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Old 09-26-2009, 06:06 PM   #1
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The following is a quote from another forum: "after about 7 years of Coast Guard harassment, I have hardly seen

them this year. In past years, we were stopped or boarded at least once a year. In fact, we often were stopped several times a year,"

The person who wrote this was talking about the CG presence on US inland waterways in an area with very busy recreational boat use.

RANT now.

I am annoyed by the comment for various reasons, only peripherally because Peter is ex-Coast Guard.

In order of annoyance, my comments/answers.

1. What makes you think that the CG can tell just by looking at you that you do (or do not) qualify for a safety boarding? Is your boat a bit battered? Do you have children on board who are not wearing pfd's?

2. Are you so capable and endowed with exceptionally good luck that you will never need assistance from capable and well-trained Coast Guard personnel?

3. How do you think that the CG trains its personnel? Do you think that they learn on flight simulators with nary a hand touching a line or a boat?

One of my favorite stories is about a coast guard boarding of sv Watermelon the year we left Boston to go cruising.

We were sailing lazily off the North Carolina Coast, no land in sight, and we seemed to be alone on the water. The seas were minimal, winds moderate, we were making good but not spectacular time (5 to 6 knots - such smooth water and the 'Melon swooshed along). I noticed a Coast Guard cutter, and we were hailed on VHF and told to maintain course and speed and prepare to be boarded. Peter, old salt and as calm as ever, said in reply to my "how are they going to do this?" "Just keep going, Jeanne, they'll figure it out." Which of course they did, coming alongside in their RIB and smoothly jumping on board without our slowing down.

Very respectful of our boat, they did a safety check, made sure we had the necessary "no discharge" etc. notices posted, PFDs, etc., and were as chatty and sociable as could be. They told us they thought Watermelon was a pretty boat, that they were heading north to their base in (Virginia?) after picking up their brand-new cutter in Louisiana (I think - it's been a long time). The officer made no bones that we were being boarded as a training exercise for his crew. And you know what? After days of having only Peter to talk to, their presence was a welcome distraction. Their competence and expertise in boarding our vessle at no inconvenience to us was interesting to witness. When all was done they radioed for their RIB to come alongside and pick them up and they left as smoothly as they arrived.

HOW does anybody expect those responsible for our safety, be they police, fire, medical, rescue, or other professionals, if they don't have the opportunity to practice their craft in non-threatening situations?

We have been boarded by the USCG numerous times, probably twice a year these years we've been cruising up and down the East Coast. We not only do not consider it harassment, we rather enjoy the opportunity to meet with the local "constabulary" and (perhaps) show off a little.

We have not had any situation where we needed assistance from the Coast Guard, but we both want to be sure that if we do they will be as capable and helpful as anyone could wish for. That does not happen without practice and pride in their profession.

I bristle at cries of harassment towards professionals doing the job they have been trained to do, and that our country asks of them.

RANT OVER.

Fair winds,

Jeanne
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Old 09-26-2009, 09:03 PM   #2
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Hear! Hear!
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Old 09-27-2009, 08:32 AM   #3
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Good post Jeanne

I certainly understand anyone objecting to authorities misusing their powers but thankfully this is not a common occurrence in the western world. The latest edition of Yachting Monthly (October 2009) contains a letter sent in by a Mr. Stephen Williams in which he describes a heavy handed boarding by the UK Border Agency from their "menacing looking cutter". He and two other "gents" were boarded at sea off North Foreland whilst on a coastal passage. The Border Agency's boarding team asked for proof of identity but, as Mr. Williams wrote in his letter, "In UK waters I do not routinely carry proof of identity". He then became perturbed because the boarding officers demanded information such as destination, addresses, dates of birth etc.

Now in the "Williams case", what more can he expect when at sea? The entire coastline is an international border. Is it therefore unreasonable that the Border Agency makes a few checks on yachts? I suspect that he may also be one of the many British complaining about illegal immigration. One of the many who want stricter controls but think that these controls should apply to everyone else but himself.

I have had many dealings with UK Immigration and Customs (now the Border Agency) throughout the years and have always found their officers to be polite and friendly.

