Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Word (or two) on Buckling Up

The very first Printed Thought blog post debuted in September of 2009. I delayed discussing the following subject because it occurred only a month previous, in early August of last year. At the time, it was a little too raw, (and to be honest - not the most uplifting topic for a first blog post), so I saved it and its important accompanying images for almost exactly one year later.

Just shy of a year ago, my younger sister was in an automobile accident on her way driving to work on a rainy summer morning. Thank the Heavens she didn't even have a scratch after a precautionary visit to the ER, just some resulting back and neck soreness from whiplash, but it was a profound first-hand reminder that seat belts, undoubtedly, save lives.

Seat belts help restrain both driver and passengers to their seats in the event of a collision. When worn correctly, the lap belt (which rests over the pelvis), and the shoulder belt (which extends over the chest), apply most of the stopping force to the rib cage and pelvis, relatively sturdy parts of the body. The power of inertia is humbling; if a car is hurtling down the road at 60 miles per hour, so is its driver...although he or she may just be sitting there seemingly motionless from an interior perspective, with one foot on the gas pedal. Which means, if the vehicle were to suddenly come to an abrupt stop, the contents inside the vehicle would still be moving at 60 mph. In that event, it would be quite noticeable that the inertia of the car's contents are absolutely independent of the car's inertia.

According to a research report from the National Highway and Transit Safety Administration, seatbelts save approximately 13,000 lives in the United States each year. Furthermore, the NHTSA estimates that 7,000 U.S. car accident fatalities would have been avoided if the victims had been wearing belts.

So as a courteous safety reminder, dear readers, please buckle up whenever you get into a moving vehicle (even if it's in a NYC taxi). Remind those around you to follow suit. If you're the driver, it's ultimately your responsibility that your passengers have their seat belts fastened. Not only is it the primary and/or secondary enforcement law in 50/51 states, it's also the simplest action you can take to help ensure that you and your loved ones arrive at any given destination, safely.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the Ocean Blue

To me, summer in New England stands for the beach, ocean, sand, sun, and sailing. Lots and lots of sailing. Ok, and it also stands for delicious Summer-specific foods too, like grilled corn on the cob, pasta salads, and fixen's on the grill...but sailing is definitely right on up there with the quintessential American S'more.

Growing up in Connecticut only a mere 10-15 minute drive from the coast of Long Island Sound, my sister and I quite naturally turned into mermaids at the end of June, spending every conceivable moment in the water. We also went to sailing school religiously. Each and every day. And that's where we both learned how to sail.

Little kids start small by learning the basics of sailing in the pint-sized Optimist (they're really cute if you've ever seen them bobbing out on the water...photo below). Starboard here, Port there. That's the Bow, that's the Stern. Additional learned skills include understanding wind directionals, tacking, right of way, basic knot tying, and how to rig and care for a boat. Then, a few years later after one is old enough, weighs enough, and has mastered the necessary techniques, graduation is learning how to sail and race a

Needless to say, I never grew out of the Lasers-are-so-much-fun! phase. It's the perfect 1-2 person boat. Straightforward to rig, very fast. Very fun. Very portable. Three years ago after seeing a "For Sail" ad for a gently used 2002 race-ready Laser, my father and I jumped at the chance and went 50/50 on it. We christened her the Minnow II.

I find sailing both relaxing and challenging at the same time, which is why it's my #1 summertime outdoor indulgence. There's always a sense of adventure involved, and I've always loved exploring little uninhabited islands on the Sound, ones only accessible by boat. Talk about the ultimate picnic destination! I'm also humbled by the wind and waves; the sailor is always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Having the ability to harness wind power to make a boat go towards a desired destination can, at times, make a sailor really think and map out a mental plan of action. Above all though, I admire that the art of sailing is a lifelong learning process. Skills are most often learned and retained through hands-on experience, and one truly absorbs them best when adapting to ever changing wind patterns, weather, tides, and caring for a craft that demands constant attention.

The inaugural summer launching of the
Minnow II was a couple weekends ago. Though, I'll admit it took a few extra hands to make sure all was sea-worthy before setting sail after a long winter hibernation, it was purely exhilarating to be out on the water again. I wish there had been a bit more wind, but luckily for us sailors, summer has only just begun.