Monday, August 9, 2010

I learned about sailing from that: Small places

It was 1998, and I was living aboard Eolian by myself - Jane was still over in Spokane with Adam, he in his senior year of high school. I was on a mission of exploration, trying to find out everything about Eolian that I could, and in particular, what was all the "stuff" in all of the compartments (it is a rare boat that does not come with an assortment of surprises stored away in hidden places, compliments of the Previous Owner).

I had pulled up the floorboard that covers the space by the mainmast step. There was all kinds of "stuff" in there! A spare prop, an anchor, a grappling hook... and what is that behind the prop? Well, from my position, lying on the floor with the upper half of my body more or less down into the compartment with a flashlight, I couldn't quite tell.

So I slithered a little more forward and was almost able to reach the prop. But not quite. Just a little bit more...

Uh oh... Too far!

Now I was over-balanced, with more of my body down in the hole than on the floorboards above. And with no way to back up. It was like a Chinese finger trap, every move I tried made things worse, ending up with me farther and farther into the compartment, headfirst.

I was alone on the boat, and there was no one around to hear me shout for help.

I finally stopped struggling, and managed to quell the rising panic. I'm not sure how long I hung there, with my hands too far from the bottom of the compartment to push myself back out. It certainly seemed like long enough, with my body blocking the light from above (and the air!), seeing with only a flashlight, and the blood rushing to my head, trying to figure a way out of this trap. I had visions of Jane coming to the boat 6 months later, only to find my skeleton dangling half in and half out of the hole.

Eventually I came up with the plan to rearrange the contents of the compartment, stacking the things I could reach on top of those I couldn't, until I had a platform high enough to use to push myself back up out of the hole. It worked.

  • This is the reason that in industrial settings there is the concept of a "Confined Space" and a "Confined Space Permit". You may not enter a Confined Space without a permit, and the permit requires various safety considerations, usually including someone to pull you out if necessary. This certainly constituted a Confined Space.
  • Always consider the whole job before starting - including provisions for retreat.

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)


1 comment:

robwrongshoes said...

Jeez! Were you trying to leave us all hanging, or what?

What the heck was down there???

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