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Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Risk Management

A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for.
-- John Shedd

Risk Management

Risk and its management are integral to sailing. And to Life.

From your vessel's design and construction, rigging and outfitting to the make-up and training of her crew. Inspection, maintenance and provisioning. Courses set sailed. When to lay on sail, when to reef. Every aspect of your life as a sailor manages risk, for better or worse. So haul it consciously aboard and get it under your own, decisive control.

We need a metaphor... okay. Got one.

Imagine you face a large number of closed Doors. Many are opaque, a few translucent or even transparent. Some of them open on to Paradise; blue skies, sandy beaches, stunning vistas. But behind others lurk Clowns, cream pies at the ready. Open one of those doors, and SPLOOGE! A pie in the face.

We only get four risk reduction strategies:
  1. Decrease the number of Clowns- Reduce the number of things that might gitcha. Simplify your vessel's gear and systems (reducing number of failure points), avoid rock-strewn shoals, stay clear of shipping lanes, etc..

  2. Increase the number of Doors - Reserve more options. Install redundant gear and systems, preserve sea-room and fall-backs, run shoals on rising tides, and so on.

  3. Open fewer unknown Doors - Use experience and resources to learn which Doors hide Clowns. A sharp look-out, charts, pilots, local knowledge of your own or others all help avoid known dangers.

  4. Open unknown Doors less often - Repeated risk-taking builds even long odds toward certainty.

Note that none of these, singly or together, eliminate risk. But I don't believe that's the goal. Our ship is built to risk the world beyond harbor confines. Risk management helps our vessel weather the tumult of chance. To find its way amid the dangers.

Preparation, prudence, wariness... yes. But go!

And okay, I admit it. That was a terrible metaphor.

Next post will cover some of the rules-of-thumb we use to manage risk.


  1. Also a good slant on risks inherent to a live well lived, and sailed, in Jerome Fitzgeralds book "Sea Steading". The Pardeys took the risk as a younger cruising couple but later amended it by having a shoreside property to fall back on if their boat home sunk (or, in these times, the great danger of government confiscation). We all have our risk comfort zones. More courage and vastly more skill to sail engineless. And more risk.

  2. Something from Mark Twain and one of my favorites:

    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."