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DANGERS
IN THE DARK

By Capt. Tony Gatto

  The ocean can be a placid place of solitude that can change to a wicked beast at a moment’s notice. We are all fortunate to have the fortitude and the opportunity to hunt on her waters and pursue her bounty. Put your guard down for even a minute or take something for granted and the result can be catastrophic.
  Disaster can strike anyone at any time regardless of how much experience a captain has and in spite of their preparation. Successful fishermen make sure that anything in their power is done to perfection and nothing is left to chance. All knots, crimps, leaders, hooks and gear, etc. are maintained rigorously to ensure perfect operating conditions, tilting the odds of landing a trophy fish in their favor. Captains must be just as dedicated when it comes to safety, especially when operating at night.
  In October 2022, at my port of call in Moriches, New York, two separate major incidents occurred within 24 hours. One vessel had a major accident which tragically resulted in a loss of life and the other was a lucky near miss. When incidents are publicized on social media and news threads, it’s not a time to criticize and boast about how that would never happen to you. On the contrary, it’s a time to be compassionate, and humble, pay attention, be respectful, and learn something that very well might save your life.

  FLOAT PLAN
  One of the most notorious float plan screw-ups was with the USS Indianapolis at the end of World War II. After she was torpedoed and sank it took four days before a routine surveillance plane stumbled upon the debris field and initiated a rescue response. Because of the secrecy of her mission, it was never realized she was overdue.
  Filing a float plan with a friend, spouse or the marina is an easy but often overlooked step when venturing offshore. It’s so simple and not too commonly done. All you need to do is convey some very simple details regarding your planned trip. You are not burning secret spots. A general area of “the Hudson Canyon” or “near the Bacardi” is all that’s needed. Most important are the details of where and when you are leaving from, where you are going to, and what time you plan to be back. This information, along with telling your contact you will let them know when you are safely home, may be the key to initiating an emergency response when you are overdue. Of course more detail is better.

A boat leaves the marina in the dark at 3 a.m. to head offshore.
A boat leaves the marina in the dark at 3 a.m. to head offshore.
Radar shot running at night.
Radar shot running at night.

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