View Full Version : "Rescue" at sea

10-25-2002, 11:33 PM
I've caught a few minutes of a show with this name or one close to it a few times now and I'm pretty surprised at what makes people willing to call the Coast Guard and abandon their boats!

In the 3 cases I've seen, they are largish (30'+, 40'+) sailboats, the seas are relatively flat with some disturbed waters, the boats are rolling but not severely (and would have been rolling a whole lot less if they hadn't been beam-on) but not what I would call screaming winds, huge seas or major breaking waves etc. The boats had blown out sails (funny, on at least 2 of them, they appeared to be self-furling head sails) and the boats didn't appear to be under control. They looked like they would have been fine if the sails had either been cut away or fully furled and a sea-anchor deployed. In other words, they looked like they where in no immediate danger if the crew would take a little action. Yet, here's the CG out risking life and limb to "save" these people... Wish they'd take me along some time so I could go aboard and salvage one of these!

Admittedly, I wasn't there, nor could I tell if there was damage not visible to the camera, but it seemed to me these people either where not prepared or not willing to look out for themselves!

[ 10-26-2002, 12:34 AM: Message edited by: Meerkat ]

Ken Liden
10-25-2002, 11:54 PM
I used to be stationed on a 95 boat out of Port Angeles. While on our regular patrol we were dispatched to assist a 40 foot Chris which was rapidly sinking. When we found the boat about 4 miles east of Port Townsend they were in no danger at all,and fully operable. They were towing a 16 foot skiff with an inboard Wisconsin engine. The skiff was not towing well in the afternoon westerlies but not in danger.

They were questioned as to why they had claimed that they were sinking. They said that they understood that the Coast Guard would not assist if they were not in immeadiate danger. We took the skiff in tow and escorted them to Port Angeles. This was 1961 or 62 and we responded to everything in that era. I guess it just shows that to many people don't check the facts before hand.

10-26-2002, 01:11 AM
Ken; where they charged with anything?

Art Read
10-26-2002, 02:30 AM
Meerkat... You ever been offshore? People certainly have, and do, venture on big waters without having ANY business being out there. But video footage on the "History Channel" is at best "deceiving" when it comes to showing the true state of the kind of conditions experienced in most of these situations. Ever gotten a roll of film back with pictures of "The biggest seas I've ever seen in my life!" and been sadly dissappointed by the lack of "drama"? Same thing. Consider also that conditions may have dramatically improved by the time the rescue was effected, and that those on board may have already endured hours, or more likely, days of conditions where rescue was impossible and/or delayed. Exhausted, seasick, bruised/injured and dehydrated people aren't likely "up" to squaring away a fouled roller furling headsail on a heaving foredeck in confused seas... or even standing a trick at the helm... if what they've been through was bad enough to have caused them to hit the "panic button" in the first place... Ever been down below on a boat after it's been rolled 360 degrees?

[ 10-26-2002, 04:02 AM: Message edited by: Art Read ]

10-26-2002, 03:02 AM
Art; you're shooting the messenger/questioner. I did say that I wasn't there and didn't have full information. I'd say it's also true that people go to sea without any notion of what they might run into or preparation for same. Would you go on a long trip knowing you didn't have a jack or a usable spare tire? Would you risk driving past your point of endurance or fail to deal with a developing problem before it stranded you 200 miles out in the country (as hard as that is to do these days)?

I'll repeat what I said: I don't have all the facts nor am I necessarily condemning the people who called for help. It wouldn't surprise me that the producers of the show exagerated the situation for dramatic effect. All I'm saying is that the situations I saw on TV from the vantage point that I was offered didn't look all that threatening.

Art Read
10-26-2002, 03:19 AM
Not "shooting" anybody. Just pointing out that video taken from a recue helicopter hardly tells the whole story. (As you've pointed out as well.)

