2012 so far has been a difficult year for sailing safety. California captured all too much attention with the terrible loss of life from the Aegean and Low Speed Chase in races off California. On the east coast, a heartfelt tragedy was the loss of high-school sailor Olivia Constants in Annapolis. Falls or being swept off boats along with capsizes accounted for many deaths. This may not be a complete list, but it's more than bad enough.
January 22: Liveaboard sailboat owner’s body found floating in Ganges Harbor near Vancouver, BC; owner was apparently trying to board or leave his moored 26-foot wooden sailboat on a dinghy and was not wearing a life jacket despite rough conditions.
April 6: Father takes three young sons on new ten-foot sailboat on northern Minnesota lake. Boat sinks, two- and six-year-old Jake and Zech Risland were wearing PFDs but die of hypothermia/cold water immersion before they can be rescued.
April 15: Low Speed Chase (Sydney 38) is captured by breaking waves while rounding South Farallon Island during the Full Crew Farallones Race; five crew perish, three survive. Crew had tethers but were not using them. Permits for offshore sailboat racing are suspended during subsequent investigation.
RIP Marc Kasanin, Jordan Fromm, Elmer Morrissey, Alan Cahill, Alexis Busch.
April 26: Stockton Harbor, Maine; Thomas Edward Hoge, age 64, drowns perhaps while trying to climb aboard his sailboat in the night; a small overturned skiff was found next to the boat.
April 28: Aegean (37’ Hunter) runs into north Coronado Island during the Newport to Ensenada Race, all four crew perish. The boat appears to have been motoring under autopilot in the early hours of the morning. RIP Theo Mavromatis, William Reed Johnson Jr., Kevin Rudolph, Joseph Lester Stewart.
June 16: During a sailboat race sponsored by the Boston Yacht Club, 63-year-old Joseph Sampson lost his balance and fell off a 22-foot boat, possibly going into cardiac arrest in the 59-degree water. He later died in the Salem Hospital after being retrieved from the water by crew on the race committee boat. Sampson was highly experienced, sailing since the age of 11 and formerly campaigned the J/80 “Mistral” for many years.
June 21: A two-person Club 420 capsizes off Annapolis during high-school sailing team practice in moderate conditions with safety and other boats nearby; 14-year-old Olivia Constants is entangled with trapeze hardware while dousing the chute during an accidental jibe and drowns.
June 21: Henry Marwood “Woody” Baskerville III died after being thrown from his sailboat during a regatta at Lake Kegonsa in Wisconsin. He was wearing an auto-inflate life vest and initially alert upon rescue, but then lost consciousness.
July 29: While sailing with two friends on board as passengers, liveaboard sailor Ronald Frank Wood falls off his boat, the 36-foot La Paloma, in San Diego Bay and drowns. The passengers didn’t know how to turn the boat around and had to flag another boat down for help; its crew found Wood floating face down.
August 18: Jeffrey Nause jumped into the water from a sailboat in Lake Lanier, Georgia and was presumed drowned.
August 19: Lightning hits a 26-foot sailboat near Duluth, Minnesota, at the entry to Lake Superior, injuring seven crew and killing nine-year-old Luke Voigt.
September 1: Boston philanthropist/volunteer Dr. Ned Cabot swept off the deck of the sailing vessel Cielita off Labrador.
October 12: Just after crew of the 50-foot schooner Cuchulain had completed the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and were taking down sails, 68-year-old Paul Stephen Case fell off the yacht into the water, lost consciousness, and died. He was not wearing his life jacket.
The keys to survival seem to be:
1. Prevent accidents.
2. When accidents occur, stay on the boat.
3. If you can't stay on the boat, be prepared to float.
4. If you can float, then you also need to survive the environment until rescued.