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Book Review- 'Suddenly Overboard' by Tom Lochhaas

by Doug Cuming, Boat Books on 16 Jun 2013
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Gripping true stories of contemporary sailing disasters that will make you think twice about not wearing a lifejacket or harness when out at sea. In Suddenly Overboard, Tom Lochhaas tells a number of stories about sailors who experienced catastrophes when least expecting them and who were rescued, or who died, or who lived to tell the tale simply by good luck.

There’s the story of the father taking out his son and their dog for their first sail in a dinghy on a still lake. The son drowned after jumping in after the dog – without a lifejacket. The lone sailor who fell out of his dinghy whilst rowing back to shore in cold waters and quickly lost strength so that he was unable to clamber back in.

In both of these cases the situation quickly moved from seemingly being under control to tragedy. Other stories cover subjects such as: strong winds and storms, engine and equipment failure, solo sailing, not letting anyone know and running aground

Each of these stories is told in compelling, short narratives keeping you riveted and anxious to know the outcome. The first few stories make you ask yourself: 'how could such a situation happen?', but then you think of the times you casually cast off the mooring, were over canvassed in rising wind and seas, sailing with inexperienced crew, didn’t properly check the anchor or the boat’s position, or maybe had one too many drinks. After reading these stories you will look back and think that you were lucky not to get into trouble.

One of the key themes from the book is that many of these deaths happened because the sailors were not wearing lifejackets; and that most of the survivors were wearing one. It is said that your chance of survival is significantly greater if you have a lifejacket, even if you are a good swimmer, as hypothermia severely weakens the muscles, even in temperate waters.

Similarly the difficulty in getting crew back on board created difficulties and even death in some of the stories. A harness is a recommended for offshore work as it always better to stay on the boat, than to have to retrieve someone from water.

The tales from Suddenly Overboard will make you think 'if these are the ways most sailors actually die, then what if I were in that situation?' They will make you think about safety on your boat, making sure you have the right gear, properly briefing inexperienced crew, letting others know where you are going, allowing for a margin of error and having contingency plans when something does go wrong.

Author Tom Lochhaas is an avid sailor with more than 30 years of experience in sailboats of all sizes, and has written extensively about seamanship and sailing safety issues, including Intrepid Voyages, stories of the world’s most adventurous sailors.

Suddenly Overboard is a paperback with 155 pages and is available at Boat Books Australia’s Sydney or Melbourne stores or via the Web (www.boatbooks-aust.com.au) for $24.95.

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