The Three P’s. As the sailing season around most of America gets underway this spring we are happy to bring you our annual special report on Safety at Sea, starting on page 40 with an in depth look at “safety electronics” by our regular columnist Daniel Collins. As the old saying goes “safe sailing is no accident.” All that means is that if you have done your job as a boat owner, skipper, navigator and chief bottle washer then things shouldn’t go wrong, but when they do you have procedures in place to minimize the emergency.

You get to this level of competence through experience and by a commitment to the Three Ps. Here they are:

Planning: In order to learn the skills you need and to equip your boat and crew with the knowledge and equipment they need to remain safe at sea, you should first and foremost anticipate what could go wrong. The range of safety related events that you should consider runs from a minor stubbed toe that might get infected to a broken stay to a ripped sail to a person-overboard to a compromised hull. “What could go wrong?” is the question you have to apply to every aspect of your boat, its equipment and to its sailing regimen. In each case, a plan needs to be developed to deal with the anticipated problem.

Preparation: From the plans you draw up to deal with emergencies and safety related events at sea flows the lists of preparations that need to be made. You need to think about three levels of preparation: yourself, your crew and the boat and its gear. The first two involve knowledge, skills and procedures. The third involves having the right gear aboard to fix the problems that arise. It is during the preparations phase of getting a boat ready for seafaring that you evolve into a self-reliant sailor as you and your crew acquire the knowledge and skills you need to develop the procedures you will use to solve problems and meet emergencies successfully.

Preparing the boat with the right gear takes all of your planning and distills it into two lists, the gear you need and the gear you want. If budget is an issue, and when isn’t it?, then acquire the need-to-have gear first and then start chipping away at the want-to-have list.

Practice: As you go through the planning and preparation phases of getting ready to go to sea, you will have gone through just about every aspect of your boat and your sailing life. But having thought things through in depth and then bought and installed the gear that you need does not make you competent and self-reliant. You only get to competency through trial, error and experience. That means you have to practice the procedures you have put in place to deal with safety issues and emergencies—everything from man-overboard to a galley fire to a failed steering system.

Practice, practice, practice. You may not get to Carnegie Hall, but you will become a better, safer and more competent sailor and skipper. And that will make you a pleasure to sail with anywhere, anytime.

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