Are you ready to sail? Part 1

“Let’s get ready to rumble” is Michael Buffer’s famous trademarked phrase used to open boxing and wrestling events. But are you really ready to rumble, er, get your vessel underway?

You’d be surprised at what shows up outside of the sea buoy. It’s common sense for you to be ready to safely operate, not kill the crew, and bring the boat back in one piece. But it isn’t as common as it you’d think.

We’ve got Safety Management Systems (SMS), checklists, maintenance manuals, and compliance requirements that cover the minimum levels of preparedness and safety. We are legally required to abide by SMSes and Coast Guard CFRs. Checklists are when you write it down so you don’t forget next time. OEMs, for everything from engines to electronics, have laid out how to care and feed their equipment so it operates correctly and reliability.

Getting underway when you are not ready for your voyage is just plain dumb. Incredibly, there is a long list of blatant examples. When something bad happens and we hear all the bloody details, we express righteous indignation. We would never be so stupid, we say.

From discussions with surveyors, investigators, underwriters, and admiralty attorneys, here are some recent examples of what supposedly being “ready for sea” means to some mariners. 

  • No or insufficient life jackets.
  • Shaft seal flooding uncontrollably.
  • Bilge pump clogged or inoperative.
  • No backup emergency pumps.
  • No or insufficient fire extinguishers.
  • Watertight doors frozen.
  • Broken pilothouse windows.
  • No, wrong, or outdated charts.
  • Compass broken.
  • No spare parts.
  • No, worn out, or permanently lashed down life raft.
  • No discernable maintenance.
  • No, ragged, or wrong size survival suits.
  • Bilge awash and overflowing with oil.
  • Deck plates missing or adrift.
  • No or insufficient life rings.
  • No or unregistered EPIRB.
  • Broken navigation lights.
  • No or improperly licensed.

You would never be so foolish to go to sea in this condition, would you?

Sail safe!


About the author

Capt. Peter Squicciarini

Capt. Peter Squicciarini is a licensed master mariner and marine safety specialist at the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command in Portsmouth, Va. He has worked on towing, passenger, and fishing vessels, and was a safety and compliance manager for an East Coast tug and barge company. He also served in the Navy as a surface ship officer and commanded several warships. He can be reached at

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