Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Security and Cruising

It's always interesting to get into discussions of the dangers and risks of cruising.  There are actual risks of theft and violence out in the big bad world, along with plenty of horror stories to back them up. People come up with all kinds of different solutions; automatic deck lints, tacks on the deck, electrified lifelines, and carrying weapons on boats.  

And, the thing is, the work-ability of some of these aren't the technical implementations but the human factor.  Sure, you can set up surveillance systems to monitor your boat, anti-boarding systems to keep uninvited boarders off the boat, and implement various self defense measures if they are on board.

But you have to look at the situation you are facing, or are likely to face, in order to be effective.  You also have to look at yourself and what you are able, especially willing, to do.

The continuum of risks is broad. The spectrum could be:
  1. A simple attempt at non-violent theft.  This is just stuff.  It might be stuff you really like or stuff you need.  It's your stuff and you don't want it taken.  This kind of theft doesn't want you around.  If you are around, they will go where there is no risk of conflict. These are cowardly thefts.  They tend to happen to the less vigilant.  
  2. It could be theft in mind, backed by defensive violence.  This is an added risk that this kind of thief, while not wanting to run into you, will have no problem whatsoever with using violence to escape with your stuff.  They may not be willing to kill you but they will fight you directly instead of just trying to run off.
  3. Then there is the theft where they will maim or kill you to get your stuff.  They don't care of you are there.  They might even plan for you to be there.
  4. Let's not forget boarding for rape, kidnapping or simply outright murder.

Items 1 and 2 can be mitigated by staying away from high-crime areas, being very visible on your boat, practicing vigilance, and making it clear that you protect your boat and the people aboard.  These kinds of thieves don't want conflict.  They don't usually carry weapons.  They are opportunistic in nature.  Likely, as others have pointed out, they could also be other cruisers.   We like to be a friendly lot but, don't forget that people who pretend to like you can also be casing your place for a future theft. Your best defense here is to deny them the opportunity.  They will go hunting somewhere else for friendly and less vigilant folk.  

Item 3 represents the horror stories we have heard, where pirates or boarders will have it in their plan to simply kill you and take your stuff.  The only defense you have against them is not being where they are, demonstrating a strong enough deterrent that they will go hunting elsewhere, or be capable enough to defend yourself if you are approached or boarded.

Item 4 is pure self defense.  They don't want your stuff so much as they want you, or your wife, or your daughter.  They are hunting you, not your stuff.  Best thing is to be where they are not but, if you present a good target, I hope you are capable of defending yourself.

This brings us to handing out violence terrible and deadly.  Are you ready to do that?  Are you willing to literally run someone through with a pike?  If you carry a firearm, are you well trained in it's use?  Do you know how to bring it to bear in a combat situation?  How well would your firearm (unless it's an AR variant) fare against a pirate with a AK?  I'm not asking these questions from an air of superiority but engaging you to seriously ask yourself these questions.  You could have the fanciest pike, the best gun, in the world.  If you aren't willing to tear up the center of mass with that pike, or rounds from your weapon, it's useless to you. Keep in mind that video games, as violent as they may be, don't prepare you for face to face violence.  Only training or pure survival does that.

There is nothing wrong with talking about self-defense, even using deadly force to defend you or yours from grave bodily injury or death.  I support your right to survive, even if it means the unfortunate death of your assailant.  

The very serious question is: are you ready to do that?

The protective measures we choose, no matter what they are, are our personal decisions as captains/cruisers/travelers.  It matters not so much which tactic or strategy we choose as much as if we are comfortable executing it.  It's much like the PFD statement that says the best PFD is the one you will use.

I've been involved in law enforcement and personal security.  I've been ready to defend myself and others by bringing violence to bear as effectively and directly as possible.  Contrast this with my personal wish for non-violence and it's a bit of cognitive dissonance to those that don't understand it.  The thing is, my very job, the places I needed to go, had a high likelihood of violence.  Whether it was a felony traffic stop or patrolling a fence line in Iraq, I was placing myself in an environment where violence was likely.  I put myself there.

But back to real risks and the likelihood of same for us as cruisers (or homeowners for that matter).

The advantage of this, instead of what I describe above, is that cruisers can usually choose where we cruise.  One of the most effective survival tactics is to avoid the risk all together.  If you don't fall off the boat, you are less likely to drown.  If you don't pass though a gang-infested part of an inner city, you are less likely to be a victim of gang violence.  If you don't cruise in areas where poverty or opportunity have contributed to high crime rates, you are less likely to be a victim of violent crime.  Now, none of this blames the victim of violence.  I can't stand when people do that.  It does, however, speak to how we can lessen the likelihood of being a victim of violence.

While I'm perfectly capable of defending me and mine, I'd really rather not if I have a choice.

The world is large.  We don't have to go everywhere.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Relationships and Cruising

This was recently posted by our friends on Windtraveler.

The sea finds all weaknesses: in boats, in people and in relationships. You have to be sure you have the skills to sail the boat, to fix it, to navigate, to get along in foreign cultures. But you also have to be prepared to come face to face with yourself, to discover things about yourself that you do not like and to work to change those things. You have to be ready to confront any weaknesses in your relationship and to address those in a situation where you are together 24/7 in sometimes highly stressful situations where your lives depend on one another. Cruising will not fix a broken relationship – it is far more likely to rip it apart along the fault lines. But where a basis of true respect and caring exists, the experience of cruising together can create a real partnership and eventually transform that into the kind of soul-deep bond that most people dream of but only a handful ever achieve. In the toughest times, when you think that you can’t do it or that your relationship cannot survive it, commit and commit again, knowing it will be worth every moment of doubt, pain and discomfort. In the best times, which come far more often, don’t forget to dance on the foredeck under the stars, to make love in the cockpit caressed by the tradewind breezes and to say “It sure beats working,” at least twice a day!" 

- Beth Leonard, from the Interview with a Cruiser Project

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A sense of accomplishment.

It's not often we get this opportunity.  While Brigadoon is a "well found" boat, we have quite a large list of items, some large, some small, that we are focusing on to make her "safe and strong."  Safe and strong, in the words of Capt'n Fatty Goodlander, equals seaworthy.  Seaworthy makes Brigadoon a better boat.  It makes her better able to take care of us.

So we have this list, a prioritized list, of things that Must Be Done, things that We'd Like to Do, and things that we Will Do After All the Others Are Done.   You can call it, Must, Should and Maybe lists.

As of today or tomorrow, we will have crossed off three Must Be Done things off our list.  They are pretty big things.  The details are unimportant for this post but, what is important is we did them.  That's right. We can have all the lists we want, all the wishes we care to plan on but, if we don't execute those plans we will fail.  The most important thing, our goal, our path, is to make Brigadoon as solid, secure, maintainable, and up to date as we can.  It means spending our dollars very carefully, in a clear priority, with a clear goal in mind.

That means work -- hard work.

The thing is, after each job is checked off, no matter how large or how small, it's an accomplishment.  That means, for me, that it's now Something I Don't Have to Do!  It's Done!

And that is worth the work.

More to come on Brigadoon Upgrades soon...