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Old 10-26-2013, 09:32 PM   #1
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Coast Guard pan-pan question

Right now I'm in hearing distance of the Coasties in Mobile Alabama and I wondered about something. Today's pan-pan was for a wooden boat taking on water. No other information except coordinates but as a kibitzer I wondered if it was sail, an old Grand Banks or even a Trumpy.

This came up because last week a local boat left and was overdue so there were pan-pan messages for "an overdue sailboat" ... what it was, actually, was a Formosa ketch. I'm wondering if there is a reason why the Coast Guard doesn't just say sailboat AND Formosa ketch with the length. A sailboat could be a 20' daysailer or, well, a Formosa.

Is this a rule, or does each sector make the call on their broadcasts? What happens where you are? And where are you?

Just curious.
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Old 10-26-2013, 10:02 PM   #2
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Wouldn't one presume the CG would broadcast the description provided? Are you criticizing the CG when the criticism perhaps should fall on the one calling for assistance? ... A boat's brand is largely irrelevant. Location, boat color(s), length, type (dinghy, cruise ship, sailboat, whatever), and location, a precise location, would seem to be most relevant.
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Old 10-26-2013, 10:03 PM   #3
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On the face of it Janice, it was a pan pan woefully short on detail. However, the CG can only put out what the often panic stricken caller has given them, and often that is very little. Sure the CG would try to get more info I'm sure, but sometimes the caller has gone off the air in a panic stricken effort to do something about the emergency, so they can't get more info immediately. A salutary reminder for all of us, that is in a situation requiring outside assistance, a coherent, detailed as possible initial message is the best way to summon assistance. That is, name of vessel/rego no. and type/length, colour, and position, then details of the problem, and number aboard, before anything else.
However, sadly, often this type of call is often a hoax…

Sorry, Mark - simultaneous post, it would appear…still…great minds..?
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Old 10-26-2013, 10:24 PM   #4
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Sorry, Mark - simultaneous post, it would appear…still…great minds..?
Think alike?
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Old 10-26-2013, 11:32 PM   #5
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Yes Mark and Pete, often the overdues especially when shrimpers are more detailed. It struck me because today's "wooden boat taking on water" piqued my interest. I guess I feel a bit of the romance of older boats as those were my playgrounds when young. (born and raised aboard a 40'er)

The Formosa was named (that's why I knew what sort of boat she was)
You're correct though: I hadn't considered that the person calling in the overdue might not know what sort of boat it was or the size.

The latest was a center console 7 miles south of Destin that's out of gas. That paints a clear picture. And no, brands aren't necessary. Some are distinctive, though you're quite correct in that not everyone knows the difference between a schooner and a ketch or a sloop.

Thanks for your perspective. Still learning....
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Old 10-26-2013, 11:38 PM   #6
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And no, I wasn't criticizing the Coast Guard. I was wondering if each sector has their own rules. I've noticed on St Pete all mayday calls are handled on Channel 16 whereas in Mobile calls are shifted to Channel 22. Different sectors, different ways of doing the job. Both get the job done however the differences do intrigue me.

I'm still learning the Gulf coast. So far I feel like a doggone neophyte when it comes to weather and waves over here. Nothing makes sense. And tides? That's beyond me too. Some places have one tide or two and just a few miles away there are the standard four a day. It's a strange beast, this Gulf of Mexico. On our boat we always cut the corner which made some interesting trips when the weather was foul so it's all new to me along the Big Bend.
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Old 10-27-2013, 02:07 AM   #7
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Sector Anchorage covers a pretty big area and on occasion they will put out a marine assistance broadcast including a lot of detail but only give the Lat/Long. It would be extremely helpful if they would append the body of water or some geographical tag with it. I don't know if they are talking about the Cook Inlet or Prince William Sound until I do some quick math.

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Old 10-27-2013, 06:47 AM   #8
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23 years a USCG helo pilot, 3 as the operations officer in NJ.

While they don't have their own rules, there is still the human element where things can be left out by accident or on purpose.

