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Anne T. Converse Photography
procedures establishing precise criteria as ro when lifelines are rigged, harnesses worn, crew clipped in? I don't know (Niagara does not, lifelines have been rigged as needed at discretion of the captain). Even if a company does have a policy, implementation is still going to rely on judgment by the officers onboard. Man-overboard recovery, fire prevention , galley safety, small craft policies, the list of possible safety policies and trainings goes on and on. Well it should, but underlying the whole, and for which no checklist or man ual is a substitute, must be a watchful wariness that is more attitude and experience than any specific instructions. This silent vigilance is rarely given much credit for accident prevention, yet is more important than what is written down. It's not that I don't believe in checklists, having put pages of them in Niagara's manuals, but th ey are secondary to never forgetting that the sea is a hostile environment. So where am I rambling to? Only that safety at sea is a huge and multi-faceted subject, with a lot of divergent opinion. Arriving at a consensus on best practices looks simpler than it is. Certainly, keep the discussion ongoing-a good tip often emerges. Recognize that, in the wake of an accident, waiting for the facts may take a long time. Move quickly to implement any obvious safety reminders, bur move slowly in assigning blame. At some point it may be valid to criticize an action or an omission, but leave the assumptions about feelings and thoughts out of it. CAPTAIN WALTER
Neith, 1996, Cover photograph
WOOD, WIND AND WA TE'R A SroRY oF 1HE OPERA HousE CUP RACE OF N ANIUCKITT
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Erie Maritime Museum Administrator & Senior Captain, US Brig Niagara When Rigel and I sailed together in Picton Castle there was strong encouragement to wear safety harn esses, but I personally don't recall being ordered to do so. We were given the option of using the harnesses with which the ship was equipped. I, as clearly shown in the photograph accompanying the article (photo on page 10, Sea History 122), elected not to for most of the bad weather. Neither did I elect to do so while working aloft under normal circumstances. At the time I felt comfortable in my own assessment of my abilities to judge when the use of a harness was appropriate. That Capt. Moreland allowed us these uses of our own
judgments is indicative of a confidence and trust in other people's abilities and should not be lost on anyone. However, the taking of needless risks was forbidden , not only by the captain, but also by the culture of the ship that Rigel explained so well. The ultimate responsibility for one's safety is his own, but those in charge can certainly guide them to the best of their abilities in an effort to make them want to stay safe, and when circumstances dictate, issue orders to that effect. More doodads and policies cannot conquer the sea and its vagaries. To abdicate vigilance at sea is inviting disaster; the false sense of security a gadget or a blanket policy m ay provide is almost guaranteeing it. The sea, as Conrad pointed out, while not always in a hot mood to smash , is always stealthily ready for a drowning. All that being said, I believe that Capt. Moreland's reputation is being unfairly besmirched for an accident that took place while he was several hundred miles away serving in the capacity of owner. Until the captain that was in command of the Picton Castle that night comes forward and explains what preceded the accident and what was done in the minutes and hours immediately afterwards, the real tragedy here is that nobody will learn anything that might help prevent more such accidents. CAPTAJN
Appleton, Maine I want yo u to know how much I appreciated reading Rigel Crockett's Op-Ed letter in the latest Sea History. Despite my discomfort in reading about such tragic events, I found it thoughtful and introspective. He has raised a very serious issue that anyone involved in the business of taking people to sea aboard tall ships can not affo rd to dismiss. I remember sailing in the Brig Niagara in the summer of 2004 when we learned of the death of the USS Constitution man who fell from aloft while performing maintenance tasks. Immediately, everyone wondered if he was one of "our" Constitution sailors who had trained with us aboard Niagara. (Later we discovered that he had, in fact, been wearing a safety harness but was not clipped in). In 2006, when we heard the news about Laura Gainey, we all wondered, of course, what the circumstances were aboard Picton Castle that night and feared she was the same Laura who sailed with us on Niagara our of SEA HISTORY 123 , SUMMER 2008