Fire in the Marina!

The death of two friends makes us reexamine our safety measures aboard.

I deeply wish I could write what I had planned for this week; something fun and happy about spring and getting your boat ready for the season, but that will have to wait. You see, last Friday there was a tragic fire in the marina where we keep our boat and two of our friends, Jim and Stirling, died. It's not known how or why the fire started, and looking at the collapsed row of burned-out boathouses, I wonder if we'll ever know. So while I wait for official answers for the cause of the fire, I'm left to wonder again and again, how a tragedy like this can be avoided. In my mental wanderings I've come up with three things that I think are common fire dangers on a boat; space heaters, electricity, and cigarettes. As we all get ready for summer, I think its a good time to think about each one and how to be safe.

Photo courtesy of Josh Durias.

When I first got into boating, I didn’t realize how much difference there was between using electricity on a boat and using it at home. Even at the dock, it’s easy to forget that the amount of available electricity isn’t the same as it is ashore. After all, what’s one more electric heater, iPad, cell phone, computer, or sleep apnea machine? I also just learned that despite the fact that it says 30 amps on the power cord, a boat serviced with 30 amps should only expect to be able to use about 24 amps continuously (like with space heaters and water heaters.) Then there's unplugging from the shore power box. To prevent arcing and possibly lowering the capability of the cord even more, its important to turn off the breaker first, then unplug the shore power cord. This is something that is so often overlooked by many boaters.

I have also wondered how many boat fires could have been prevented if the owners and guests didn't smoke. A cigarette butt that looks like it’s out, might not be and can be easily tossed in the trash where it might smolder for hours before catching fire. It’s great that so many boaters have stopped throwing their cigarette butts over the side, but that's caused another danger for them and for all of us. I hope this will be one more reason to help someone decide to stop smoking.

While I wonder what happened and what caused the fire that took my friend’s lives, I’ve realized that now is a good time to revisit and revise our own fire safety plan, and as part of this remembrance of how deadly fire can be, Jeffrey just ordered a new escape ladder, and fire escape smoke hoods for all the cabins. I sincerely hope that everybody will take some time and do a quick inspection of their boats and make them as fire safe as possible. It would mean a lot to me to if this accident could help prevent the loss of anyone else in such a meaningless and tragic way.

Check out Christine's book about rebuilding the David B- More Faster Backwards.