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My husband and I belong to that peculiar group of people called “boaters.”

We handle our fifty-foot Viking Cabin Cruiser by ourselves.

He “captains.” I do lines. And fenders. And other First “matey” things like making coffee underway.

A First Mate’s Nightmare is something happening to the Captain.

And I find myself alone.

Now I know women who have their Captain’s stripes and will calmly take over the controls. Get on the radio. Declare the emergency and head for the nearest marina.

This First Mate is humble enough to admit she does not have a snowball’s hope of handling a fifty-foot cabin cruiser.

Acknowledging my shortcomings (oh, the tales I can tell!) I decided I should at least know how to call for help.

That would be Channel 16.  Button down when you talk. Release to listen.

Next, I mastered how to read the GPS. It took a little longer.

The N and W and degrees and minutes. On how to identify our position.

For the rest?

  • Throttle back.

  • Gears to neutral.

  • Standby off.

However, if I’m close enough to shore, I’ll probably run her into the first available river bank.

But what always bugged me, all the above takes precious seconds, even minutes, which I should spend attending to the Captain.

And what should I see the other morning? Sitting in the same First Mate Chair as I’ve done for 3 years now?

A little red button that says –

Distress. Pull Open.

“Is that new?” I asked.


“What does it do?” I asked.

“Well, it sends out a distress signal with your location.”

I wish I’d seen that button when we bought the boat.



Photo by Hugo Jehanne on Unsplash

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