SailNet Community banner

1 - 20 of 33 Posts

·
Splashed
Joined
·
572 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
A number of specific SAR incidents, and a lot of opinions, facts, and myths have been discussed in various threads.
BUT the number of "frivolous or misjudged" SAR Calls is high, and it seems that many people go to sea without basic sailing skills, like mending a sail or heaving-to. This will (probably already have) cost lives.
It is also interesting to notice that people seems to accept way higher risks in their day-to-day lives, than they do when sailing.
So what can (and should) we do as a community to minimize the number of these calls?
 

·
Telstar 28
Joined
·
1,000 Posts
Many also go to sea without the common sense God gave ants... If they are not comfortable with their boat in heavy weather, they really shouldn't try making a blue water passage in it until they are. They should also have the basic tools, equipment and skills to deal with basic problems you run into on a bluewater voyaging sailboat—torn sails, broken steering cable, heavy weather, etc.

I wrote the following post for a sailing forum that specializes in smaller cruising boats in reference to the apparent prejudice against small boats cruising.

Unfortunately, the media hasn't helped the situation much... the media, for the most part, seems to think that it is both unsafe and difficult to sail long distances in anything less than 40' LOA. What they seem to forget is that people have been sailing small boats for a long time, and that it is only in the past 20 years that the size of boats has slowly crept upwards.

One thing I've noticed is that as the size of the boats has gone up, the average seamanship has gone down. This may be partially due to a lot of the larger boats being basically floating condos that were bought as status symbols by people with more income than sailing experience and were bought for the lifestyle, rather than to be actually sailed.

If you look at a lot of the newer boats, especially the higher production volume boats, you'll see an emphasis on open interior layouts with huge double berths, high head room, and a fair bit of automation that is IMHO fairly unnecessary if the boat were designed properly. These boats, while very pretty, don't have the stowage, the handholds or decent sea berths to make a serious passage in comfort and safety.

I remember one story Norm and Elizabeth were relating a couple years ago about a passage on a fairly big production sailboat that ended with some injuries due to the open layouts and lack of handholds.
The real problem I see is that the captain and crew are often the weak link. They have not prepared themselves properly to handle a blue water passage. Most boats are far tougher than the mere mortals sailing them. Look at the various disasters in sailing—the 1979 Fastnet, the 1998 Sydney-Hobart, etc—and see how many times the boats came through fairly well, even long after being abandoned by their captain and crew. A couple years ago, a small (about 35') catamaran was abandoned by its designer/owner and his partner down off the coast of Mexico. Six months later, the boat was still floating—and being used as a nesting place for quite a few seabirds.

Yes, a larger boat is safer—but only if you're capable of handling the larger boat safely. If the boat is too big for you to handle, it is more a danger to you than a smaller boat you could handle properly. This is one reason I generally recommend that any boat a couple gets be as large as the weaker of the two can handle by themselves and single-hand in all conditions.

Unfortunately, the US is structured such a way that preventing unprepared sailors from leaving shore is not likely to happen. The EU and other countries have a far better chance of policing their sailors and IMHO generally a far better track record.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,491 Posts
I don't see this as being a problem in other places as much as in the U.S. and Canada (to be fair, here), because there are far fewer qualifications (if any) for basic boat operation here than in Europe or other places.

Whatever libertarian stances one might hold, if one has not been certified as competent by some sort of internationally agreed-upon standard (as are all professional mariners), then there is no objective reason to assume one isn't incompetent. Certainly on the Great Lakes, I see long-time boat owners sailing right up to the level of their competence in relatively mild conditions...at which point they start to break things, hurt themselves, endanger crew or endanger others on other boats. Basic stuff like watchkeeping, knowing where you are, reading charts, sail handling...it's enough just to take your PCOC card (in Canada, an extremely basic test of nav aids, "will it burn?" knowledge and dinghy parking), buy insurance and you can go squall-hunting.

I am not sure why we require increasingly elaborate and complex testing for running mopeds to cars to 53 foot long truck "rigs", but very little to nothing to run a 20 tonne, 53 foot yacht.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,261 Posts
Generally, I believe what my Dad told me long ago:

"The boat's tougher than you are"...

