Iím not afraid of
snakes...I respect them. In the same way, Iím not afraid of the ocean, but
I respect it. When you respect something that is potentially dangerous, you
increase the odds of survival if problems happen.
At the Siam Snake Show
in Phuket, Thailand, I watched a snake handler place his index finger into
the mouth of a non-venomous snake. He didnít get bitten and the snake
didnít seem to mind. I mustered my courage and placed my index finger in
the same snakeís mouth. I must admit, putting a finger in the snakeís mouth
took me far outside my comfort zone.
Later in the show, the
snake handler kissed a lethal King Cobra. This was definitely a Ripleyís
Believe It Or Not experience. Not in a thousand years would I have ever
expected to see anyone kiss a King Cobra. To me it seemed impossibly
dangerous and foolish, but to the cobra handler, it was all in a days work.
Now if I had asked the
Cobra Kisser to sail my yacht across the Indian Ocean, he probably would
have said, ďNo way mate. Itís simply too dangerous to sail in a small boat
across such a big ocean. Iíll stay here at the snake farm where I have
financial security and I know that Iíll be safe.Ē People who kiss cobras
donít know anything about sailing across oceans, and to them sailing the
seven seas seems far too dangerous.
Kissing cobras and
sailing across oceans are both exercises in risk management. If you manage
risk properly, usually you donít get hurt. If you donít take risks
seriously, you put yourself in harms way and problems occur.
they say everyone has a price, no amount of money could induce me to kiss a
King Cobra. Sailing across the Indian Ocean is a completely different
matter. You donít need to pay me anything to sail the seven seas; I will do
it for free once I have done my risk management.
Risk management is
mostly common sense. Take storms for an example. Only a fool totally
ignores the weather and sails directly into the jaws of a tropical cyclone.
Cyclones donít just
appear out of the blue. They take time to form, and after they form, they
send warning signals to tell you they are there. A cyclone creates large
ocean swells that travel hundreds of miles in every direction. If you
experience a large ocean swell that is not explained by prevailing wind and
weather conditions, you know that there is a big storm in the direction from
which the swells originate. The cyclone is sending a warning for five
hundred miles in all directions, and if you pay attention to the warning,
you will stay out of harms way. Thatís the way mariners have avoided
tropical cyclones for the past five hundred years. Thatís how they did risk
management before they had satellite photos and weather fax.
We use a lot of
technology to do our risk management. Before we make an ocean passage, we
check out weather satellite photos of the region where we are heading. If
the satellite photo shows bad weather, we donít go. For the Indian Ocean we
go to the internet at
www.fnmoc.navy.mil and we look at the infrared satellite photos of the
Indian Ocean. Web sites also show wind speed and direction, significant
wave height, and weather maps. We donít rely on a single source of weather
information because they may get it wrong. We always consult multiple
sources to make sure we are on the right track.
Once we head offshore,
we contact other boats by high frequency radio to see what the weather is in
their area. We also listen to Richard who runs the Southeast Asia Maritime
Mobile Net at 0800 at 14323Mhz. Every morning Richard gives the weather for
all of Southeast Asia and the North and
South Indian Oceans, all the way to the Red Sea. He gives us real time
information on the weather in our location so that we know what to expect,
and he warns us that we need to head in a different direction when bad
weather is ahead. Once a day, Richard sends us an email giving the
significant weather in the Indian Ocean. He has grouped all of the boats
heading across the Indian Ocean into what he calls, ďThe Red Sea GangĒ, and
he supplies everyone with weather by email all the way up the Red Sea.
Here in Thailand and
Northern Malaysia, there are about a thousand cruising yachts. Several
hundred of them will cross the Indian Ocean as soon as Richard gives the
green light. When the green light comes on, there will be a mass exodus.
Some yachts will do the southern route to South Africa, and others will do
the northern route up the Red Sea and into the Mediterranean.
No matter which
direction they head, all of them will tell you that they would rather sail
across the Indian Ocean than kiss a cobra any day. They understand the
risks, they manage the risks, and they are willing to do whatever it takes
and live with the consequences. Thatís as it should be. After all, they
are living their dreams.