But going offshore, by it's very definition, REQUIRES one put themself in a position where "endurance" and self sufficiency can only provide you with your "best" options. Not guarantees. On a long drive in the country, one can check the weather channel before departing with at least a reasonable expectation of arriving at your destination before any significant change occurs. And even it does, one can always find a place to hole up for the night, or at least pull off the road. Not so offshore. A "sea anchor's" biggest value, in my experience, is in the peace of mind it gives to those fortunate enough never to have wondered if maybe it was time to use it...

Of course, none of this refutes the fact that Darwin was right, people will continue to sail out of sight of land transfixed by the blinking little "boat" on their new GPS and not one other clue about what they're doing and the Coasties, (God bless 'em!) will STILL go out to get 'em when it all turns to **** and most of the rest of us are safe at home with our biggest worries being the condition our docklines or moorings and that leak in our neglected roofs...

[ 10-26-2002, 04:53 AM: Message edited by: Art Read ]

Dave Fleming
10-26-2002, 12:01 PM
Meerkat, if you are referring to the program on the Travel Channel, of all places, on dramatic US Coast Guard rescues, I would be inclined to agree somewhat with you.
One incident, the family of four on a 60 modern sailing vessel with rather large foresail still intact sent a distress call, am not sure if it was a MAYDAY or do they still use PAN PAN?
Anyhoo, the family consisted of one adult male, one adult female with 4 MONTH old baby and 13 year old daugher. They were enroute to Bermuda from an East Coast port when they were caught in heavy weather. I cannot recall any mention given of the condition of the vessel but, to these eyes she looked in good shape, not listing or wallowing, sailing along at a good clip, few shots of wake showed no obvious directional instability. It was rough out there no argument but the real question is why they were out there with just 2 adults to work a 60 footer in the first place??
Helo deployed a Rescue Swimmer to affect the individual rescues there was a fixed wing asset there too. The helo had to stop and refuel both enroute and return on a Navy carrier that just happened to be in the flight path.
There were several incidents shown in the program besides this one.
I think it is prudent to keep in mind that these shows and that is what they are shows, are heavily edited and the narration is done later bye some pilgrim reading from a script written bye God knows who. When I watch the US Coast Guard
(no Coasties if you please ;) ) in action on these type of shows, one cannot be impressed at the dedication of the personel involved. If the Coast Guard had that Rescue Swimmer rating when I was in, I would definitely have tried out for it.
Back to judgement calls bye people out on the Deep Blue, it can get scary out there pretty fast.
You are for all intents and purposes ***ALL ALONE***on the face of the earth and your very survival depends on your knowledge, experience and stamina. If any of those three factors is impinged in any way well, scenes like we witnesed are going to happen.

Off Soap Box Now. smile.gif

[ 10-26-2002, 02:41 PM: Message edited by: Dave Fleming ]

Chris Coose
10-26-2002, 12:07 PM
We got into St. George, Bermuda after getting thrashed for a few days by the 1991 North Atlantic unnamed hurricane that became later known as the perfect storm. There were some who left the US Northeast coast for the Caribbean a few days after we did and they got smuck for a longer period that us. Some were documented in the book.
Many were not.
A solo guy who lost all systems but a bit of jury rigged sail straggled in a couple days after us.
He crashed into the dock and was removed to the hospital in a horizontal position.
We went to visit him in the hospital a couple days later.
He said all he felt he needed in the last 4 or 5 days of the journey was a loaded pistol so he could shoot himself in the head.
We held back on the damage report that day.

10-26-2002, 02:31 PM
Dave; Yes, that was one of the episodes I saw on the Travel Channel. I guess they don't approve of travel by sea ;)

10-26-2002, 02:34 PM
Then there are the folks like Webb Chiles, who last I heard doesn't even carry a two way radio. Part of the reason to go is to see if you can do it on your own. And if not...

