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Old 07-16-2018, 10:09 PM   #1
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To help or not to help.

Several weeks ago returning from Nanaimo BC to Point Roberts Washington my engine lost revs and died. I was unfortunately drifting back across the ferry route near the terminal for BC ferries. Contacting Victoria Coast Guard radio, they said they were dispatching an auxiliary to come to my aid. There were several commercial fishing boats that either did not have radios or did not monitor them as they powered on by me at a distance of about 400 feet. Even when I hailed them they ignored me. Several power pleasure craft also passed reasonably close to me as well. They to obviously did not have or monitor radios. I real big thanks to the 38 Bayliner that passed within 100 feet of me leaving a wake like a tug boat. As I was beam on to this wake I was very appreciative of their courtesy. I replied with the appropriate international hand signal covering that kind of thing. However, I really big thank you to the folks from The Royal Canadian Search and Rescue unit based out of Point Roberts. They did an amazing job of getting me and my broken boat back to dock. Friendly, professional and downright fantastic is all I can say. Also a huge thank you to the magnificent yacht Lady Gem. She went out of way to come and render assistance as well. The RCSAR got there as we were going to run a tow line. So thank you again Lady Gem, I know you broke course and went out of your way to help. I still think you should have agreed to trade boats with me though.
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Old 07-16-2018, 10:19 PM   #2
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Several weeks ago returning from Nanaimo BC to Point Roberts Washington my engine lost revs and died. I was unfortunately drifting back across the ferry route near the terminal for BC ferries. Contacting Victoria Coast Guard radio, they said they were dispatching an auxiliary to come to my aid. There were several commercial fishing boats that either did not have radios or did not monitor them as they powered on by me at a distance of about 400 feet. Even when I hailed them they ignored me. Several power pleasure craft also passed reasonably close to me as well. They to obviously did not have or monitor radios. I real big thanks to the 38 Bayliner that passed within 100 feet of me leaving a wake like a tug boat. As I was beam on to this wake I was very appreciative of their courtesy. I replied with the appropriate international hand signal covering that kind of thing. However, I really big thank you to the folks from The Royal Canadian Search and Rescue unit based out of Point Roberts. They did an amazing job of getting me and my broken boat back to dock. Friendly, professional and downright fantastic is all I can say. Also a huge thank you to the magnificent yacht Lady Gem. She went out of way to come and render assistance as well. The RCSAR got there as we were going to run a tow line. So thank you again Lady Gem, I know you broke course and went out of your way to help. I still think you should have agreed to trade boats with me though.
Two years ago I towed a boat in your same situation. Fortunately for them my wife saw them hailing us as I did not and they did not call on the radio (in fact they ad no radio, no cell phone, no flare, in fact nothing that could have help them so they were very fortunate that we saw them, especially that on that day we cross only one other boat!).
Reality is, I think, that a lot of boater do not monitor channel 16 or understand that it is an emergency channel. Two weeks ago 2 folks were setting up their meeting point on channel 16, I was surprised not to hear cost guards warn them that channel 16 is not intended for cheat chat.

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Old 07-16-2018, 11:46 PM   #3
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I find more boats in the PNW dont turn their radios on than due. When asked the reply I hear most often is “ we use that thing only when we need a slip assignment”.
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Old 07-17-2018, 05:21 AM   #4
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COST, I hope its people with there radio off, or not audible, rather than ignoring someone in distress.

As we don't have a sea tow service an only a sparsely crewed volunteer sea rescue service which monitors the radio during daylight hours only, it is rare that anyone would ever intentionally ignore another boat needing assistance. Being isolated creates a situation where people tend to help on another wherever possible.

Still, plenty of boaters don't always monitor there radio (myself included). I'll hear it at the helm, but I am rarely there. I may not hear it if I'm on the foredeck or in the cockpit unless I've remembered to turn up the volume.

All South Australian boats in unprotected waters (2 km offshore) are required to have a vhf radio. The odd regulation is that you are not allowed to use it without a licence. A licence is not yet mandatory. The end result is that many people without a licence, leave their radio off, and only would use it in a emergency.
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Old 07-17-2018, 06:26 AM   #5
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In areas with assistance towing or other services that will provide assistance, the trend is to ignore broken down boats, but not ones truly in immediate distress, such as fire, sinking, medical, etc..... ignoring calls isnt as common.

The reason for the trend in my experience, is that so many boaters are inexperienced seamen, but act like they are good, that towing becomes dangerous to both vessels. Once you start assisting, while not a pleasant thought, you can open yourself up to litigation if things go wrong. Certainly in the US, and I might guess many other places too.
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Old 07-17-2018, 08:51 AM   #6
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In areas with assistance towing or other services that will provide assistance, the trend is to ignore broken down boats, but not ones truly in immediate distress, such as fire, sinking, medical, etc..... ignoring calls isnt as common.

