When Captain Andrey appointed himself my maritime mentor, the first lesson he delivered was in the form of a question: “What is a sailor’s greatest fear?”
“Fire,” was his answer when he saw the puzzled look upon my face.
Before I encountered the Captain, I had sailed on only one passenger vessel, up the Inside Passage to Alaska. The ship encountered a whirlpool, breaking crockery, and bowling passengers off stools in the bar. After the incident, the master had entered the dining room with the statement, “Please don’t tell anyone about your adventure today, or they will expect it when they sail the Inside Passage.”
As my experience and education increased I came to understand that passenger vessels are as much about safety procedures as they are about midnight buffets and bingo.
The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is fast approaching. The legacy of that tragedy shapes our cruise experience to this day. Safety of life at sea was investigated by commissions and regulations were enacted.
Wireless communication standards were established. Radio rooms were manned 24/7 and a direct line of communication was opened with the Bridge on all ships. Changes were made to rules of navigation in ice fields. The number of lifeboats per ship was increased to ensure that all passengers and crew could be accommodated. Lifeboat assignments became mandatory at the commencement of a cruise.
My list of changes to safety procedures aboard vessels sailing in international waters is far from comprehensive. The next time you feel inconvenienced by a mandatory lifeboat drill within 24 hours of sailing, remember those who lost their lives April 15, 1912. There but for fortune go you.