Formula For Disaster

This formula is summarized from John Rousmaniere's essential reading, The Annapolis Book of Sailing and Seamanship, 3rd Edition.

Rousmaniere states that "taking seriously the possibility of emergencies requires the cautious state of mind known as forehandedness. A helpful rule of thumb, laid out by the U.S. Navy, is that safety requires eternal vigilance." Then Rousmaniere sets out a Formula For Disaster to explain the repeated patterns of behavior that appear over and over again in major boating emergencies or losses.

The seven elements in the formula are:

  1. A rushed, ill-considered departure--this occurs in virtually all bad accident, where scheduling rather than weather conditions dictates departure.
  2. A dangerous route--the route selected has predictable hazards (reefs, currents, shoals, lee shores, commercial traffic, etc.)
  3. There is no Plan B--there is nowhere to go if Plan A turns out not to be do-able.
  4. The crew is unprepared--shorthanded and open to fatigue, under the influence, or hasn't practiced essential "what ifs".
  5. The boat is unprepared--charts are missing, lights don't work, or equipment needs repair, etc.
  6. The crew panics after injury--when someone is injured, the boat must still be taken care of.
  7. Poor leadership--the captain is weak, ignorant, or macho and/or doesn't properly use the strengths of the remaining crew.

The other side of the formula for disaster, is the Four Rules of Preparation


Home | Site Map | Cruising | Logs | Seminar | Writings | Growing Old | Photos | Nuggets | Contact

Bill Dillon (KG4QFM)
Pat Watt (KG4QFQ)
This page was last modified on August 9, 2009

Home | Site Map | Cruising | Logs | Seminar | Writing | Growing Old | Photos | Nuggets | Contact

Return to Cruising Handbook