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An Example Others Could Learn From

Too often the lessons we learn come as a result of tragedy or mistakes. Here’s a story where everything was done right and the result stands an example that others could learn from. Not that I expect many will, this happened to “the other guy.” For too many, it always happens to “the other guy,” until is happens to them. As I like to remind folks, you are ‘the other guy” to everyone else. Most everyone else expects it’s going to happen to you. You’d hope a word to the wise and a good example might penetrate some of these thick skulls of boaters who won’t be equipped to survive…

A day fishing in a Northeast Florida Marlin Association wahoo tournament 30 miles off the coast of Florida goes awry when the boat catches fire, an all too common occurrence. Being prepared makes all the difference in the world to this captain and crew in a survival tale recounted by Jim Sutton in the Florida Times-Union newspaper.

The conclusion of the Jim Sutton’s article sums it all up as nicely as anyone could want:

“Survivors? The term used in that report is, in some ways, misleading. The crew more correctly handled the emergency than survived it. In many emergencies at sea, it’s hindsight that’s 20/20: “If only we’d done this.”

In the case of the crew of the Lit Up, it was their foresight that was clear. In recounting the sequence of events, there wasn’t a time when the crew felt threatened or out of control.

As Maccini said, six anglers “ditched a burning boat in the open ocean, and there wasn’t so much as a hangnail in the process.”

That started with preparation. Martin had the correct equipment on board. The EPIRB was functioning, and the life raft was accessible and recently re-packed and checked. Better hull designs and fuel-efficient engines allow smaller boats to more easily make the 40-mile trip east to the ledge today than in the past. Smaller boats have little room for bulky items such as life rafts.

But Leaptrott says there isn’t an excuse for leaving the dock without one.

“Most of those guys think nothing of carrying an extra cooler full of beer on a long trip out,” he says. “If you can carry beer, you can carry a raft.”

And while an EPIRB is a vital piece of safety equipment on a boat in emergencies, it’s only a part of the equation. If you ditch in cold-water conditions, like they did when the Lit Up went down, having an EPIRB but no life raft might simply make it easier to find the bodies.

Finally, all the safety equipment in the world won’t help if you aren’t familiar with its operation. Martin schools the crew prior to every fishing trip on the location and use of the ditch-kit, life raft, EPIRB, radios, fire extinguishers and more. He also files a complete float plan before every trip – including destination and estimated time into port.

“If I tell my wife we’ll be in by 8:30, and we’re not in, and she hasn’t heard from me – don’t start worrying, start calling the Coast Guard,” Martin said.

The crew of the Lit Up ruined a perfectly good story of life-and-death struggles at sea. No terror. No tragedy.

What their story offers is a lesson for so many anglers naive enough to be indifferent to the power and unpredictability of the Atlantic.

After what he and his crew experienced, captain Tim Martin believes it should be.”

Read the whole tale here and learn the lesson. There’s no excuse to leave port without a life raft and a 406 MHz distress beacon. Captain Martin serves as the right kind of example, a pleasant change from the usual. Emulate a good example for a change. I won’t hurt and it might save your life.