Friday, September 22, 2006

Welcome Back to The Chesapeake

The Bohemia River, Maryland N 39 28.579 W 75 56.334

Last night I was on watch around midnight as we sailed up the Delaware River. I was recalling how this was the third time we have traversed these waters on Tarwathie. It felt very different the third time.

The first time through I was really scared. The Delaware River has lots of shoals and tricky currents and heavy ship traffic. The first time through we were also troubled by warnings of severe thunderstorms. Navigation is also tricky and we had no chart plotter GPS. We were heading for a marina several miles up a strange river and we didn't make it to the mouth of the river before sunset.

Last night I felt very confident. We were sailing at night instead of the day. However, I knew the route through the shoals, I knew how to time the trip to take advantage of currents and there was not much ship traffic to bother us. I felt completely relaxed. The contrast between my attitudes on the first and the third trips struck me. I was basking in the confidence of familiarity and experience, but was I less vigilant?

Thinking it through, it seems true that there are two components to operational safety -- knowledge and vigilance. Experience is valuable. One avoids confusion and errors in judgment by knowing the answers in advance. Local knowledge and familiarity with the territory is one kind of knowledge, experience with your boat and with boating is another. Vigilance can be motivated by fear of embarrassment, rivalry with peers, or by training and discipline. Being alone with nobody to see what you do is not the best way. A loner is less safe than a team. Libby helps me at critical times by questioning my actions.

Today we had a rapid trip through the C&D canal and now we're back near the Sassafras River where we sailed with David and Bobby last July. In fact, we're anchored at the same place we were last July 4. It's nice to be back in the Chesapeake and we look forward to 2-3 weeks of enjoyable times here.

Tomorrow we're going to try to visit Havre de Grace. That's a place we haven't been to before.

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