Republish- Pre-Ocean Checks/Pre-Ocean Inspections and Captain Chris Couch

Another story I think has value but was written several years ago.  The techniques and mental cues described here are still relevant and I still use them and urge you to use them.  Nothing makes me more happy than when someone comments that they didn’t like my ideas the first time, but when they got back to their own boat and had a stressful situation; they started to understand some of my preparedness.  To me, the more I prepare, the more at ease I am in stressful situations.  Read on….

The ungodly heat for most of the summer (where I live) drives me toward our boat,  but it can’t happen every weekend, so I write about related subjects here.

Whether you own a speedboat for the Colorado river, an ocean-going yacht, a sailboat or an airplane; you probably run through a checklist in your head prior to departure: fuel or beer;  but this isn’t nearly adequate and a more detailed list is probably used by most,,,,should be used  by ALL operating vessels or airplanes.

A checklist mentality has been driven into my brain since early in my career and I’ve never  been able to shake it off,  but sometimes my checklists work better in my brain when they’re printed and on a knee board or laminated spindle I can grab at a moments notice.  After my numerous “business trips”,  to some of the hottest places in the world, I noticed my memory and hearing were slowly deteriorating and I was more easily distracted, so I started writing down more important matters on my phone and started using written checklists.   One of these matters was what was needed prior to putting the boat to sea, no matter how long we had planned on being out for.

One of the techniques I had drilled into my head from an early age and used all the time during my “business trips” were Pre Checks (PCC’s) and Pre Inspections (PCI’s).   These could easily be called Pre-Ocean Checks (POC’s) and Pre-Ocean Inspections (POI’s).   Here’s a bit more information I found about them and have edited a bit for reading ease:

a. Both are intended to accomplish the same thing, which is to have a leader ensure that certain mission critical pieces of equipment are ready. The only real difference is who is doing the inspecting.

b. The Vessel Master does PCIs.  Crew do PCCs.  Pre-Checks are done first, Pre-Inspections are done when the Pre-Checks have reached completion.  (How many times have you found open hatches after someone says they’re all closed?)

c. They are the detailed final checks that all should conduct before and during training and operations. You must perform checks and inspections before each event/trip or exercise to check personnel, equipment, vehicles, and mission knowledge. By requiring your crew to adhere to standards, you ensure that every individual and every piece of equipment will be ready. Pre- checks and inspections are an individual and leader responsibility. It is impossible to overstate their importance. Checks and inspections are your greatest asset to combat those twin enemies of readiness—apathy and complacency. It is human nature for people to get used to their surroundings and begin to overlook minor problems. By doing regular inspections, you will be able to correct small problems before they become big problems. Some common checks prior to beginning a or trip include but are not limited to:

• Open water essential equipment
• Understanding of the trip and specific responsibilities
• Food and water
• Navigation and weather
• Deficiencies noted during earlier inspections that have not been corrected yet. 

In my mind, the Pre-Ocean Checks and Pre-Ocean Inspections should be done in separate iterations based on the following:  Pre-Ocean Checks should be done by which ever crew is designated with that responsibility in a detailed manner in order to cover all the bases needed.  Pre-Ocean Inspections should be done prior to leaving the docks to ensure things are done that will keep the boat afloat and all safety systems are working and enabled.  I do my Pre-Ocean Checks the night before we leave and probably early on the mornings we leave, my wife does her’s the same way, then I do my Pre-Ocean Inspections with my engine warming up but still in a competent and methodical manner.

While reading something I grabbed while getting parts in San Diego, I was impressed with a story about Captain Chris Couch (a poet, writer and Delivery Captain).  I was really impressed with the detailed write-up about the fact that more and more boaters are going into potentially dangerous situations with less and less actual navigation experience and without any sort of “checklist mentality”, they were just coming to their boats, starting them up and taking off.  Captain Couch decided to write his own version of a Pre-Ocean Checklist, calling it the “The Checklist” and starting his own publishing company for this, his poetry and his Navigation Primers called “Compass Headings Publishing”.   I just bought my own copy, and could not be more impressed.  I had dropped a note into the purchase order online letting them know I was impressed with the magazine article and received a personal email back from Captain Couch.  This is a personal touch that let’s me know he cares and has a great product.  I’m impressed.

For those who care, I have no financial partnership or agreements with Captain Chris Couch or Compass Headings Publishing.

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