Like most mariners, I like to be prepared for the unexpected.
This doesn’t mean I’m building a survival bunker in my backyard, and I don’t have any MREs buried in a secret location, but having experienced extremely foul weather at sea, I recognize that sometimes “storms” come with little warning
The problem is how do you prepare for an unknown future event? Where do you learn survival skills?
Meet Sam Sheridan, sailor and survivalist.
Sheridan’s adventures started after high school when he took his first job as a stewards assistant aboard the Military Sealift Command ship USNS Able. Since then, he’s had many interesting adventures from attending Harvard to circumnavigating the globe in a sailboat and working for Raytheon in Antarctica. In short, he’s an educated sailor who’s skirted hurricane-force winds and survived in the world’s most desolate climate.
Sheridan’s book, The Disaster Diaries, documents his personal journey while preparing to survive the world’s next catastrophic disaster scenario, but unlike the most books of this genre, he does so only because he recognizes that a well-built ship can weather virtually any storm. Sheridan is an optimist who believes it’s important to be prepared even if the world doesn’t end tomorrow. His worries stem not from zombie movies or half-cocked reality TV shows, but in the birth of his son amidst the chaos of his hometown of Los Angeles.
The following are Sheridan’s thoughts on how being a mariner prepared him for survival:
There are two major ways that being a seaman or a sailor started me off in the survival quest. The first is self-sufficiency. You really should be able to take care of yourself. I come from the old-school where getting rescued, for any reason, is a source of hideous embarrassment and shame. You should never need a rescue, or brag about a time you were in something so hairy that you had to get rescued, because all I think is “this asshat needed a rescue? What a joker…” So my attitude at sea was always that you’re on your own. And yes, I have been rescued and I’m ashamed of it. I know shit happens. Getting rescued is better than dying (barely). But the idea of self-sufficiency, of total responsibility, is the key here.
The second is in situational awareness, or SA. SA is all about keeping a “heads-up” awareness, you don’t get stuck in a task and miss a weather change, or mugger following you home from a bar. For me, working on sailboats for three years professionally really burned this into me, because that’s what sailing is: looking into the future and seeing all the factors affecting the next minutes, hours, days: wind, tide, weather shift, front coming, etc. On any boat you are continuously measuring and judging the environment, and even down in a hold, working on a shit pump, some part of you is aware of the wind shift. SA is a habit that the military spends a lot of time training and developing, and it’s an essential survival trait. When I later became a Wildland firefighter, I had the SA of a veteran, not a rookie, because of my sailing experience.
This quote has been printed with the express permission of Sam Sheridan
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