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Old 07-11-2007, 06:20 PM   #1
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So, you're sailing along happily on your 40' yacht (just you and your wife), some 200 miles from the nearest landfall and you see a boat ahead. As you get closer you notice that the vessell is lying very low in the water and the people aboard are waving their arms frantically. As you approach you see that the vessel is very close to sinking and there are about 20 men aboard - obviously a boatload of refugees. It appears that the boat is going down fast.

This week's question:

What will you do?
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Old 07-11-2007, 06:30 PM   #2
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Call the Coast Guard, stand-off and observe. If things got worse, I may even deploy my life raft and PFDs.

Somewhere I read a nightmare story of a couple giving assistance to a boat of refugees and then being held hostage.
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Old 07-11-2007, 06:47 PM   #3
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And when the sharks start arriving?

For the exercise, how do you contact the Coast Guard from 200 miles offshore?
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Old 07-11-2007, 08:29 PM   #4
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Distress HF & SSB frequencies:

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/marcomms/cgcomms/call.htm

Worst case, the EPIRB could be utilized.

As far as the sharks go, it becomes an ethics question much like the question of saving climbers on Everest above 8000 meters. It requires an evaluation of the circumstances which most likely can’t be appreciated unless on location and in the heat or cold of the moment.

I would bring women and children onboard and would be able to provide floatation for approximately 20 via life raft, pfds and dinghy.
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Old 07-11-2007, 08:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
Distress HF & SSB frequencies:
Point made about the importance of having HF/SSB!

Quote:
Worst case, the EPIRB could be utilized.
That is worth debating whether this is an option?
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Old 07-11-2007, 08:42 PM   #6
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I would argue that EPIRB should be reserved for stepping up from your sinking vessel into a life raft, or when a human is critically injured and needs life saving fast response.
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Old 07-11-2007, 09:05 PM   #7
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NOTE - I am Late in this discussion. I was composing this in response to POST # 3, when in was time to post the current the storm warnings.

This is a hypothetical, practical dilemma with moral, and ethical issues, where one has to look at ones personal values, and beliefs, with a side caveat of being taken hostage.

I have a strong military background, effect by and was actively involved in politics, raised with religion, morals, values, and developed personal standards; those things combined are I.

I overlooked the potential hostage part; but have had similar incidents happen to me, where I made great effort going out of my way to assist others, having those in perceived dire need turn against me; more than once.

Some only think of the military as a war machine, a destructive power. Having served in uniform, I did the opposite, I am most pleased, having built so much, saved so many, provided so much, and helped many people I knew and did not know that needed aid and assistance. I shared or gave my field rations, {food and water) simply gave my share, to people that needed them worse than I did. Off duty in a foreign country I built and planted gardens, so the indigenous people could help themselves.

That is my background, so you know where I am from, what I am made of, how I think. I will not express what they are, or expect anybody to believe mine, at the same time being respectful of yours. Having explained that, now I can answer the question.

I would use any communication means I had to summon assistance, SSB, HF, Sat Phone, maybe even the EPIRB, if things were dicey. When I go cruising, my plan is having redundant systems, including multi-communication methods.

I, like Trim50, would deploy the normal obvious floatation devices, and than any other materials that float or provide floation (e.g. empty jugs, foam coolers). Hang lines over the side to cling to if needed, fabricate rope ladders or nets. If the sharks arrived, take them on board, if needed. Refugees probably, likely are under fed; combined would add 2,000 - 3,000 pounds to the vessel. Ton - ton and a half. That would increase my draft, but not a major concern.

I could not sail by, and not render aid or assistance, thinking this is not my problem. I simply could not.

Besides all of the above there is Maritime Law and Tradition to consider.
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Old 07-11-2007, 10:18 PM   #8
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I think the deployment of an EPIRB in this situation would be justified. The notion of peril can be applied to the people in the refugee boat, the crew on the boat which spotted them, and for the host country.

As for picking them up, I would always consider the safety of my ship and crew before placing it in jeopardy at the hands of people who have already displayed their desperation. I would do as Trim suggests and supply them with floatation where possible, food and water if necessary, contact the authorities, throw them a packet of flares, a 'V' sheet and deploy an EPIRB. If people were in the water and in obvious physical distress, I guess an assessment of their plight might see me bring someone aboard, but I would first establish a protocol among the crew that would afford them the best chance or remaining safe.

