Friday, June 12, 2009

Book Review: Total Loss

This is not a fun read.

It could also be called rather predictable as at the end of every chapter a boat is lost. It might be rocks, sand, storms, fire, explosion, collisions, leaks, breakage, or another of the many ways in which a sailing vessel can change from a thing of beauty and motion to a wreck, but without fail it is lost.

There are 40 stories - and in the latest revised edition 45 - and they are all first hand experiences from the skipper or crew that got into trouble. Fortunately the editor selected those stories where no lives were actually lost.

Having said all that I think its probably essential reading as a reminder of what can happen.

It is hard to fully understand the power that the wind and sea can unleash without experiencing it first hand. There are some good videos over at The Horse's Mouth you can see by clicking here.

One story was of a boat that sailed into the heart of a hurricane, and despite all the crews efforts and a brave boat there came a time when the hopes and prayers that it didn't get any worse were not answered. In this case it was estimated that the wind speed was 175 knots when they abandoned ship.

One hundred and seventy five knots.

It is not surprising that a common theme amongst the stories is of winds and seas increasing beyond the tolerances of crew, boat, or circumstances. A particularly deadly combination is bad weather, night time, and tired sailors, whose brain and muscles are struggling.

There are also stories of boats holed beneath the water line after collisions with underwater objects, sleepers below deck woken by a crash and then water flowing in faster than the pumps can cope.

It brings home how the flares and grab bags are not there just to fill the ticks on the charter companies list but for a reason.

And how we can all make mistakes, take a risk that doesn't come off, or just be plain unlucky.

So let's be careful out there.

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