Many of these Mayday calls are for beat-up, sick, exhausted sailors on an essentially seaworthy boat.

So what to do? I don't favor more regulation, but my heart is with the Coast Guard (or Navy, or National Guard, or State agencies, whoever) people who have to go out to try and save these souls.

One thought: more public education about what the "non-Mayday" radio calls mean. Often, these calls aren't a true Mayday situation, but someone who wants to have a link with a shore station in case the situation deteriorates. Securite or Pan-Pan can work, and help a skipper maintain a radio link and check-in schedule with a Rescue Coordination Center.

Beyond that, it's simply, "please be cautious and don't get in over your head". Very good advice, but it didn't work with many of our investment banks, and it doesn't always work with sailors either. I just don't want to see the rescuers' lives risked unnecessarily.
 

·
Telstar 28
Joined
·
1,000 Posts

·
Splashed
Joined
·
572 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Awareness

So do you guys think that better information about the (potential) penalties for a misjudged SAR Call would lower the number?
Is it possible to create awareness about this without requiring some formal training (licensing)?

For the record, no licensing is required in DK as long as the vessel is less than 15 meters LOA, except for what we call speedboats. Licensing does not seem to have improved the skill-level of those motor-boaters, though.
 

·
Swab
Joined
·
825 Posts
So do you guys think that better information about the (potential) penalties for a misjudged SAR Call would lower the number?
Is it possible to create awareness about this without requiring some formal training (licensing)?

For the record, no licensing is required in DK as long as the vessel is less than 15 meters LOA, except for what we call speedboats. Licensing does not seem to have improved the skill-level of those motor-boaters, though.
Considering the (Lack of) effect that licensing for automobile operators has had on highway safety in the US. I think it would be no more than yet another exercise in government intrusion and tax collection for non-commercial boat operators.

The problem is the state of our modern society. People no longer believe they are responsible for their actions and are not willing to accept the consequences of bad judgment. Also, we have largely become a society of wimps who live lives insulated from the natural environment and cannot tolerate even the slightest bit of discomfort. Add a government agency that will come and get you if you get in over your head and a media that will report your self created dilemma as if it were a natural disaster and we have a situation that cries for government intervention.


Soon enough the (US) government, that seems to be growing like the Blob in the old Steve McQueen movie, will reach out and smother us in the name of boating safety. :hammer

Latest video
 

·
Telstar 28
Joined
·
1,000 Posts
No, not really. Stupidity is not curable or, in many cases, preventable. Licensing, at least in this country, is no panacea either. People would still go out drunk, ill-prepared, ill-equipped, and ignorant. Any one of the four is a problem...when you have two or more combined, it tends to get lethal fairly quickly.

So do you guys think that better information about the (potential) penalties for a misjudged SAR Call would lower the number?
Is it possible to create awareness about this without requiring some formal training (licensing)?

For the record, no licensing is required in DK as long as the vessel is less than 15 meters LOA, except for what we call speedboats. Licensing does not seem to have improved the skill-level of those motor-boaters, though.
 

·
██▓▓▒▒░&
Joined
·
13,645 Posts
"Stupidity is not curable or, in many cases, preventable."
SD, have you ever heard of Darwinian Evolution? Stupidity is indeed eminently curable and preventable. If we, as a society, would stop catering to the lowest common denominators and coddling the terminally dumb, they'd drop out of the genepool.
The next step would be to add a little Chlorox to the gene pool, but that of course crosses many lines. There's no need to add Chlorox if you simply stop preventing evolution.

Even the "oh so politically correct left wing" New York Times has observed on their editorial page that as a society, perhaps we need more "lions and tigers and bears oh my!" among us.

For many years I've held that we need to waive all speed limits for at least one day a year, preferably the fourth of July. Those who are smart enough to stay off the roads, or skilled enough not to smash themselves to pieces, stay in the genepool. The dummies who want to run 150 mph and can't handle it--will remove themselves.

