Stressing the value of preparation

I am writing because I am impressed, not only with John Kettlewell’s article on drogue deployment ("Learn by doing," Issue No. 92, September/October 1998), but with the quality of articles you publish in general.

My first reaction to Mr. Kettlewell’s article was horror! The conditions portrayed in the article are not the type in which one should be learning to do anything safety related. Then I started asking questions of myself: Have I ever taken the time to practice setting a sea anchor or drogue? Have I ensured that such devices are readily accessible? Nobody anticipates the need for such devices, so we pack them away in the depths of our lockers. Mr. Kettlewell presumably read the instruction pamphlet ahead of time (reading instruction manuals is something too few people take the time to do), and also ensured that he had all the necessary equipment (swivel, large shackles, chafe gear, etc.), not to mention an adequate length of suitable line.

I was further impressed with Mr. Kettlewell when he mentioned altering his navigation lights. Though the Coast Guard might take dim view of a vessel underway displaying an anchor light, I was impressed. Navigation lights on a small vessel are often difficult to see. My theory, and Mr. Kettlewell’s too, I noticed, is to announce your presence in as many ways as possible. I once sailed with a captain who (in similar conditions) shut the running lights off altogether to save battery power. His reasoning was along the lines of, "With this lousy visibility, our lights are useless anyway." (I was younger and more foolish then and offered no protest.) What really impressed me was Mr. Kettlewell’s hourly security calls broadcast over the VHF. That’s the best way to let the big boys know you are out there.

By Ocean Navigator