Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Monday, June 12, 2006

No Life Jacket = No Life

I was awakened this morning to tragic news that the publisher of Washingtonian Magazine, Philip Merrill, was swept off his 41 foot sailboat in the Chesapeake on Saturday and he's now feared dead.

While reading, I kept waiting for that inevitable line, and halfway down, I found it:
"Investigators believe he wasn't wearing a life vest ... because his wife told them he generally didn't use one."
This is the same old story you hear when there's a death at sea: sailor dies ... with no life jacket. I was sailing in the same vicinity as Mr. Merrill this past Saturday. Hell, I probably saw his boat at one time---who knows. But unlike Mr. Merrill, my wife, dogs and I were wearing life jackets (yes, the dogs have their own life jackets. It's very cute). But I wasn't always so strict about it. I changed after a fateful day several years ago.

In July of 2003, I was sailing near Annapolis with a few freinds on a beautiful Saturday, when we were hit by a freak thunderstorm. In a matter of minutes, we were hit with 40-50 knot winds, lightning directly over the mast, and rain that felt like a shower of gravel. We immediately put on our life jackets. During the worst part of the storm, the waves and wind hit our beam so hard, that we heeled up until water was gushing over the rail. One of my crew panicked, and jumped overboard. You might think that when someone has jumped overboard, you can see them slowly drifting away. Not in this case. The wind and rain were coming down so hard, that he was gone in an instant. For a while, we feared him dead, because his life jacket had not been strapped down securely. I eventually called a mayday on the VHF radio, and the Coast Guard began their search. After about three hours, they found him floating several miles away, alive. And there's one reason he was alive: unlike Mr. Merrill, he WAS wearing his life jacket.

Mr. Merrill had been sailing since he was 7 years old (he died at 72 on Saturday). But despite any sailor's experience level, if you're in a situation where you need a life jacket immediately, you usually won't have time to put it on. I don't require my crew to wear life jackets on board all the time, but I wear mine whenever I'm on the water, just to set a good example. It may seem like a nerdly trait, but I guarantee the only way I'm going to die at sea is when the beasts swim up from the depths to drag me down while I'm floating.
I'm guessing that picture of you in the hat and shades in the previous post was taken in 2003 BEFORE the life-vest changing event you describe.

As for the publisher, I'm guessing the wife bumped him off.

You are correct. The hat and shades was prior to July 2003.

As for Merrill, he was sailing solo. No wife was involved.
I totally agree with you. I was a competitive sailor for a while in Australia (albeit in tiny boats!) but I wouldn't dream of ever going out without a life jacket in any size sailboat.
Is that her story? Pretty convenient, if you ask me.

You've been watching too much Dominick Dunne. The lives of the bourgeoisie aren't all full of murder and deceipt, you know. I guarantee the DNR Police will report that his fly was open; that accounts for a lot of drowning deaths from boats.
You are just burning up a storm with the Express. Do you know someone on the inside? According to them, you're pretty smug.

Seriously, I don't know anyone at Express. I've never even been to a blogger happy hour! But now it's like they're stalking me.
There's a good reason why some solo sailors don't wear life jackets: they only prolong the inevitable.

Like who's going to raise the alarm, as you bob away in your lifejacket, surrounded by nothing but empty sea, gradually getting colder and colder?

(sure, if there's a reasonable chance of rescue, wear one)
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Web Counter
Web Counters