This is your Commodore Speaking,
Fifty three years ago, on January 27th, we lost 3 astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire on the pad. It’s been 34 years since, on January 28th, the Shuttle Challenger exploded during ascent and took 7 more lives. And 17 years ago, on February 1st, I concluded my last Flight Director shift for the Shuttle mission STS-107 and handed over helm to the Entry team and Flight Director Leroy Cain. I went home, got a little sleep, then woke up expecting to see the contrail of Columbia flying overhead at Mach 22 on the way to a landing at KSC. Instead, sadly, I saw a number of bright objects flying across the sky as Columbia had broken up and disintegrated over Texas due to a thermal tile failure on the port wing caused by a piece of foam that fell from the external tank during ascent. Seven more astronauts lost their lives that day. I will never forget that image in the sky. Equally tough, was the fact that just 10 hours earlier, I greeted family members from each of the Columbia astronauts as they came in the Control Center to have their private family call before heading to KSC to watch the landing.
When we were flying the Space Shuttle, we would spend around two years preparing for each mission. The more straightforward element was choreographing how things should be scheduled; even for a complex Hubble telescope repair mission. The greatest amount of time was spent identifying the what-if failure scenarios that could occur and then developing and rehearsing our response procedures in order to keep the crew and Shuttle safe and continue the mission.
My philosophy for staying safe and prepared on our boat is similar to our approach with Shuttle Missions. I spend time thinking and preparing for those what-if’s and how we would respond. Have you prepared for your boating what-if’s.
Let’s take a specific system failure on your boat; like the engine fails (bigger deal on a single engine boat). Murphy’s Law says this will happen at the worse time. So what if that failure occurs in a confined marina fairway just as you are about to turn into your slip. What would you do? This is one of a number of time-critical or space-limited situations you could find yourself in. And of course, in our area, there is always some wind impacting your approach and docking.
So think through how you approach your slip, what the prevailing winds are and how they affect your approach and docking. What dock lines should you retrieve first. During your approach, do you have space to maneuver around to burn off some speed? Consider staging a spare dock line on the boat and have it ready to throw and loop around a piling or cleat on the dock. It may even be the best solution to run your boat aground to stop it if you have that option. You may want to practice it (with a running engine in neutral of course). Spend some time thinking about your what-if scenarios and how you would respond. Be prepared so you can avoid the “hopeless position”.
Stay prepared and I'll see you on the water…
TMCA Commodore, 2020