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who gonna pay?

Brian Hancock poses some interesting thoughts about sinkings, rescues, and who pays for it….

The sinking of Locomotion and the subsequent rescue of the crew has me thinking about the cost of mid-ocean rescues and who should pay for them. Earlier this week  Locomotion, an Andrews 45, was enroute from Hawaii to California when the boat struck something and started to take on water. According to the crew they were unable to keep up with the flooding and so they took to the liferaft and activated their EPIRB. Because they were relatively close to land a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was dispatched to rescue the three crew. The night footage of their rescue shows the boat looking to be in good condition but I take their word for it that it was beyond saving. The crew, as I understand, were very experienced.

So who should pay for the cost of their rescue?  Should the owner of the boat pony up?  Should the crew? Or should we as a society pay for it? It’s not that simple but as more and more people take to the sea, many of them in less than seaworthy boats, it starts to add up. Let take a look at two extremes. In January 1995 Isabelle Autissier was rescued from her sinking boat while she was racing solo around the world in the BOC Challenge. A wave literally ripped her cabin off leaving a gaping hole in the deck and she was taken off the boat by an Australian Seahawk helicopter. At the time there was great indignation among many Aussies that their hard earned tax dollars was being used to rescue a ‘Shelia’.
Yup that Ozzie-speak for a lady. And a French one at that. Autissier claimed, and rightly so, that she had provided the Australian Coast Guard with an excellent training exercise and besides she quipped, “you telling me my life is not worth a million dollars?” Compare that with the two hapless American sailors who earlier this year had to be rescued nine times as they made their way from Norway to England. Seriously, nine times in six months, the last by the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) Britain’s excellent volunteer charity that is charged with saving sailors from sinking boats.
It’s true that governments have agencies set up specifically to rescue those in need, and it’s not only sailors. There are many plucked off the side of mountains or found wandering lost in the woods. These are great agencies that do excellent work and we can only applaud the bravery of the rescuers. You only have to watch a few scenes from The Perfect Storm to get my point. I have never been rescued and I hope that I never have to be rescued but here is my take on all of this. We as a civilized society need to encourage people to get off the couch and to start living their lives even if that means taking to sea in somewhat questionable vessels and when they flounder, we rescue them. Look, we rescue people every day. People that made the choice to take drugs and ended up as a junkie. Others, who from no fault of their own, end up homeless. We provide support for all types of situations and that is how it should be. As I said we are a civilized people and that’s how we should collectively act. There are not enough risk takers in the world anymore.
We live cushioned lives and we are getting weaker as a result. People can barely function if the temperate goes above 80 degrees or below 50. We have heat and AC to take care of any discomfort. I say let’s urge our fellow sailors to get out there and sail the wide ocean and if you hit something and your boat sinks, we will gladly come and rescue you. Besides what you hit was probably some man-made junk that was floating out there. The ocean is littered with trash that you and I and the rest had a hand in creating. In the recent New York-Vendée race five boats hit man-made crap floating in the water south of Long Island and were forced to return to land for repairs.
So back to the crew of Locomotion. I am sorry that your routine delivery was cut short because you hit something in the water. To the owner of the boat, I am sorry that you lost your boat because it hit some garbage in the water. I think we need to start worrying more about the mess we are making in our endless thirst for convenience and the mess it’s making of the oceans, than the cost of a mid-sea rescue. But that’s just me. I am interested to know what you think.