Flying low and coming from dead astern, an orange and black Coast Guard helicopter was purposely making its way south. For a split second as it approached it seemed as though it was going to stop and hover above us. There was no reason for it to, of course, as we were enjoying a beautiful fall day, broad reaching along while playing with our son in the cockpit. They were responding to a Pan-Pan call of an overturned vessel and “persons in the water” that we had been monitoring on the VHF. Listening to the radio and then seeing the helicopter made me hope there was nobody in the water and got me thinking of the many rescue-at-sea stories I read while building each edition of Cruising Compass. Last week alone there were five such stories to choose from (that I knew of) and two made it to “Dock Talk.”
It also got me thinking about the realities and responsibilities involved when sailors cast off their dock lines for a day sail in protected waters or for an open-ended cruise across oceans. Even though modern technology has given us reliable weather prediction and the safety net of superb emergency services, the whims and moods of the sea can be unpredictable and should be taken seriously. Which is why preparedness, experience, and knowing the abilities of your boat and crew are imperative before setting out. In the end, sailors don’t want to be in the position where they need to make a distress call and they certainly don’t want to put their rescuers in harms way. But when the need truly arises, I’ll bet seeing that orange and black helicopter is a welcomed sight.
Enjoy this week’s edition.