to me. By 9:30 Morris and his party friends were seen tottering up and down the dock on wobbly legs. At midnight, when another boater on their dock came back from a late night pizza, the party was going strong. Around 1:30am, the party thought it would be fun to fire up the boat engines and gun them. Somewhere around 3:30, Morris went out for a pee and never came back.
The dirty little secret among boaters is that there is an unacceptably high rate of alcoholism in our line of adventure. Does boating attract alcoholics or do boaters become alcoholics; I don’t know. (What came first the chicken or the egg?) In the past I’ve ranted about the nocturnal comings and goings of our various drinking neighbours. All this stems from alcohol. There seems to be two types of people who enjoy alcohol on boats – those with the occasional glass of wine while sitting out on the back deck in the evening, and those who drink can after can of beer, chased by rum until they are stupid drunk. Why are there so many stupid drunks on boats?Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard show that alcohol was the lead contributing factor in 20% of all boating related deaths. The total number of boating related fatalities in 2006 in the US was 710. That means that if you removed the alcohol from the hands of boaters, you would have had 142 fewer deaths. That is 142 fewer families grieving the loss of loved ones; fathers, mother, brothers, sister. You get the picture.
Of course, writing a post like this reminds me of my own brush with liquid death a couple of winters ago. I was stupid, but not stupid drunk, or I would likely not be here today. Read about it in Thoughts on Swimming, Mortality, etc.
So what can we learn from another needless and tragic death? This is what I came up with:
If you are an alcoholic, don’t even think about living on a boat. You are surrounded by danger.
Don’t pee off your boat or dock, especially if you’ve been drinking.
Install ladders around your boat to get back onto the dock if you do go in.
Remember, remember REMEMBER – you are surrounded by danger. Always be prepared for the worst and keep your head about you.