Folks who call for frivolous rescues? Send 'em a bill for the whole response, and make it a good one. Clean 'em out, sell off their boat, they'll get the message AND tell their friends. NH is doing that with wilderness rescues now. (Billing, not intentionally cleaning 'em out.)
 

·
Telstar 28
Joined
·
1,000 Posts
"Stupidity is not curable or, in many cases, preventable."
SD, have you ever heard of Darwinian Evolution? Stupidity is indeed eminently curable and preventable. If we, as a society, would stop catering to the lowest common denominators and coddling the terminally dumb, they'd drop out of the genepool.
I agree, but unfortunately, many terminally stupid people have bred and have become active as important members of our society—eg George W. Bush... :) and must be dealt with within the bounds of existing laws and societal mores. .

The next step would be to add a little Chlorox to the gene pool, but that of course crosses many lines. There's no need to add Chlorox if you simply stop preventing evolution.

Even the "oh so politically correct left wing" New York Times has observed on their editorial page that as a society, perhaps we need more "lions and tigers and bears oh my!" among us.

For many years I've held that we need to waive all speed limits for at least one day a year, preferably the fourth of July. Those who are smart enough to stay off the roads, or skilled enough not to smash themselves to pieces, stay in the genepool. The dummies who want to run 150 mph and can't handle it--will remove themselves.

Folks who call for frivolous rescues? Send 'em a bill for the whole response, and make it a good one. Clean 'em out, sell off their boat, they'll get the message AND tell their friends. NH is doing that with wilderness rescues now. (Billing, not intentionally cleaning 'em out.)
If the rescue is frivolous, then I wholeheartedly agree, but if the rescue is genuine, then I think the fact that our taxes pay for the SAR services is sufficient. Someone who is in NEED of SAR, as opposed to someone who just wants to be rescued, has enough to deal with without getting clobbered financially. There is a difference. Billing the latter makes sense... it was their choice... billing the former is heartless.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,491 Posts
Unfortunately, I can see this adding a layer of adjudication (under whose authority, I have no clue), where the SAR services bill the whiny and tired for the cost of the helicopter ride, and the whiny and tired sue them for pain and suffering and "not caring about the average sailor".

My main objection is that when the poop hits the prop, it's rarely one boat in distress. A decent squall line on a long-distance race can smack many, sometimes dozens, of boats at once, some of which might be in real MAYDAY trouble, and others who have a torn main and a spilled Cosmopolitan and now they feel pukey. Doing triage and prioritizing such calls, particularly when the people on the VHF have little clue of what "life threatening" means, must be a nearly impossible task.
 

·
██▓▓▒▒░&
Joined
·
13,645 Posts
"Someone who is in NEED of SAR, as opposed to someone who just wants to be rescued, has enough to deal with without getting clobbered financially. There is a difference."

Isn't that mistaking the issues? Consider:

I go to sea in a well-founded boat, with an experienced crew, all with years of credentials, formal training and experience. A giant squid attacks us in the night and after cracking the hull and eating half the crew, leaves the survivors to call Mayday.

Then there's Joe SixPack, who bought a Jetski cause it looked cool, didn't know how fast he could get out of sight of land and ran out of gas, and Joe also picks up his cellphone and calls Mayday.

You think both parties are equally non-frivolous? You think both have relied completely on luck and ignored common sense?

I guess you're right...anyone who can't avoid a giant squid deserves to be eaten by one.
 

·
Splashed
Joined
·
572 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Responsibility

Vega,
I agree that there's way too many wimps, but how can we change that? If it continues to escalate, we're all going to pay, one way or the other! If licensing is not the way to go (and I think You're right here), should we then try using some or all of the following mechanisms: Report every bonehead you encounter to the proper authorities? Discuss this more (and loudly) in our clubs and marinas? We have (some) success getting people to attend the sailing-school, by creating awareness about the benefits of being a better mariner (as well as potential savings on some fees). We all learn from that every year (instructors as well as attendees). :D

Everybody, please feel free to post ideas on what we could do. (Realistic, funny, great, naïve, anything) :)

Considering the (Lack of) effect that licensing for automobile operators has had on highway safety in the US. I think it would be no more than yet another exercise in government intrusion and tax collection for non-commercial boat operators.

