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Sailor’s Nightmare

Sailor's Nightmare

The one thing that all sailors fear, probably more than any other event, is a fire aboard their vessel. No matter what type of vessel, from the smallest outboard-powered skiff, to the most gigantic military or cargo ship, fire is to be feared! The picture shown, courtesy of the Cecil County, MD., Fire Department, occurred on a power boat being operated on the Sassfras River last year. Even sailboats are not immune from the danger of fire. We sailed for over forty years, on boats powered with outboards, inboard engines of both gasoline and diesel types, and were always aware that a fire could happen at any time. Jim is a very careful skipper, and always took precautions when fueling to follow proper safety precautions. The only time we had a fire aboard was after having a new diesel engine installed. That totally screwed-up job had been done in St. Maartens, where we had left our boat for the installation. The job proved almost disastrous. Against Jim’s strong insistance that no wiring be routed through the bilge, the installer had indeed run the battery cables through the bilge and around the front of the engine to the starter. The cable ran over the fuel pump, and abraded through. We were sailing across Anegada Strait back to our then-homeport in St. Thomas when a short from the abraded cable blew the cover off the fuel pump. Fuel began jetting out and caught fire. Our children, who were below at the time, shouted the alarm, and Jim (who remained calm throughout the ordeal) was able to quickly extinguish the flames. It was a rough and terrifying half-hour. Unlike the boat in the picture, which was a complete loss, Jim was able to avert complete disaster, and save our boat (and our lives). Fortunately for us, diesel doesn’t readily explode like gasoline would have, and we had the proper fire extinguishing materials aboard. It was a nightmare barely avoided. We made it back to St. Thomas in safety, shaken but still afloat. The new engine was a mess, the interior of the boat reeked of diesel fumes and smoke, but we were alive. Our children had many tales to tell their friends of the scary adventure. The two people on the flaming boat in the adjacent picture were able to jump overboard and swim to safety in the narrow confines of the Sassfras River. That isn’t always an option!

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2 thoughts on “Sailor’s Nightmare

    • Shouldn’t have any problem with paddlers, unless it’s around a campfire. Hope you’ll enjoy your trip. You might want to check out my husband’s blog: http://logofibi.blogspot.com. He’s a very experienced ship operator, skipper on smaller vessels, sailor, canoeist and camper. He has lots of terrific info. on many aspects of boating and navigation. Many thanks for reading my post. Hope to “see” you again soon. :>)

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