As far as a broadcast, I would think they would just copy it word for word...as in the computer age...easiest to mark, bond copy rather than do anything that requires more work.

On the other hand...a LARGE number of Coastes have no idea what a Grand Banks, Formosa, ketch, Trumpy, etc..etc is. To them, they just care that a boat is sinking in some approximate location and hope someone gets there to assist.

...and you also have to give them this...the old story about asking too many questions when a boater s in trouble....boat calls in on fire and the Coastie radio guy starts his 10 page checklist...the boater responds "I'm the only stinking boat on fire out here!!!!!"
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Old 10-27-2013, 06:52 AM   #9
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Sector Anchorage covers a pretty big area and on occasion they will put out a marine assistance broadcast including a lot of detail but only give the Lat/Long. It would be extremely helpful if they would append the body of water or some geographical tag with it. I don't know if they are talking about the Cook Inlet or Prince William Sound until I do some quick math.

Tom
I agree...I tried to institute so many "small boat" common sense issues during my career...but inertia in a huge organization stifles the best of intentions. Plus much policy is started, revied and approved y members that have little small boat experience...their background is on ships or patrol boats that have larger bridge crews than 1 like many of us do.

Broadcasting a nearby geo reference point is HUGE in getting assistance from other small boaters yet it seems to still get ignored way too often.
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Old 10-27-2013, 08:00 AM   #10
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...boat calls in on fire and the Coastie radio guy starts his 10 page checklist...the boater responds "I'm the only stinking boat on fire out here!!!!!"
I've heard that type of story several times. I've also heard the CG radio watch standers getting frustrated with the boater in trouble because he's dealing with the emergency, instead of walking through the checklist with them.

It's inconsistent, but I have heard "in the vicinity of..." included in lots of CG radio calls. It would be a very good practice to get them all doing that.

Due to the way the CG rotates crews from station to station, the procedures don't change much from place to place. It's a normal practice to switch a conversation to a working channel as soon as possible, leaving 16 free for hailing and other distress calls. But when that should happen is a bit of a judgement call. I'd be afraid of losing the person if I had to explain to them how to change channels. I suspect the CG makes the same kind of assessment on a case-by-case basis.

It's also very true that the CG watch stander probably doesn't know all the local landmarks. They're required to learn the charts of their area before qualifying on the radio, but there are always local names that aren't on the chart. It can lead to some pretty humorous conversations (as a listener, not as one of the parties involved!)
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Old 10-27-2013, 02:36 PM   #11
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I remember a situation in Prince William Sound where the assisting vessel was named the "Dirty Bastard". The Dirty Bastard was towing a disabled vessel and took more than four hours to reach port with position reports every 1/2 hour. At times you could hear the laughing in the background. We had another situation of a sunken vessel (2 days earlier) with a real time "Mayday" call in the system from the same group relayed from a NW air cargo flight to the FAA to the CG while we were trying to tell the CG we had the people from the sunken vessel on board. That got so balled up the captain of the assisting vessel asked the CG to stand down, he'd call them to explain when he got back to Whittier. Sometimes the checklist just gets in the way.

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Old 10-27-2013, 04:34 PM   #12
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I remember a situation in Prince William Sound where the assisting vessel was named the "Dirty Bastard". The Dirty Bastard was towing a disabled vessel and took more than four hours to reach port with position reports every 1/2 hour. At times you could hear the laughing in the background. We had another situation of a sunken vessel (2 days earlier) with a real time "Mayday" call in the system from the same group relayed from a NW air cargo flight to the FAA to the CG while we were trying to tell the CG we had the people from the sunken vessel on board. That got so balled up the captain of the assisting vessel asked the CG to stand down, he'd call them to explain when he got back to Whittier. Sometimes the checklist just gets in the way.

Tom
Wholeheartedly agree...but the USCG like many Government agencies learned the hard way...not using them gets you sued faster than royally screwing up on scene.
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Old 10-27-2013, 07:21 PM   #13
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