We cannot wait for evolution to solve this :rolleyes:

The problem is the state of our modern society. People no longer believe they are responsible for their actions and are not willing to accept the consequences of bad judgment. Also, we have largely become a society of wimps who live lives insulated from the natural environment and cannot tolerate even the slightest bit of discomfort. Add a government agency that will come and get you if you get in over your head and a media that will report your self created dilemma as if it were a natural disaster and we have a situation that cries for government intervention.


Soon enough the (US) government, that seems to be growing like the Blob in the old Steve McQueen movie, will reach out and smother us in the name of boating safety. :hammer

Latest video
 

·
Splashed
Joined
·
572 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
And that's why authorities (at least here) does not even try, unless it is an obvious hoax.
Which means that we need to do something?

Unfortunately, I can see this adding a layer of adjudication (under whose authority, I have no clue), where the SAR services bill the whiny and tired for the cost of the helicopter ride, and the whiny and tired sue them for pain and suffering and "not caring about the average sailor".

My main objection is that when the poop hits the prop, it's rarely one boat in distress. A decent squall line on a long-distance race can smack many, sometimes dozens, of boats at once, some of which might be in real MAYDAY trouble, and others who have a torn main and a spilled Cosmopolitan and now they feel pukey. Doing triage and prioritizing such calls, particularly when the people on the VHF have little clue of what "life threatening" means, must be a nearly impossible task.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
95 Posts
The real reason that none of these ideas of separating the "good" from the "bad" calls will ever see the light of day is the same reason that you can still pick up the phone almost anywhere in the civilized world and call the local emergency number of choice for a hangnail without incurring punishment... the authorities are (rightly, in my opinion) afraid of the chilling effect bound to occur when you start telling people "Well, you better be in real trouble before you call, or we're charging you an arm and a leg for it!"

The people who abuse the system might or might not think about this before making the call; those who are thoughtful and generally prepared certainly will do so, and in some cases they will fail to call early enough to prevent something truly tragic from happening. It's rare that these incidents happen in a flash, when a fine day goes bad in a span of minutes. More commonly, serious rescue scenarios occur as the result of a chain of problems which may occur over hours or days. Maybe at some point in that chain you go from frivolous to serious, but it's often only obvious in retrospect. Sometimes it never got that far only because help was requested and received early on. The problem is the same as it always is in times of stress and tension: where do you actually draw the line? And when you have a captain and crew in such a position, how do you reasonably ask them to make that assessment before asking for help?

Most of the emergency responders I have known, and all whose works I have read, stress that they would prefer you call early and let them respond and make a judgement when they come on scene. The fact is that it is much easier (and more cost-effective) to go out and tow in a "frivolous" dead engine call than to wait until later, when the storm has come in, and it's dark, and the boat has drifted into shipping or onto a lee shore and it becomes a "real" emergency. And most of the agencies involved don't really want you making that decision; whether you are prepared or not, judgement is frequently impaired in stressful situations. If you have the potential of a huge bill hanging over your head if you somehow call at the wrong time during your failure cascade, it's probably not going to improve those decision-making skills any. Good people, well-prepared people, already make the wrong call sometimes and fail to ask for help until it's too late. Adding the potential of harsh financial punishments later on is not going to improve those percentages.

Better to do away with rescue services altogether if cost-cutting is the goal; we won't spend a dime on it, and those venturing out on the water will be judged by the ocean and sentenced accordingly.
 

·
██▓▓▒▒░&
Joined
·
13,645 Posts
Call for a hangnail?

Actually, I've heard of three incidents this year alone where some genius called 911 over a problem at a McBurger franchise. They wouldn't use the secret sauce, they wouldn't hold the cheese...some nonsense like that, and even though the Nooze made it clear each time that viewers shouldn't call 911 about these things...two months later another genius did. And in every case, the cops wound up forwarding the case for prosecution because the genuises just wouldn't listen to "You shouldn't be calling us about this" and kept calling back.

