Be Prepared By Planning To Fail
Soundings|March 2018

Be Prepared By Planning To Fail

Mario Vittone

In 2013, I retired as a maritime accident investigator for the Coast Guard. Prior to that, I was a helicopter rescue swimmer, and before that I worked aboard a patrol boat. Responding to boating mishaps, in one way or another, has consumed the better part of my adult life, so you’d think what I’m about to say couldn’t be true.

In all that time — responding to mayday calls, searching for overdue boaters, investigating why they didn’t come home — no one ever handed me a float plan. Not once. If there is one big difference between those who call for help and those who don’t, it’s this: Boaters who don’t call for help make plans to need help. Having a good day on the water is, in part, about planning for a bad day. Prepare for a fishing trip, and that’s what you’ll be ready for.

The prep work for going down the coast for a night at your favorite harbor assumes you will get there. But how much time do you spend planning to not make it? Do you spend time planning to fail?

Going much further than just man overboard and fire plans, professional mariners have written and practiced contingencies for all manner of problems that might occur at sea. That preparation takes the guesswork out of handling those emergencies and makes them much safer operators than recreational boaters. How much safer? A professional mariner is about 25 times less likely to call mayday than a boater.

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