Based only on what we’ve read and seen on the news, the name of Captain Francesco Schettino will most likely live in infamy. As the story of the horrific and very avoidable Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster unfolds, we asked ourselves if there are any lessons here for us recreational boaters. It’s unlikely that those of us who take our bass boats, center consoles, or family cruisers out for a weekend jaunt will ever be confronted by any responsibilities or issues coming anywhere close to what any ship captain faces. But the extent of this disaster and its wall-to-wall coverage of mistake after mistake got us thinking about what we’d do in a similar situation, even though on a smaller scale.
Again, our observations are based wholly on accounts we’ve read in the media. While we try not to be judgmental in incidents where we are not privy to all the facts, here the article Captain Coward had his eye on English dancer from the UK’s Daily Mail caught our eye, along with many other articles with equally lurid accusations and details. Ship accidents happen more frequently than we care to think about, but few are as spectacular or well covered as this one. Our purpose here is to apply what we see out there to our own situations. Here are our key takeaways in terms of lessons learned for us weekend recreational boaters:
We understand Captain Schettino chose to navigate a narrow and treacherous channel at night “by sight,” because he’d navigated it successfully before without incident. His over-confidence in his abilities ultimately resulted in the terrible and unnecessary loss of life.
Takeaway: As we take our friends and loved ones out boating and fishing, let’s never let hubris, pride, or the desire to show off allow us to put anyone in danger. Let’s always remember that boating has its dangers, that we need to retain situational awareness, and that nature is stronger than we are.
After the cruise ship had obviously run aground, Captain Schettino inexplicably declared to all that the ship was merely having ‘electrical problems.’ Passengers were told to go back to their cabins. Rescue teams were told all was under control. It’s likely that some lives could have been saved but were not.
Takeaway: If for some reason we do end up in a situation that poses danger to life and property, let’s quickly cast aside any feelings of wounded pride. Let’s be prepared to take the necessary action. Are our life jackets located in a place with quick and easy access? Are they on yet? Do our loved ones know what to do in the case of an emergency? Do we always make sure our VHF is working? Do we know how to properly hail for help if life and property are in danger? Now’s the time to answer all of these questions, not later.
After far too much delay, passengers of the Costa Concordia were eventually loaded into lifeboats. Captain Schettino “tripped and fell” into a lifeboat. We’ve all heard the tape of the Coast Guard instructing the Captain to return to the disabled vessel. Schettino made excuses, saying that it was “dark” on the stranded boat.
Takeaway: None of us really knows how we’ll act in the face of life-threatening danger until it happens. Let’s do everything we possibly can to prevent ever getting ourselves and our loved ones into that situation in the first place. Let’s be prepared to take appropriate action if our boat capsizes, or runs aground, or becomes disabled. And let’s hope that when other people are counting on us, we’ll rise to the challenge.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the Costa Concordia tragedy and their families, indeed to all who lose their life at sea. There are always lessons to be learned, and hopefully applied. Here’s wishing all of our boating friends happy and, above all, safe recreational boating in the coming season.
Amy & Carl