The reason for the trend in my experience, is that so many boaters are inexperienced seamen, but act like they are good, that towing becomes dangerous to both vessels. Once you start assisting, while not a pleasant thought, you can open yourself up to litigation if things go wrong. Certainly in the US, and I might guess many other places too.
Towing can indeed be a dangerous proposition. You have no idea of the condition of the boat that's in distress. Pull on the wrong cleat and you've got a, literally, deadly projectile coming right at you if it breaks loose under load. This is true in either direction, you don't want one of yours coming loose either. Boats designed for towing will have sufficient hardware to handle the task and crew that understands how to rig both vessels.

I'd never ignore calls for aid. Thankfully the few times I've slowed to question a boat that appeared to be in distress they all responded that they had help on the way. I have had occasion to shuttle kids/family back to their nearby port, if just to lighten the stress for everyone onboard.

I'd think if you can't render direct aid it'd be useful to stand by to increase visibility of the situation to other nearby vessels. That and attempt to contact others over your own VHF, especially if you know locals make use of channels other than 16.
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Old 07-17-2018, 10:27 AM   #7
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Just thinking about this...

If someone was broken down and on the windward side of a hazard then of course I would tow them to safety.

If someone was broken down and based on the radio traffic they had professional assistance on the way, and were not in danger at that time I do not get involved.

In the case of immediate threat to life or property then of course we listen up and will provide assistance.

The thoughts with a broken down vessel in a non emergency situation are complex.

Is it worth the risk to my vessle to try to attach to them to tow, when they are not in danger?

Is the time necessary to hook onto and tow someone, probably in my case many miles back to port a good use of my time when there are commercial tow operators that do this for a living and I am a guy trying to make time from my work life to enjoy the water?

That might sound selfish, and I suppose it is. Giving up a day of my time (which is really what we are talking about when you tow someone) has more value to me than the tow bill the person will recieve.

All that said, if someone is in danger we listen up, and provide assistance. If someone needs something (like the gallon of oil I gave a boater last season) we will do that. If someone needs supplies like water, or food, we are happy to help out.

Sometimes it is not as cut and dried as it seems.
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Old 07-17-2018, 10:37 AM   #8
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We pulled a smaller fishing boat off the rocks a number of years ago on our way down the coast in Volunteer, the boat had engine trouble and was right up against the rocks inside Tatoosh Island. It was a iffy situation as a decent swell mad it pretty hard to get close to get a line across to the other boat. Luckily the timing between swells worked out and we went bow in, threw a line and immediately backed away and snagged the boat. We transferred to tow to the Coast guard about a hour later having towed them in the direction of Neah Bay. I dont think the other boat would of lasted a hour of pounding without putting the occupants in the water.

We all got lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
Was it sketchy? You bet, but I wasn't going to leave them in peril banging away on the rocks.. I wouldn't want to be in their situation so I felt obligated to help

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Old 07-17-2018, 10:38 AM   #9
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South Jersey, broken down..... Non emergency by definition of the USCG. Drifting into the surf, different situation.

Broken down in upper Alaska in September....different animal all together unless a lot of stars align that make it very routine.

People would see me show up get a line on them, get their anchor up and be towing in a flash....and they would say " guess you have done this before'.

But the truth is, every situation was different, from a little to a lot...If you didn't recognize that, it could turn ugly quick.
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Old 07-17-2018, 10:41 AM   #10
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We pulled a smaller fishing boat off the rocks a number of years ago on our way down the coast in Volunteer, the boat had engine trouble and was right up against the rocks inside Tatoosh Island. It was a iffy situation as a decent swell mad it pretty hard to get close to get a line across to the other boat. Luckily the timing between swells worked out and we went bow in, threw a line and immediately backed away and snagged the boat. We transferred to tow to the Coast guard about a hour later having towed them in the direction of Neah Bay. I dont think the other boat would of lasted a hour of pounding without putting the occupants in the water.

We all got lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
Was is sketchy.. you bet, but I wasn't going to leave them in peril banging away on the rocks.. I wouldn't want to be in their situation so I felt obligated to help

HOLLYWOOD
Nice job...that is a tough call....

....even the pros wind up on the rocks or in the surf or on the bar sometimes...with much better equipment to make it off or survive if it all goes sideways.
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Old 07-17-2018, 11:08 AM   #11
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As far as not using the radios I think that is unconscionable, License or no license.

If everyone did that then when those poeple do have trouble who do they think is going to hear them. They don't think it through. It takes all of us to monitor for the system to work at all, not just when it is convenient por when in need.

We have that same situation in Canada. But as one Coastie said if someone is in real trouble they don't really care who calls, licensee or not, or which channel it takes to find help.

As far as an operators certificate goes it is not hard to get, takes a bit of memory work and practice and you are covered.

As for the radio in the cabin and the steering outside then install a waterproof speaker outside because again if no one can hear others needing help then what use is the system at all?

Rant over.

No, I'm not a Coastie or even close but I take that VHF seriously even though I often get P.O.d at its frequent misuse/abuse.