Dave Fleming
10-26-2002, 02:45 PM
Jack, that may be fine for a Webb Chiles but, we are talking about some folks that, dollars to donuts, are like you and me. Well...maybe not quite like you and me. smile.gif
I sure as hell wouldn't go offshore in a 60 foot sailing vessel with just SWIMPAL, the twins at 4 months and me and I am sure that neither would you. IIRC, comment was made that this was the culmination of a lifelong dream bye the owner/skipper. One has to speculate just how many real sea miles the nimrod had under his jockey shorts before heading out with such a non-crew?
As I said above, that Big Blue is real, don't fool around, be prepared!
The folowing 'show' was about Alaska Crab Fishing out of St. Paul Island. Now that is a calculated risk bye the skipper and crew, nothing fool hardy but just the same it is very very chancy up there.
The US Coast Guard web site has a story complete with pictures of a 180 footer off St. Paul's in flames. Even with the quick response of the USCG and what they refer to as, Good Samaratin vessels, the use of the Rescue Swimmer, they still lost several crew members. BUT, those folks knew or damn well should have known, what they were chancing bye going out crabbing in this time of year so far north. The USCG base in Kodiak is the largest CG base in the world. Hmmmm, I wonder why? ;)

Be Well

[ 10-26-2002, 03:46 PM: Message edited by: Dave Fleming ]

10-26-2002, 02:58 PM
Hi Dave,

Seems a tough nut to crack, as they say. Somehow, people like you mention should be discouraged from going to sea. The fact that they count on the nanny CG(no offense to the Coasties) to come and get them out of the fool mess they've got into, ought to be reprimanded someway. A stupidity tax! HA, the vast majority would be broke.

Wasn't it NZ, because of their position at the cross roads, that instituted fairly strict inspection procedures for boats transiting their harbors?

I was just saying re Chiles, that there are still people who look on the experience with a kind of pre-epirb, fatalistic purity, and I say bravo!


Scott Rosen
10-26-2002, 03:19 PM
Generally speaking, most boats are far more seaworthy than their crews.

After many rescues, the boats are found drifting, in good condition. If the crew had the experience and skills, they could have stayed with the boat and done just fine.

Most people radio for help not when their boats are foundering, but when the humans can no longer stand the conditions.

10-26-2002, 03:26 PM
Or think they can't.

It's too easy, but I don't have an answer. I think NZ had begun to charge for rescue, a few years back, but I'm not sure that's the answer either. It's just they had so many calls, they felt they had to do something.

Mr. Know It All
10-26-2002, 03:30 PM
Uh....hello? United States Coast Guard? We have a problem.......

[ 10-26-2002, 04:31 PM: Message edited by: Mr. Know It All ]

11-29-2002, 11:04 PM

One of the episodes I saw was the "rescue" of the SY "Satori" a Westsail 32. I just ran across a site telling of that rescue from the owner's perspective!

The boat was never in any danger.
The 2 female crew panicked and created the impression that they where calling a mayday.
CG ordered the owner to abandon against his wishes.
"Satori" was recovered off a beach in NJ with the only damage due to the grounding. $10,000 recovery cost.

Full details at: http://world.std.com/~kent/satori/

Worth mentioning that the TV show never reported on the aftermath - not dramatic enough I guess.

[ 11-29-2002, 11:04 PM: Message edited by: Meerkat ]

11-30-2002, 05:54 PM
I thought this was going to be about the sailor that needed a sail, they dropped one off to him.


Coast Guard Locates Missing Sailor
James Chadwick In Good Condition, Returning To Port

POSTED: 10:58 a.m. EST November 29, 2002

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Coast Guard says it has located a Rhode Island sailor who had been missing at sea this week.

The Coast Guard says Canadian authorities reached James Chadwick, of Warren, R.I., on the radio and he is in good condition. He lost power aboard his sail boat, but is trying to return to port using a makeshift sail.

Chadwick is checking in with Canadian authorities every two hours, but has not requested Coast Guard assistance.

A Coast Guard jet was out there this afternoon to give Chadwick some survival gear, including a survival suit and a locator beacon. Chadwick has told authorities that he is moving very slowly and can no longer use his engine.

Chadwick was traveling alone from Jamestown to Bermuda on a 34-foot sailboat when he lost a sail due to bad weather and had to abort the trip.

The last contact he had with authorities before today, was Sunday evening.