LOST? ABANDONED? SHIPWRECKED? A BOATER’S GUIDE TO STAYING ALIVE.
By DANIEL LONG
It’s over before it begins. The severed pull cord on our Johnson outboard will no doubt cut into the first days adventure. I express my concerns to Retired Master Chief Navy SEAL James "Maddog" Madison. He’s not having any. He stares me down as if I’m a specimen he can’t quite fathom, something his dog swallowed then regurgitated on his favorite rug. "Survival rule number one," he bellows while holding up a finger and pronouncing the words for me as if English weren’t my first language, "is to keep a PMA [positive mental attitude], no matter the circumstance. That is the primary deciding-factor of whether you will live or die on this tour. So man up!"
With that, he turns his attention to the plastic handle in his hand, and in the next few minutes disassembles the motor, reties the cord, fixes the flywheel, and reassembles the whole thingusing only a pocketknife. I kid you not. I’m miles out of my league with this ducle. An hour later, in the middle of nowhere, our black-clad Zodiac is screaming its way toward a deserted island beach too postcard perfect to seem threatening. Meanwhile, all I can think is: Did he really say "live or die"?
Be honest. You’ve thought about it. Leaving it all behind. Dropping off the grid. Living on your wits alone. Hopping into your boat with the bare essentials and not looking back. We’ve all seen the TV show Survivor. In reality shouldn’t the person who gets off the island first be the winner? Why docs the show reward the one who stays on the island the longest? My guess is that beyond the soap opera drama, we admire those with the fortitude to face a challenge. And if there’s one group that never backs down, it’s the U.S. Navy SEALs. Need proof? Check out Extreme SEAL Experience in Chesapeake, Virginia, where Maddog Madison is an instructor, and for a few days, I’ll play at being a student. In fact, they’ve agreed to show this feckless boatinc, editor a few tricks. Welcome to Survival School Navy SEAL-style.
We scrape the hull bottom on sand and beach near a few isolated trees, avoiding a clump of bushes that’s holding swarms of insects. "Perfect," yells my excited instructor. "We’re good to go." I’m not convinced. The only gear we brought to this sandy haven is tucked inside Maddog’s ammo can (see "Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P*ss-Poor Performance"). He senses my hesitation. "Not to worry," says the 30-year career SEAL pointing to the can. "We can survive for a long time using only what’s in here and the resources out there. Let’s get to it" Hoo-ijah!
62 BOATING MAGAZINE APRIL 2009