Offshore cruisers, racers and even gunkholers who never leave the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are fortunate to have one of the nation's foremost boating safety training opportunities right here in our own back yard.
It's the annual Safety at Sea Seminar, co-sponsored by the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron and Sail Annapolis Committeeof the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, and this year it's setfor Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, at the Naval Academy.
The seminar was designed originally as a program for Naval Academy midshipmen and coaches/safety officers involved in offshore cruising and racing, following the disastrous 1979 Fastnet Race in which 15 sailors lost their lives in a vicious sudden storm and several yachtswere swamped, sank or suffered other serious damage.
The Naval Academy vessel and crew sailing in that tragic event survived and completed the race, but the experience, and the subsequent international focus on issues of offshore safety, led to the creation of the seminar.
Although the midshipmen's program has been in place since that time, a few years ago the academy generously began to share the day-long, in-depth study of a full range of safety issues -- as presented by some of the nation's foremost experts -- with the sailing public.
The seminar and its road-show version have educated thousandsof sailors from many parts of the country. It has helped save lives and isapproved and endorsed by the United States Yacht Racing Union.
The close link with USYRU is certainly the result of the efforts of Capt. John Bonds, a prime mover for opening the seminar to the public while he served as director of Naval Academy Sailing, and today as the executive director of USYRU.
Even though the seminar's emphasis isprimarily on offshore cruising and racing situations and setups, it also applies for those who never plan to leave the bay since emergency situations can occur just about anywhere. Preparations and precautions should be taken by any prudent sailor.
The seminar is endorsedby the U.S. Coast Guard, as well.
The event is broken down into abasic session on Saturday and an advanced version on Sunday, with exciting and impressive on-the-water demonstrations at noon Saturday open to all seminar attendees.
This year's guest speakers include solo circumnavigator and author Dodge Morgan, expert oceanographers andmeteorologists Dane and Jennifer Clark, and trauma surgeon Dr. DavidGens.
Of course, other guest speakers of world-class levels of expertise in the field of offshore sailing and safety also will be on hand to share their knowledge and experiences.
Highlights of both days will include discussions and demonstrations of safety gear and equipment; valuable instruction on emergency procedures, hypothermia, nutrition and first aid, heavy weather and meteorology, and preparations for offshore passages and racing.
The on-water demonstrations will include the quick-stop technique developed by the academy to facilitate man-overboard recovery, the use of a lifesling for short-handed recovery and a Coast Guard helicopter rescue of a midshipman from a liferaft. Demonstrations of several different kinds of flares and signals, life rafts and other safety equipment are planned.
Saturday's seminar will qualify participants for a USYRU certificate of completion, which may be of value in obtaining lowered boat insurance rates from some carriers. It is meant as a comprehensive but introductory-level how-to session covering most of the basics, including emergency commu
nications, safety equipment, heavy weather sailing and auseful question-and-answer session.
Sunday's seminar will includesmall-group discussion periods in the afternoon for more intimate and detailed explorations of the topics covered. The special classroom sessions will focus on advanced yacht design, damage control, weather/meteorology/Gulf Stream analysis and first-aid topics.
The morning session will address advanced electronics including GPS, SATNAV andradar as well as offshore tactics and advanced weather forecasting and use of weatherfax.
I have been to several of the seminars over the past few years and also have been treated to hearing Morgan -- a fully qualified expert on offshore sailing and safety if ever there was one, as well as a witty, articulate, and extremely knowledgeable speaker. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone interested in offshore sailing and safety who has not yet taken the opportunity to attend one ofthese excellent seminars to attend.
Both seminars run all day until 5:30 p.m. The Saturday session begins at 7:45 a.m. while the Sunday seminar starts at 8 a.m.
Registration for either seminar is $40 in advance, or $50 at the door if space remains available. Special discounts are available for USYRU members who provide their membership number with their reservations. Fees include coffee and doughnuts as well as lunch.