You’ll notice a couple of articles in this issue talking about safety. Fred Ellinger Jr. writes about how to respond to a situation where you or
someone else has fallen into frigid waters. Ryan Taffet talks about ways to be prepared to help someone if you or one of your crew falls overboard.
We’ve shared these articles, and others in recent issues, as a reminder that the sea can be a very cruel mistress.
Boating and fishing can be a relaxing way to spend time, and like any other mode of relaxation, there can be risks, some more serious than others. That’s why we share articles on preparedness and what to do in an emergency.
We got a stark reminder recently of how quickly things can go wrong when a boat out of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, went down without a trace. The Queen Anne’s Revenge disappeared in the early hours of Feb. 8. Though the boat had an EPIRB that sent a distress signal, indicating the boat was about 40 miles off the coast of Barnegat, New Jersey, two days of a U.S. Coast Guard search effort turned up nothing – not even debris.
The apparent sinking also appears to have claimed the lives of two men: Paul Matos of Bayville, New Jersey, a 30-year-old who left behind a 5-year-old daughter and a girlfriend, as well as extended family, and Dennis Smalling, 34, who left behind a 12-year-old daughter and many family members and friends as well.
There has been no sign of the 46-foot wooden boat, which some said was as much as 60 years old. They were reportedly dragging nets for fluke or porgies. There are no clues as to what happened. Just questions.
Matos had served in the Navy. Smalling had spent his life on boats.
It can happen to anyone, any time. No matter how experienced you are, and no matter how much you’ve prepared your boat for the worst possible scenarios.
This is spring prep time. Soon, folks will be removing shrink wrap, polishing teak and brass fittings and giving the hull a good coating of paint.
As you’re preparing, please take some extra time. Break out your old copies of the Big Game Fishing Journal and thumb through the articles on safety. Do you have enough flares and are they fresh? Are your lifejackets easily accessible? Do you have your ditch bag ready to go?
Give some thought to spending some money on a life raft, and updating some of your emergency equipment. Take a little extra time going over those fittings to make sure everything is snug.
Don’t skimp on your safety preparations.
The families of the two men have told multiple media outlets that while part of them holds out hope, they know the conditions – mid-February waters are very cold in the Atlantic – make it very unlikely the men survived. So they are left with their memories. And grief that lacks closure of knowing just what happened.
We love the ocean. We wouldn’t spend so much time talking about fishing, thinking about fishing, preparing to fish if we didn’t. And on the warm summer days, when the sun is sinking on the horizon, and there’s nothing but the sound of the sea lapping at the hull, it’s a peace that is hard to describe. Soothing, especially when life’s challenges wear you down.
But for all that love, we must remember that the ocean is, as Dennis Smalling’s cousin put it, a salty bitch. She can turn at any time.
Take the extra time. Spend the extra money. Try to make sure you’ve done everything you can to prepare for an emergency, so no one is left wondering what happened.
And please keep those families in your prayers.
Karen Wall Subscribe