The anniversary of one of the most infamous ocean tragedies of all time has just passed recently, the sinking of the Titanic, just 100 years ago, on April 15, 1912. America’s Boat US Foundation asks – what have ocean travelers of today learned from the Titanic tragedy? Well, what have we learned?
In 1914, two years after Titanic’s loss of 1,503 lives, maritime nations gathered in London, adopted the International Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention) and put in place a series of measures learned directly from the tragedy.
Slow down: The commission that investigated the sinking found that excessive speed combined with the prevalence of ice flows was a major factor in the disaster. Do you slow down when boating at night, in foggy weather or when in unfamiliar waters? Any time you’re out on the water and something doesn’t ‘feel right,’ slowing down is your best first move, giving you critical time to react.
Call for help: The radio that the Titanic used to send out the SOS had a limited range of only 200 miles and the airwaves were ‘crackling,’ leading rescuers to misinterpret her position. Also, sadly, the vessel closest to her, the Californian, had shut down her radio for the night. Sailing nations of the world have seriously upgraded their response to distress signals. In the USA, the Coast Guard Rescue 21 system now covers over 40,000 miles of US coastline and some major rivers, taking the ‘search’ out of search and rescue 24/7 by providing accurate location information with the simple push of one button – but only if your boat has a DSC VHF radio and it is properly connected to your GPS/chartplotter.
Unfortunately, today coastguards around the world report that most DSC VHF radios are not connected to a marine GPS device or GPS chartplotters. If you travel offshore or boat alone, an EPIRB or personal locator beacon (PLB) can also speed your rescue. On larger bodies of water a cell phone should only be considered a back-up emergency communications device, and always have your VHF on and tuned to channel 16.
Give a safety briefing to guests before you leave the dock: Regrettably, no lifeboat drills were held aboard the Titanic, the crew lacked training in their operation, and there was no public address system. Today, before they head out, recreational boaters and anglers can simply share with guests the location of the safety equipment and how to use gear such as the VHF radio, distress flares, fire extinguisher, or inflatable life jackets.
Have a life jacket for everyone aboard – that fits. It is inconceivable to consider, but the Titanic did not have enough critical safety gear, such as lifeboats, for all her passengers. Do you have enough correctly-sized life jackets for everyone aboard, and are they readily accessible? A child in an adult size life jacket could easily slip out simply by raising their hands above their head. Be sure all gear is appropriate to the individual passengers on board at any point in time.
Planning ahead is crucial to a safe and enjoyable outing, so don’t shortcut yourself or your passengers in this area. In order to have fun you should first and foremost be sure to be safe.
It has been reported that the Amver participating cruise ship, Norwegian Star, rescued two sailors from their disabled sailboat 55 miles northwest of Pinar Del Rio, Cuba on Saturday, March 3, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard rescue authorities in Miami received an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) alert for the 38 foot sailboat- Hokulani.
The Coast Guard, using an Amver surface picture, determined the Norwegian Star was only 30 miles away from the distress location and diverted them to assist. They also launched an Ocean Sentry aircraft to assist in the search. The sailboat was severely damaged by rough seas and the crew was worried they would not make it to port. “We have been dragging our rogue [anchor] for 18 hours,” a survivor reported to the Coast Guard, “I don’t know we can make it.”
The 965 foot cruise ship arrived on scene and launched a small boat to recover the two sailors. Waves were 2 to 4 feet with winds gusting approximately 20 knots as the rescue boat came alongside the sailboat. Within 4 hours of the initial distress notification the sailors were safely aboard the Bahamian flagged cruise ship and headed to its next port, Tampa, Fla. The sailboat was marked as a hazard to navigation and left adrift. The sailors were uninjured.
The Norwegian Star enrolled in the Amver system on July 28, 2004 and has earned seven awards for participation. The was not the first time the Norwegian Star has saved someone. The cruise ship also rescued a sailor from a damaged sail boat in 2009 near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I say “well done!” My hat is off to that smart skipper who made sure not to leave port without his EPIRB operational and onboard, the cruise ship who made the rescue and the Coast Guard who located and coordinated the entire rescue effort. I have said and will continue to say that it just is smart to never leave port without an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on board your vessel. Great job! Glad to hear some GOOD NEWS reported for a change!
It was reported on the 12th of March 2012 that a day’s fishing for five Victorians almost ended in tragedy off Port Stephens on the 6th of March when their 8 meter vessel was overturned by a rogue wave as they headed back to port in the afternoon. The men spent a couple of hours in the water hanging onto the upturned vessel until rescue helicopters arrived and plucked them out of the rough sea. Search and Rescue Authorities were alerted to the distress after the quick thinking skipper of the vessel activated the EPIRB that they had on board.
According to the Newcastle Herald the skipper is being lauded as a hero after his quick thinking saved the lives of two of his fishing mates and alerted the authorities to the boat’s whereabouts. He told the Newcastle Herald that while treading water in the boat’s hull he grabbed a distress beacon and life jacket then tied a piece of rope to a chair before swimming to the surface. ‘‘Without the EPIRB (emergency distress beacon) we were gone,’’ he said. ‘‘I managed to tie a rope to the boat and that way two men could cling to the rope while the rest of us hung onto the boat’s motor. ‘‘Without that rope those two would have floated away.’’
The Westpac Helicopter picked up 4 of the men whilst an RAAF search and rescue Helicopter saved the 5th. All men were transported to John Hunter Hospital and discharged at about 7:30pm that evening.
What a great tale of quick thinking in the moment of crisis and planning ahead before leaving port! I, personally have always thought it was smart to be sure always to have an EPIRB on board any time you set out with your vessel. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be sure to have one of the GPS chartplotters along, too, to keep you on course in the first place. Well, that’s just one of my personal soap boxes, but the above story really shows the validity of safety first thinking. What a smart skipper, and one to certainly be commended. Well done.
When you are taking your family out on the water for an afternoon cruise, head offshore with confidence. You always want to keep safety foremost. It is easy to keep yourself and your family and friends safe while enjoying your time on the water. EPIRBs are Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and, it is really smart to have an EPRIB on board at all times to be sure to get found fast in an emergency situation.
The ACR GlobalFix PRO quickly and accurately relays your position to a worldwide network of Search and Rescue satellites, which reduces emergency search time and increases your chances of survival. It has reliable signaling technology that has saved more than 25,000 lives since 1982. You sure don’t want to end up like Gilligan, the skipper and his friends, or worse. So, be safe and have fun.