Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The big hurry

I'm sitting quietly on my client's boat reading some documents that will hopefully clarify why his MacBook Air doesn't see the USB GPS, and abstractly following what will be the very imminent departure of the boat next door. I can hear garbled snatches of the crew's conversation over the low rumbling of the diesels.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the dingy on the transom disappear, and what appears to be two large rubber bands stretching out from the dock. I looked up through the cabin window and I can see the boat still moving out of the dock. I sat there for a couple of seconds transfixed by the scene, and then suddenly realize those grey rubber bands I'm looking at are two shore power cables, and they are still connected to the pedestal. I bolt out of the cabin and start to frantically yell, and wave at the captain. Just then, one of the two cables really tightened up, the pedestal snapped over, and the cable flew away from the pedestal taking the plug with it. The boat captain just then realized what was happening, stopped, and started to back down into the dock.

The pedestal's final state of repose is laying supine on the dock. The dock master rolls up in his golf cart and starts to try to pick up the pedestal when I gently suggest don't. There is a neutral and ground wire hanging out of the pedestal, and there are still two shore power cords plugged in, and one of them belongs to my client. The just arrived owner, after taking a moment to survey the scene, boards his boat at my request and shuts down the power systems. I gingerly turn all of the pedestal breakers off. Anything could have happened inside the pedestal, and with four live 50 amp outlets, an abundance of caution was called for. Avoiding the hanging wires, and only touching the plastic parts,  the two remaining cables are disconnected, and the pedestal was carefully tipped back up in place, sort of.

Other than the untimely demise of the pedestal, the damage was very minor, although the potential was certainly there for a more calamitous scene.   Below is another example of a surprising event, at least to a captain at the time. I assure you the piling is not floating.

All of this begs the question, how could this have happened? The captain was very skilled with many years at the helm, and the temporary mate with him was also a long experience boater. After witnessing the majority of the event, I have a theory, and some personal experience to validate it. The notable feature of the event was that the crew was in an obvious hurry. The captain popped up to the bridge and got the engines running, the mate was scurrying around releasing lines, and it was evident to me they were short on time, late, or both.

Accidents happen because we become inured to risk over time. Think of the first time you drove a car. Looking back and forth, trying to shift correctly, watching traffic, and all of the time a parental unit is barking at you, or so it seemed. A few months later, it's sort of second nature, and over time, you're driving the car, talking on the cell phone, jotting a note, eating a hamburger, all while driving with your knee. Okay maybe it's an exaggeration, but driving is still as risky as it ever was, but over time your brain starts to shove the risk aspect onto a dusty shelf in the back of your brain's library. 

In my life, when most things have gone awry, it is almost always because I was weary, or in a hurry. Urgency, and or tiredness inevitably leads to mistakes, that more likely than not wouldn't happen if the risk factor hadn't been diminished. Let me put it this way. If you were making your first parachute jump, even if you were tired, and in a hurry, the concept that a sudden stop at the bottom would not be good for your health, keeps you concentrating. But on your thousandth uneventful jump the apparent risk level to you is now not so much. But I assure you if things went wrong on that jump, the awareness of the risk, albeit arriving too late, will instantly be brought to the the brains forefront, and you will be very aware that gravity is pulling you downward at 32 feet per second per second.  

"We tend to think in grand concepts, but those concepts are built from a myriad of tiny details, some more critical than others." said RHYS in a comment to a post of mine recently, and he is so very right. This is also why all pilots follow a detailed check list to insure that the critical, but sometimes small appearing details aren't overlooked. So the next time you get on your boat, take a deep breath and remind yourself that mistakes, at the minimum are expensive, and at the maximum life threatening. Maybe a check list at the helm would help all of us, at least sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. For the MacBook Air, you may need to re-install PL2303 drivers. Use the same drivers for MacOS 10.6 (from Prolific's web page), as the ones for Lion don't work too well.