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away as gravity reclaimed the keel, then popping right side up with lines and rigging and other gear looking like the aftermath of an explosion in a pasta factory. Olive oil on the overhead. And with people badly hurt, or gone, or maybe just half-drowned and scared to death. It was a storm with a disposition frightening enough to cause strange behavior within the fleet. Like the sudden confidence exhibited in life rafts. There are good life rafts (not many), but even a good raft is only as reliable as its record of maintenance and safety inspection is long. On most boats the life raft is a joke. It shouldn’t be, and maybe life-raft technology will improve to the point that it won’t be, but at the present time the life raft is a cumbersome, heavy, required piece of gear with a reputation only slightly above that of the town drunk. Life rafts aren’t often spoken about without the brand name being preceded by a disparaging modifier. And yet many crews on yachts that were having a rough time went immediately to the life rafts. Even assuming that all the rafts launched were the best that money could buy and in perfect condition, this reaction remains a puzzlement. The first thing any kid learns before going boating is to stay with the boat if anything happens. Stay with the boat. Rule number one. It is posted on the camp bulletin board. Later on one perhaps runs 173

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