Darwin remains a destination port for refugees and has been since the Vietnam war era. The Oz authorities warn boaties to report the presence of a suspect vessel to Customs or Coastwatch, to not closely approach a vessel, but to monitor its progress whist awaiting the arrival of spotter aircraft and patrol boats. The potential danger is increased in the modern world with the shift in refugee motivation.

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Old 07-12-2007, 08:31 PM   #9
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Hi All,

What you must do is everything you can to save lives. Trying to second guess things is OK from your comfortable arm chair, but not at sea in a real life situation. You cannot do too much, the courts(Legal System) will only apply blame if you do too little. I am speaking from experience. I have spent a night rescuing swimmers from a sunken refugee boat in the Indian Ocean, in 25kts of wind. Out of 20 men we saved 5, we left the dead in the water. It was very, very hard and very scary for a crew of two. Why would you/anyone treat refugees different from anyone else? I still carry on board the charge sheet headed The Crown versus me, in the deaths of 15 men. As the skipper I was responsible, my wife, as cew, was not responsible in the eyes of the law. Thankfully I was judged to have done all that was possible. The men we saved were extremely grateful, as they knew that they would have died if we had not sailed by. If you pass on the rescue and a boat comes along 1 hour later and saves them, and they report that your boat just ignored them, you will be in serious trouble.

Hope you never have the experience or have to make the choice.

Regards,

Stephen
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Old 07-12-2007, 09:27 PM   #10
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G'day Steve,

You are absolutely correct! While making guesses based on a set of hypothetical circumstances, we can only imagine how we may truly operate in a situation where lives are seriously in peril. I can imagine nothing more difficult than to stand-off whilst others are in the water.

From the point of view of our own locale, I was imagining half a dozen blokes in the warm and still waters of Fannie Bay, waiting for a smiling Bob the copper to show up in the police launch. Considering deep ocean, wind, waves and the true disaster potential, I think most sailors would attempt to do as you did. Your story, as with many true life experiences can ground theorists very quickly indeed.

Congratulations on doing a fine job! Knowing your boat as I do, and understanding what the conditions must have been like, I realise the enormity of the feat you performed. I wonder how much more difficult it would have been if GT had been a highsided monohull.

(For others reading this reply, Steve sails a medium sized cat which has taken him from Darwin to the Med. He and his wife survived a serious pirate attack on a previous sailing adventure, which if I remember correctly, was an extended honeymoon tour. He is a modest person with vast sailing experience and the sort of bloke most Aussies would identify as a great cruising ambassador).

Best wishes

David.
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Old 07-12-2007, 10:06 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lighthouse View Post
QUOTE

Worst case, the EPIRB could be utilized.

That is worth debating whether this is an option?
I have been thinking about this. I have not formed an opinion; but would activate it if needed, right or wrong; even being wrong it seems the correct thing to do.

Would it be wrong for one to activate their EPIRB in this situation?

Who is going to respond? The USCG or other CG's?

Ken Barnes Solo (US) activated his, and it was the Chilean Navy that rescued him.

In this discussion, I think it fair to assume the refugees do not posses their own EPIRB. But what if they had one? They know they are sinking fast. If they had one, they would certainly activate theirs.

So is it wrong for one vessel to activate their EPIRB to aid another vessel in distress? (Of course remain on station, so rescue efforts can locate the point of distress).

I am not certain, but see no common sense reason not to. EPIRB is a modern, electronic form of transimitting a distress call, equivilent to any Mayday, SOS, (· · · — — — · · ·), more urgent that a Pan Pan message; we are in distress, we need help, we require assistance now.

Your thoughts?
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Old 07-12-2007, 10:13 PM   #12
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Gone Troppo

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Stephen,

You have my commendations and admiration.

With Respect,

Jeff
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Old 07-12-2007, 10:53 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoneTroppo View Post
I still carry on board the charge sheet headed The Crown versus me, in the deaths of 15 men. As the skipper I was responsible, my wife, as cew, was not responsible in the eyes of the law. Thankfully I was judged to have done all that was possible.
Let me get this right...you saved 5 lives, and then you get charged with wrong doing??? Was this in Australia? Did you have to get an attorney for this?
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Old 07-12-2007, 11:29 PM   #14
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Trim,

What I read or understood is Stephen did everything he possibly could, given the circumstances. The law focused on what he had not accomplished, what was not possible, the 15 lost; for which he was tried and acquitted.

Related to the number of lives, 5 saved, 15 lost of 20 total, is the movie Guardian I recently posted in the poop deck. Here The related part as at the very end of the movie. Worth a look; I think.

Jeff
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