EDITORIAL: No substitute for planning, training to fish safe

In the words of a wise old Coast Guard veteran some years back, “There are only two times fishermen really take chances out on the water.  When they are making money, and when they’re not.”

Cynical?  Maybe.

But his point was well taken.

Fishing is always risky business and the ever-present need to push harder, go a little longer – for whatever the reason – can often push safety to the back burner.

editorial-SHJust how it is.

But with summer fishing at its peak and everyone jostling for his or her piece of the pie, this month’s SAFE BOAT-SMART BOAT column by Fred Mattera is a timely reminder of the importance of planning, preparation, and common sense.

Mattera focuses in this issue on the particular risks associated with going fishing single-handed.

But while his recommendations are tailored toward the fisherman going out alone, every element of this month’s column is also good advice for just about anyone headed down the bay, with or without a crew.

Mattera, a longtime fisherman himself, is keenly aware of the sometimes catastrophic culture of fishing when it comes to safety.

Too many times the “it won’t happen to me” mentality interferes with good sense when it comes to being properly trained and prepared for an at-sea emergency.

As Mattera points out, simply running a few basic drills – man overboard, fire at sea, abandon ship – and realizing where the shortcomings are (like, maybe we should move the EPIRB placement) can make all the difference in the world in time of actual crisis.

Same thing with figuring out where to stow a couple of knives for quick access.  Years ago, many lobstermen had a sharp knife tucked away in the aft corner – the last stop when you have a turn around your boot.

Or how about getting back aboard once you’re overboard – even if you were free and clear, could you haul yourself up over the rail?

Nobody wants to take time away from fishing to practice drills, but as Mattera says, there really is no substitute for being prepared.

One topic not mentioned this month – but the sometimes 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to safety – is the macho mentaility that keeps otherwise smart fishermen from using safety tools and practices readily available to them.

We all know the resistance to wearing PFDs of any kind while working on deck.

Are there practical reasons?  Sure.

But there’s also the “how will I look to the other guys” issue too.

The same can be said for getting familiar with the safety gear aboard the boat.

You might look silly practicing getting in and out of your Gumby suit, but the seconds of speed you pick up after a little practice can truly save your life when the chips are down.

Don’t let the first time you actually attempt to do it be on the pitched deck of a sinking boat in the middle of a gale – or with smoke billowing around you.

So we encourage you to read Mattera’s column, share it with your crew if you have one, and take his recommendations to heart.





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