Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Drowning like a Gentleman

(Inspired by a John Vigor post, October 2013)

(What got me thinking about this? I think it's the cold water and sort survival times that come with winter sailing.)
Image result for coast guard rescue storm

Most--I think far too many--sailors believe it is their right to be rescued when they get into trouble at sea, no matter the conditions, risk to rescuers, or the extent of their culpability.

I read of a rescue in not-terrible weather, where forum experts question the validity of calling for rescue before the boat is actually sinking. Often the boat is disabled, the weather expected to deteriorate, and rescue is much safer right now than later. I'm pretty sure the Coast Guard likes that better. Even the insurance company would rather buy a boat than face wrongful death liability claims from the families of passengers.

I spent many years climbing in the mountains, often far from any realist hope of rescue. Not that it would help much after you augured-in from 1000 feet up. I wasn't expecting help, and often we would back off on climbs that wouldn't scare us near the road. We had to be 100% certain of success, not pretty sure, since even a sprained ankle could get you killed. And perhaps this is why I never had an epic in all of those years of climbing. I respected that the line between climbing in-control and dead was not that broad.

 the rescue people.’ ”
“Blondie Hasler, one of the founders of the OSTAR, would probably not approve of this equipment [the EPIRB] since he was against any competitor making use of rescue services. He has been quoted as saying, a competitor who got into trouble  ‘ . . .  should have the decency to drown like a gentleman and not bother 

"Hasler was not entirely joking. The feeling was quite prevalent among ocean cruisers in the 1970s. Eric Hiscock said much the same thing in print, and never carried an EPIRB on any of his circumnavigations. He believed that people who worked on the sea in a professional capacity were fully entitled to any rescue services available, but he thought that people who went to sea by choice, for their own personal pleasure, should never expect others to risk their lives to save them when they got into trouble. Self sufficiency was the watchword, combined with a very stiff upper lip."

Yeah, if I were crossing oceans I'd pack an EPIRB and sat phone, but I also know I'd feel damn guilty about pushing the button or placing a call under conditions that put others at serious risk.  As coastal sailor I have very little sympathy for many that get in trouble near shore while tempting weather that they just shouldn't have. They could have waited. They could have taken the inside passage. They read about daring do, but didn't actually absorb the seriousness of the situation. They wanted an adventure, but didn't grasp that in a true adventure the outcome is uncertain. 

But it's been that way for centuries. The Donner Party comes to mind; city folk that figured they could bend nature to their will and their schedule. Oops.

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