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Update & Commentary About Being Smart & Safe Out On The Water

Not enough interest for a trip tomorrow and its probably a blessing in disguise considering the Scup are so thick out on the grounds you cannot even get a jig past them! So lets keep an eye on the weather and see what we can put together for the middle or end of the week. Hopefully the Scup will have moved on enough so we can at least toss a jig...

Last Saturday night a mother & son team departed PT. Judith for some night Bass fishing south of the windmills and simply vanished into thin air. Linda and Nathan Carman (age 22) were the only two aboard their recently purchased boat "Chicken Pox", a 32' tricked out JC that had just gone through a complete refit. I knew the boat because I remembered seeing it for sale on "Craigslist" just a few months back and it caught my eye because it had been completely redone with a customized Aluminum pilothouse and deck...something you just don't see everyday. "Chicken Pox" was the name on the stern and it looked very rugged and well fact, I saved some pics of it on my computer I was so impressed.

Low and behold, back in August when I was getting my new gold plated head (toilet) installed at NYR (Narragansett Yacht Repair), I noticed another boat that I know I had seen somewhere...when I walked over to it I immediately recognized the boat and one glace down at the stern confirmed it..."Chicken Pox"...always thought that was an odd name for a boat and it stuck with me. My initial impression of the boat was..."wow, what a battleship". Even Corey commented on the vessels rugged features. The pilothouse was very well done and it almost had a USCG or military type look to it. Being a welder my whole life, I can tell you for sure it was done "Mickey Mousing" as you see on so many custom refits...some so bad I wouldn't step on the deck without my survival suit on. So yes "Chicken Pox" seemed to be done right and upon inspection of the electronics on board, the boat was equipped with top of the line Simrad Radar, GPS, etc., Additional equipment featured a new inflatable raft, cradle mounted on top of the pilothouse complete with a hydrostatic release...impressive and something you really want to have aboard if the boat goes down....its the one key item that can save your life.

So how did this well built, well equipped vessel simply vanish? Sadly, only poor Linda and Nathan Carman hold the key to those answers and unless the vessel is found nobody may ever know what really happened. On Friday, the Coast Guard ended their search after looking at 62,000 miles of empty ocean over the course of six days. They didn't locate debris, no empty life jackets, no coolers and the one key item they absolutely should have found - the inflatable raft - which should have detonated as soon as it hit the water. My thoughts at this point are just this...if there is going to be a miracle here, its going to be found in that raft perhaps beyond the local grid the CG was searching in...lots of currents out there and that raft, if it inflated correctly may be way out in the shipping lanes with mother and son hopefully in it.

As I type this with a very heavy heart, I can only assume right now that whatever happened....happened very swiftly, so fast in fact, the mother and son duo didn't even have time to get a distress signal off. Personally, and this is just my opinion, I have to believe they may have experienced some type of flooding and by the time they realized something wasn't right, the boat may have rolled very quickly with them trapped in the pilothouse. Its a really, really awful thing to even ponder and again its just speculation on my behalf. In prior accidents I have studied, boats that roll quickly often take the raft down with it, as it has no time to inflate and properly self-deploy, often times getting the painter line wrapped in the rigging or entangled somehow. This may have been the reason not even the raft was found. Again, only poor mother and son know what caused this tragic accident and my thoughts and prayers are with them and their families which I am sure are devastated.

So what can one learn from such a tragic event at sea? First let me broadly state this, that ocean respects no one and no vessel. When you plan a trip on your boat or someone else's you really have to pay attention to "everything"....its called situational awareness and its the one thing that can save your life and the lives of your crew. When I say "everything"...I mean it literally. A safe day at sea starts long before any lines are all your maintenance up to par...and I mean 100% to the best of your ability? When was the last time you poked around in the bilge and checked your through hulls and stuffing boxes? Lots of clamps down there...when was the last time you spent an afternoon tightening them? Any fuel leaks? Are all the bilges working 100%? Sucks when that float switch quits - get in there and lift it to ensure its pumping when engaged, forget about how filthy your bilge is and that's another safety hazard which even I am guilty of at times. When was the last time you checked your safety extinguishers, flares, jackets, survival suits, etc.,? Hows that battery doing in your epirb - might want to give that one a look. Same if you have an inflatable it expired or close to the repack date? Having a ditch bag complete with provisions is also a smart thing to have handy...don't have to be fancy either...just throw a couple bottles of Gatorade and a few Powerbars in there. Got a portable VHF? If not don't leave the dock till you have one....that one key item saved one of my commercial buddies in January a few years back. Cell phones don't work well on the water, especially wet ones. Speaking of VHF's...when was the last time you did a radio check? How about every time you toss the lines, good habit to get into. Electronics...other than entering GPS numbers you just stole off your buddies boat, when was the last time you spent some time in front of that radar screen to not only make sure its working right - but to also ensure your staying sharp? Are your electronics past due for an upgrade....when was the last time you updated that GPS map? The new electronics out there are relatively inexpensive and way more powerful than most of their the best you can afford and make sure you know how to use it. And I could just keep going on and on with this but you all know what I am trying to get across...and listen, I'm guilty of not always dotting the "i" and crossing the "T's" as the old saying goes. But the reality is its all important, yes "everything". Be smart, be safe out there and lets keep Linda and Nathan Carman in our thoughts and prayers this week. God is good and miracles do happen...


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