I agree that taking someone into tow is not to be taken lightly but as suggested just standing by can be an advantage to the party in trouble and be moral support in a sometimes difficult time.

Last time I helped in a problem the owner wanted to carry on to his home marina but did not want his family aboard. He was trying to tow them in his tiny dink in choppy water. We took them aboard , towed the dinghy, and followed. As it turned out it was a minor problem once he could really look at it later but with smoke coming from the engine compartment he didn't know.
Good result. BUt without that vhf and my listening I would not have known.
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Old 07-17-2018, 11:19 AM   #12
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Personally, I follow the general guidelines noted in Post #7.
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Old 07-17-2018, 11:35 AM   #13
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In general, I'm going to check on the situation and see what the problem is. Not having psneeld's experience and expertise, my situational limits are going to be very different than his, I expect. If it's blood and bones or the potential thereof - we're going to assist however we can.

I've seen several instances (not just boating) over the years where the highly motivated good Samaritan ultimately complicated rather than helped the problem due to lack of knowledge, experience, and/or equipment - or all three.

In aviation it's called "personal minimums" - the sum of your experience, ability, equipment, and the environment that informs the "go, no go" decision.
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Old 07-17-2018, 12:01 PM   #14
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Thanks to all the people who replied. All made good points and offered other perspectives. Weighing the risk factors compared to the needs is always the smartest way. I would do the same myself but I would at least find out if there was an emergency situation. If I had injured people aboard those commercial and pleasure craft that passed should have at least found out if it was urgent. As to the one boat that passed within 100 ft with the wake. That was just plain ignorant and stupid. For myself I will continue to monitor the radio when I am out and will offer assistance if it is possible and needed. As many said, just standing by can be just as much a benefit.
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Old 07-17-2018, 12:15 PM   #15
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If you have an emergency, broadcast it accurately.

If you are broken down with no immediate danger, it's a hard call for others that don't have all the facts....so there isn't a lot of reasons why someone would answer you unless you tell them things are expected to deteriorate.

If broken down in or near shipping lanes, then security calls are appropriate and will probably get a better response for help.

I broke down in busy waterways quite a few times last winter, I had more "you shouldn't anchor in the channel" calls both radio and verbal than offers to help. And was waked sufficiently. So don't feel alone.....even with a rescue or assistance boat alongside, others will blast by in ignorance.
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Old 07-17-2018, 01:20 PM   #16
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A nuclear family of four was airlifted via USCG helicopter from a sailboat aground in Suisun Bay near Port Chicago last weekend. The water was too shallow (three feet) for the small USCG boat to approach. The sailboat was abandoned, at least temporarily.

http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/...8-07-16#Story2

Easy enough to go aground in that bay. I did it twice in my two-foot draft sailboat. Refloated with the rising tide.
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:39 PM   #17
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My boat is ill equipped for towing other than dead slow “stay off the rocks “ type tow. Those”hawser hole” cleats are far from robust. My crew has zero experience in towing anything more than an inflatable dinghy. I would not hesitate to provide life safety type assistance.to the limits of my ability.
My guess why others do not respond is lack of awareness of surroundings. I find others that I boat with have no clue nor care what other boats are doing. Freaks me out.
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Old 07-17-2018, 07:04 PM   #18
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Like Fetcher, I think Kevin's approach is a good one. I've towed a number of boats, more actually with my sailboat than my current boat. The last time it happened a helpless boat was being carried down the center of the Narrows on a choppy day. We were in our sailboat with a 6 knot speed and had kept hearing a call from the USGC about an adrift vessel. By the time we got to the area an hour later the vessel was still adrift and had been passed by dozens of boats, large and small, that had either not heard the radio call or had decided to ignore it.


The boat was floating but was being carried South by the current towards the Narrows Bridge. While the odds are good that the boat wouldn't have hit the bridge, that would still have been a possibility likely resulting in the loss of the boat. It turned out to be the classic, broke, idiot, in an old sailboat with no working radio. We towed them, slowly.
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Old 07-17-2018, 10:00 PM   #19
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In the US there are "Good Samaritan" laws that will protect you from liability if you are making a good faith effort to assist someone in trouble. That said, you may still have to go to court to exercise that law if the person you assist files a civil suit against you for something you did that they didn't like (like maybe not towing them back to their own dock).
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Old 07-17-2018, 10:29 PM   #20
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Liability issues would be the last thing I worry about when assisting someone. That thought does not even cross my mind. Perhaps I'm foolish, but I think the liability concerns are often an excuse to do nothing.

Safety of all parties is the main consideration. A flying cleat propelled by the slingshot effect of a stretched towline can have serious consequences. A towline in your prop can put your boat in the same situation as the one you're assisting. How many times have you heard of a single swimmer in trouble resulting in multiple drownings.

Keep calm. Assess the situation. Make a plan, and a backup. Communicate your intentions. Then take action.
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