Monday, January 28, 2013

The Grim Teacher
By Michael

The girls with their fear monger papa
in the background. They donned their
goggles and are showing their displeasure
with the onions I'm chopping in the galley--
drama, drama, drama. 
“Eleanor, Frances: we are surrounded by death,” is how I started my safety briefing to the girls when we arrived in Victoria. I knew that up to this point, their lives afloat hadn’t prepared them for the danger of Canadian marinas. They were used to running around on Mexican docks, surrounded by 85-degree water. Accidents happen and they’ve fallen in before; Frances even rode her bike off the dock once. But here, where a layer of sheet ice forms on the salt water surface some mornings…well, I thought my intro was apropos.
“If you scare the life out of them, they’re not going to be able to help themselves,” Windy said later when the girls recounted to her my safety briefing.

“The girls said you told them they’d instantly go numb and not be able to climb out.”

“Well, I just want to impress upon them…” I didn't continue. She may have a point. I thought I was doing a service by scaring them, but I risked creating a situation wherein someone falls in and is then unable to play an active role in their own rescue because they’re too freaked out, paralyzed with fear.

So, in a brilliant act of redemption, the next time Windy was out, I showed both Eleanor and Frances where the marina rescue ladders are located and how to deploy them. When Windy returned, my prodigies gave a demonstration that impressed.
Check it out:

If six-year-old Frances can manage this, every marina dweller over 50 pounds should be able to deploy the ladders in the marina they frequent. They may save a life someday.
In teaching my kids where to find the ladders, I realized I was blind to the ladders prior. Like fire extinguishers in a building, rescue ladders and other safety devices are so ubiquitous they can go unnoticed—and can then be difficult to locate and deploy in the stress and chaos of an emergency.



  1. Nicely done Michael and Frances! We too have had our daughters fall off the docks (and also ride a bike off!) just like you. Unfortunately, I've never seen a rescue ladder at any marine here in the Great Lakes. Still, this a good reminder that we need to continue our MOB drills both on the boat and on the dock.

  2. Those ladders are literally lifesavers... and like you said, can be invisible until you take the time. I suspect they are required in your location, I don't think many marinas install them otherwise.

    Wish we had good enough bandwidth to watch the video!

  3. I get similar feedback on my cooking....that picture is hilarious! So, here my safety learning relates to the Brownie troop - I took Adult/Pediatric CPR+First Aid a few weeks ago. And at the end of December I learned about how the school conducts a lock-down in case of an active shooter/similar threat. The classroom doors do NOT lock without a key, and I don't get a key.
    For your girls, it is a good idea for them to practice "saving" each other using a life ring or pole like you find at the pool. Ask permission the next time you go to a pool. I was a lifeguard as a teen, and it helps to know that you can do it before you actually have to help someone.


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