As I write these blogs, I keep reminding myself of a most important issue: how do I share with you various boating experiences without scaring the heck out of you. Please keep in mind that boating is a safe sport, safer yet when you learn the pitfalls. So, following is an issue that deserves full attention: fires on a boat. By the way, the other issue I try to keep in mind is to NOT teach you what you will be learning in the Boating Safety Class!
When we lived aboard in the mid-1990s, we spent three months at anchor in heaven, i.e., Elizabeth Harbor, off the Exuma Islands, in the Bahamas. We had been to quite a few islands, both in boats and as land tourists, but I had never see water this color. Can’t put it into words, but it took three days of staring overboard to convince myself that it was real! In this amazing environment, I learned a very valuable lesson. A couple who had just returned from an adventure in the Mediterranean Sea, offered a lesson in man overboard at 2pm one afternoon. Inflatable dinghies encompassed their vessel at the given time, and the couple, with their niece as the “victim”, demonstrated the difficulty in bringing her aboard, and the techniques which worked best to accomplish that goal. This experience was so enlightening that practicing for eventualities became our mantra. Hopefully it will become yours.
Soooo, back to the fires…. Since evidence suggests that most vessels are overwhelmed by fire in three to four minutes, expeditious actions are a necessity. You must determine whether to fight the fire or to abandon ship. Your Boating Safety Instructor will provide you with the tools to determine which path to take. It is invaluable to have a waterproof, handheld VHF radio with DSC (digital selective calling) on board. Anyone on board can summon help immediately by pressing one red button. While it would be great to also have a “fixed” VHF on board, fires usually disrupt the electrical system on the vessel. When this occurs, the fixed set will lose its power source. Keep in mind, that you may want to show your guests which button to press in an emergency (once again, they may turn white with fear at the suggestion!!)
It is advisable that you walk through the steps that would be taken in case of a fire. By practicing with the individuals with whom you usually share your vessel, you will feel more confident that everyone is familiar with the procedure to be followed.