IIRC the system in NH runs very simply. There's always a 100% response, and it is left to the responders to notify the state AG's office afterwards if they feel the call was frivolous, or the victims were at fault.

There's a lot of discretion and diplomacy to be exercised in radio calls, there are phrases that can be used, or avoided, that give the responders different options without making false claims.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,705 Posts
It's rare that these incidents happen in a flash, when a fine day goes bad in a span of minutes. More commonly, serious rescue scenarios occur as the result of a chain of problems which may occur over hours or days. Maybe at some point in that chain you go from frivolous to serious, but it's often only obvious in retrospect. Sometimes it never got that far only because help was requested and received early on. The problem is the same as it always is in times of stress and tension: where do you actually draw the line? And when you have a captain and crew in such a position, how do you reasonably ask them to make that assessment before asking for help?
I believe this is what Pan Pan is for. "Hey guys, I have a problem, not critical at this time, just letting you know." There is no boundary for Pan Pan so next "Hey guys, just to let you know that another thing has happened and we're a little less confident than we were." Then if the situation degrades further, call again, explain.

Most SAR operations will evaluate the situation like the above on what you tell them in the Pan Pan and react accordingly. If you're engineless: reaction 1, with rising wind: reaction 2, drifting into a shipping lane: reaction 3, the SAR guys will probably mobilise without being asked. When you trigger an EPIRB or set out a Mayday, you're lighting up a host of issues so best you be sure that it's necessary.

The problem is if your comms are weak and you can't Pan Pan, then chances are your only alternative is triggering the EPIRB. How else are you going to make contact? So it's not clear-cut.

The other anomaly of the previous posts is the assumption that people who get themselves into invidious SAR situations are all dumb idiots. Wrong. They're mostly not stupid people. Stupid people generally don't earn enough money to buy yachts. Most boaties are clever at other things, they're just not clever with boats. I know many highly intelligent people who struggle with basic concepts of seamanship.

So I reckon that when a Mayday/EPIRB is set off, the SAR people should evaluate the whole event in a debriefing session with the point of departure being "let's find reasons why we should not charge him". And if good reasons can't be found, if it was frivolous, the responsible person should pick up the cost - right up to selling his vessel to defray expenses. At least that will teach the wealthy a lesson or remove the not-so-wealthy from the system.

And it will stop people crying wolf because they are tired.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
95 Posts
I believe this is what Pan Pan is for. "Hey guys, I have a problem, not critical at this time, just letting you know." There is no boundary for Pan Pan so next "Hey guys, just to let you know that another thing has happened and we're a little less confident than we were." Then if the situation degrades further, call again, explain.
I agree with this, but you should realize you're only pushing around the place where you have to figure out where the line is drawn... in this case, between a Pan-Pan and a Mayday. I've followed other threads where that debate has come up and it turns out to not be so universally understood either. For the general population, I think this would come back to being a training/licensing issue, which as others have pointed out is an approach with its own problems.

hellosailor said:
IIRC the system in NH runs very simply. There's always a 100% response, and it is left to the responders to notify the state AG's office afterwards if they feel the call was frivolous, or the victims were at fault.
I would be vaguely interested in learning more about this... please post a link if you have one. I assume this is only for wilderness rescue? Or is it the entire state 911 system? If the latter, you could get some good long-term studies on the actual effects out of it. To my knowledge, that chilling effect I talked about has never been proven; it would be interesting to see how real it is.

To be clear, though, I'm not talking about hoax calls, or calls where people are warned not to repeat them... those should be tracked and vigorously prosecuted. To my mind, that's a different category from frivolous, in that it is malicious in intent or specifically prohibited. If that's all the NH law does, then it's not unique, but doesn't really address these sorts of situations either. But I'm serious about the hangnail thing... go ahead and try it! I'll pick up the legal bills if you get charged. ;)
 
1 - 20 of 33 Posts
Top