How dangerous is it to sail in the open seas?

This is similar to asking, “How dangerous is it to fly in the open skies?” Yet here you are, having survived every airplane flight you’ve taken, despite all that could have gone awry.

Any human endeavor involves risk. It comes down to how one mitigates the risks, and how prepared one is.

Before going to sea, I prefer to honestly acknowledge all that could go wrong, and do everything possible to stack the odds in my favor.

Questions to consider include:

  • Is the choice of vessel appropriate for the intended voyage?
  • Is the vessel seaworthy?
  • Has the vessel been well maintained?
  • Has the vessel been thoroughly inspected before departure?
  • Have conditions and weather forecasts been studied? Can weather information and forecasts be obtained while under way?
  • How experienced is the skipper and crew?
  • How well does the crew know the boat?
  • How is the safety culture of the crew?
  • Is the voyage scheduled for an appropriate season (i.e. to minimize chances of cyclones or other adverse conditions)?
  • Have the risks of the intended route been thoroughly analyzed?
  • Has there been enough forethought about possible emergencies and contingency plans?
  • Are there sufficient provisions, even if something goes wrong?
  • Is the vessel adequately equipped to be self-sufficient if something goes wrong far from rescue assets?
  • Is the vessel adequately equipped with safety, communications, emergency, and distress gear?

Be prepared. Be prudent. Understand the risks and do everything possible to mitigate them.

The risk will never be zero, but a lot can be done to reduce it.

It is a disservice to search and rescue personnel as well as fellow mariners to head to sea underprepared.

Finally, consider the wisdom in this comic by Sarah Steenland:

Be sure to enjoy her other comics here!

Hurricane image courtesy NOAA.

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