Monday, March 2, 2015

No One is Coming to Save You


I found this graffiti on Capitol Hill, here in Seattle. I was walking among the raucous and busy streets late at night when I spied this.

I stood there thinking, "This is, indeed, a truth."

There is a recent story of a father and son who arrived in Rhode Island late last year. They paid $10,000.00 for a 20 year old racing boat off eBay. They purchased this boat sight unseen. Their plans were to sail it back to Australia. When they told the seller their plans to leave and enter the North Atlantic in February, they were strongly cautioned not to leave in winter conditions.

"When he told me what he wanted to do, it didn't seem like a good idea to start with," the previous owner, said. "There's a reason there's no boats on the ocean in February. That's because it's not a safe place to be."

They didn't listen.

Now, after rescue, the sailors, both father and son, are spending a lot of time defending their choices and deflecting criticism. They have dismissed seasoned sailor's opinions that their rescue should have been unnecessary because their departure shouldn't have occurred in the first place.

They had planned to leave earlier, but repairs kept piling up, which pushed their schedule. They knew they were getting into times of bad weather but they let the schedule, along with their desire to get the boat home, influence their "go" decision.

So the USCG, in true competence and every-day heroics, rescued them off shore, in the middle of a snow storm.

Someone came to save them. We saved them.

Now, before we go any further, I'll state flat out that I am not discussing rescues, who pays for them and, if we all pay for them (mostly we do), who stops these people from 'wasting' resources with poor decisions. It's a waste of time to argue this. Nothing but circles and circles of rationalizations, victim blaming, Randian rationalizations about the convenience of 'personal responsibility' until the responsible person needs help, etc. Add the cries of glee by some that call this a Darwin award (like no stupid decisions were ever made by the speaker in their lifetime) and you have an almost perfect trifecta. One of narrow mindedness, armchair quarterbacking and an almost sociopathy in the disdain for the plights of others. Not going there, in this article at least.

I'm writing to talk about self-sufficiency and independence and the impacts on our decisions that inter-dependence engenders.

As the story above demonstrates, many are willing to 'take their chances' out there, on the understanding that, if something goes wrong, they can make a call, push a button, and someone will come and save them.

In many cases, boats that were abandoned have washed up on shore, or found floating intact and seaworthy. It's fear that drives people off boats in situations they don't understand and try to tackle in ignorance and unpreparedness. This is a common story, one that illustrates how unprepared many people are for the sea.

What if no one was coming to save you? What would you do then?

Perish at sea?

or...

Rescue yourself.

You rescue yourself every time you upgrade a critical system on your boat. You rescue yourself every time you learn more about weather, navigation and weather routing. You rescue yourself by carefully planning your routes without the driving date of a (sometimes arbitrary) schedule. In a hundred decisions before you leave, and hundreds after, you rescue yourself from ignorance, arrogance, hubris and laziness.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

—Bertrand Russell (British mathematician and philosopher, 1872-1970)

When you read the stories of rescues, one common theme seems to rise up above all the other noise. The sailors being rescued were very confident, very sure of themselves, cannot be dissuaded by more experienced sailors; they aren't interested in information that flies in the face of what they want to do. These people are the same type who enter the wilderness without training, equipment and experience, ending up with a rescue by SAR volunteers. The arrogance of ignorance is poison to taking on endevours such as sailing.

"Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect."

— Captain A. G. Lamplugh, British Aviation Insurance Group, London. c. early 1930's.

The problem with this, as documented as the Dunning-Kruger effect, is that the incompetent don't know they are incompetent. They are often the ones so sure, so without doubt, as they stumble along to their eventual failure and doom. The sad part of, because of that self-blindness, that lack of doubt, they can never really get any better.

A good sailor (or aviator for that matter -- of which I am both), doubts. I'm not talking about the paralytic doubt that freezes one into inaction. I mean the kind of doubts that fuel us to redouble our efforts to sail a safe and seaworthy boat. We doubt our knowledge is good enough, so we study. Our skill set may not be there yet, so we work on our engines, our systems, our rigging and ourselves.

We see the trap of expecting someone else to help us in our darkest hour, so we do every single thing we can do to plot a course where that darkest hour doesn't come to pass. We rescue ourselves in every decision we make because, deep down, in our bones, we know, we really know...

"No one is coming to save you."

We have to save ourselves.



3 comments:

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  2. You, I like. And we think very much along the same lines.
    http://alchemy2009.blogspot.ca/2009/07/realities-of-self-rescue-on-sailboat.html
    http://alchemy2009.blogspot.ca/2012/02/self-rescue-more-reality-checking.html

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