To the Editor:
As a commercial fisherman and Island resident, I wish to call attention to an opportunity of utmost value and importance to all of us who work or play on the water. On Thursday, April 6, there will be a free Safety and Survival Training conducted by marine safety instructors, and sponsored by Fishing Partnership Support Services, held in Menemsha.
Having attended the class twice myself, and planning on attending on the 6th, I cannot stress enough the life-and-death value of this class. This is no sit-down seminar in Boating 101— the FPSS instructors are knowledgable, passionate, and experienced in maritime rescue. The sections are not taught by dewy-eyed Coast Guard cadets who just finished their own training, but by veterans of maritime rescue. For example, the “Man Overboard” module was taught by Captain Rodney Avila of New Bedford, with well over 60 years of experience, who opened the class by saying, “Of all of the Man Overboard situations I’ve been a part of, the toughest was probably losing my father over the side one February night, off the backside of Nantucket. He was cold and he was mad, but we got him back.” The chance to use and deploy safety equipment like flares, fire extinguishers, survival suits and liferafts — in a safe environment, before your life actually depends on it — provides mariners with unique and invaluable hands-on experience. The class teaches you how to make a radio distress call, including hearing actual recorded mayday calls — some of which worked, and some which tragically did not. I know many fishermen, both commercial and recreational, who have participated in these safety training classes, and each and every one of them expressed admiration and appreciation, many eager to take the class again.
Last, with a heavy heart I would like to remind readers of the vital importance of this training. In 2016, we saw two boats consumed in fire off the Menemsha jetties, a pleasure craft taking on water, and numerous distress calls made to the Coast Guard from boats in Vineyard waters — situations that are directly addressed in these safety training classes. And most important, in 2016 the Island lost to the sea one of her most beloved sons and a true friend to all, Captain Luke Gurney. In honor of Luke, let us all do everything we can to keep ourselves and each other safe at sea, and with “No Regrets,” I hope to see many of you in Menemsha on April 6.
Captain Alex Friedman