Monday, October 29, 2012

On Hurricane Sandy...and Risk

As I write this, Hurricane Sandy is devastating the Eastern seaboard of the United States. 

Hurricane Sandy

News is also breaking that the HMS Bounty, a replica of the original ship which was used in the 1950's film starring Marlon Brando, has sunk in the storm. 

The HMS Bounty in happier times

 Halloween Party for The Bounty crew, only a few days ago

The Coast Guard states that most of the 14 crew members have been rescued, but there are two sailors missing at sea.

Unbelievably, the captain made the decision to head to sea for the voyage from Connecticut to Florida when Hurricane Sandy was in full bloom and heading up the Eastern Seaboard.

              The letter "A" in the image was the HMS Bounty's location as it headed to sea,
                planning to sail south to Florida. The plan was to "bypass" Hurricane Sandy,
                                            shown in the bottom half of the image.

      The Captain stated in a facebook post meant to explain the controversial decision to head to sea: "Sometimes a ship is safer at sea than in port."   Yes, that's often true...except...when it's NOT. Except when things go wrong, which is what happened on The Bounty. And what about the risk to human lives?

       The issue of risk -- and risks taken at sea -- is one that we ponder every day aboard Espiritu.  As I write this, it is one year since Chris and I threw off the dock lines and sailed south from Southern California. Now that we have these 12 months under our belts, it's as good a time as any to ask the question:

 How safe IS cruising?

 During our year sailing Mexico and Central America, we've met and sailed with dozens and dozens of sailboats.  100-200, if I had to come up with a number.

And out of those, in the past year:

1 had their dinghy eaten by a shark;
4 were boarded and/or broken into, with resulting damage and theft;
3 had their dinghy's stolen;
5 of us were struck by lightning;
1 broke from it's mooring and was dragged onto the beach;
2 were hit by a whale;
1 of us drove our boat over a floating tree;
4 of us dragged anchor and/or the mooring in a severe storm and smashed up against each other;
1 of us dragged anchor in a storm and smashed the boat onto a concrete dock;
2 of us lost our masts;

and finally, if you believe the lore, one of us was murdered and thrown overboard by his crewmember, who then changed the name of the boat and assumed ownership for himself (unsubstantiated).

That's quite a list.

So why would we do it? Why don't we all just pack it in and head to the safety of our homes on terra firma?

Which leads me back to Hurricane Sandy.

Countless millions of homes and business are sadly being flooded by storm surge in several states. These people thought they would be safe in their homes and businesses, but they are not.

                                       McDonalds in Virginia Beach last night

        The problem with evaluating risk is she is a slithery little bugger. She's constantly morphing and jumping around and changing shape. She's tough to get ahold of.

    But who would have thought that I would be safer aboard my sailboat in Panama than a family ordering Chicken McNuggets in Virginia Beach?

     It all boils down to that little thing called the "Risk-Reward Ratio." This is simply the question we ask before we perform any mildly risky task: "Is the reward worth the risk I'm taking?"  Obviously the skipper of the HMS Bounty didn't spend much time pondering the Risk-Reward Ratio before sailing into the path of a freaking hurricane with a crew of 14 aboard!

    You can bet that if I were a crew member aboard the Bounty when the skipper decided to sail into the path of a hurricane, there would have been one very loud, very agitated mutiny on The Bounty!

    Anyway -- if you've been following my blog, then you know the countless, priceless rewards we have gained during our travels. And yes, there is always risk, which we must constantly take the time and trouble to calculate and recalculate as the situation changes.

    All I know is, Espiritu is sailing on. We feel that after a year at sea, we're finally figuring out how to DO this thing. Yes, it takes that long.

   So say a prayer for the millions in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

   And as for the rest of us? Where will we go today? What adventure will we undertake? Let the Risk-Reward Ratio be your guide...  



  1. Thanks, Kristine. And now, the Captain's body is the last one that they will probably never find at sea... :-/