Accidents at sea can and do happen. Being prepared for them can be a matter of life or death.
That point was recently illustrated quite vividly when a fishing crew out of Gloucester, MA, was rescued by the Coast Guard after their lobster boat got stuck on some rocks. The vessel ran aground near the iconic Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester.
The weather temperature had dropped and the wind and waves picked up as they were heading out for a day of fishing around 4 a.m. The Coast Guard responded to the distress call with a 47-foot motor lifeboat arriving on the scene to find the crew uninjured and wearing survival gear to stay warm, according to a local TV news crew. And that made all the difference, noted a Coast Guard spokesman.
The Coast Guard official told the TV station the fishermen were prepared for an emergency and that made what could have been an otherwise difficult situation much better.
“We tell mariners all the time to be prepared, no matter what time of year you are going out,” the official stated. “The weather and conditions can change dramatically. You can’t control that but you can take charge of your own safety.”
Petty Officer Cynthia Oldham of the Coast Guard said the crew was evaluated at the scene by local EMTs and found to be in good condition. They later were transported to Station Gloucester to warm up.
Two key things prevented the situation from getting worse, according to Petty Officer Oldham. "They did the right thing by hailing the watch commander immediately and getting into their survival gear," Oldham said.
The incident is a reminder to all mariners and boaters to practice safe boating at all times. Here are some reminders from the Coast Guard on essential safety measures and survival equipment:
- PFDs. Your boat should have enough life vests for everyone onboard. Also, any vessel over 16 feet is required to have throwable floatation devices.
- First Aid kit. Have a well-stocked first-aid kit with bandages, antibiotic cream, aspirin and more.
- Tools. An onboard tool box should have basic tools such as a hammer, screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, duct tape and scissors or shears.
- Fire extinguisher. Every boat should have at least one (easily-accessible) fire extinguisher onboard, preferably more.
- Clothing: in these colder temperatures it is critical to have safety gear on board to keep you warm until help arrives.
- Lights. Waterproof flashlights and/or headlamps are as important for looking in tight, dark quarters as they are for seeing at night.
- Communication devices. Always have a VHF radio and a cell phone.
- Distress signals. Flares and day signals should be easily accessible.
- Life raft: For added safety on longer trips out at sea, you should consider carrying a life raft in the event of an emergency where you would need to ditch your boat.
- Spare food and water. Make sure you have access to food and drinking water in case you get stranded. Carry a small stash onboard for emergencies.
Being prepared is the key to responding in the event of an emergency.
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