There will always be some people who habitually complain and, in some cases they are right. Some officers overstep the mark but, in general, coast guards, marine police, border guards etc. are normal people doing a difficult job for which they are not very well paid. They also see and deal with the less savoury aspects of society and, in so doing, protect and shield the average citizen from some of life's harsher realities.

Coast guards, police etc in normal democracies deserve to know when they do well and when they fall short of the mark. Both are necessary parts of the learning cycle. What they do not need is biased, unfounded criticism.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 09-27-2009, 11:39 AM   #4
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Excellent post Jeanne, I too agree wholeheartedly, and note that there is the rare occasion of misuse of power, but for all the good these guys do, protecting our shores, from illegal immigration, drugs, guns, and a multitude of other things, not to mention the idiot boaters that are drunk and disorderly and without any sort of safety gear, the occasional boarding is agreeable to me and in fact expected. I believe that if I do not get boarded at least once a year then I feel cheated. The people complain about their liberties and rights being misused and abused but these people are the first to cry foul when they are robbed, and dear god let them not run aground or be caught in a storm and the CG takes to long to rescue them (in their opinion). Ever had to listen to people whining and complaining about the security at airports these days, geez, it is for your own good people, there are bad guys out there, 9/11 proved that, how short is your memory. Spend 6 months in South Africa and go through metal detectors, get body searched and frisked every time you go into a shopping mall, then talk to me about the inconvenience of your personal space being violated, and again, never a complaint from me, I prefer to be inconvenienced than dead or worse yet, maimed for life. Maybe we should send the whiners to Afghanistan or Iraq and let them experience the terror of a suicide bomber.

RANT OFF as you so eloquently say

Gavin

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Old 09-27-2009, 05:11 PM   #5
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Good post, J

I wholeheartedly approve of security activities which achieve a goal--when the CG does a boarding they are checking safety equipment and often educating the boaters on safety requirements. This achieves an important goal in improving recreational boater safety here in the US where there are no boater licensing requirements nor recreational boat inspection requirements. In other countries with more stringent boater and boat license/inspection requirements it may not be so necessary.

On the other hand, here in the USA, many requirements of the Department of Homeland Security merely have the appearance of improving safety but do not do so. I really don't feel like getting into a discussion of airport security, but I do know that US DHS interactions are both intimidating and ineffective in achieving security goals. We are lucky that terrorists are, at the moment, a rare thing in the USA.

On the water, the only negative interaction I've ever had with a US Federal entity was with Homeland Security at about 2 am one night. They were zooming around at very high speed in a speed boat w/o nav lights in a fog bank . We thought they were drunk joyriders by their unsafe behavior. They would not respond to radio calls we made when we could tell (by the noise) they were on a collision path for us. We lit up the sails with spotlights and shined a spotlight in their direction--which go them to change direction and arc around so they came up along side us. They had us lit up with a bank of bright lights like daylight while they questioned us about who/where/when/why of our travel. They did not board (we would not have minded if they did so); they were professional in their questioning but totally unprofessional in shining spotlights on the boat in such a way that it was almost impossible to not lose one's night vision. We were sailing in very, very, very light winds and David, at the helm, was doing every thing he could to keep his eyes shielded and to keep his night vision while sailing the vessel as they came alongside and questioned us. The whole interaction was less than ideal and their unsafe behavior was disappointing to me.

I am hopeful that as the DHS matures it will become far more professional and that interactions with the public will be more like those of the USCG. In the meanwhile, I'm glad that the USCG continues to do their work in boarding vessels and helping to ensure recreational boater safety.
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Old 10-15-2009, 10:26 AM   #6
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Hi All, In Australia pariicularily in Queensland, You have the fisheries, Immigration, Customs and waterpolice all out for days harrassing any boat they find, and not being very nice about it as well. Was boarded 3 times in one week by the same people. Crazy

Because of a Magazine Called Coastal Passage ( it has a website) complaining and having articles post of yachties experience they have changed their attitude and since about 6 Months ago, they have had a make over ( got rid of a few nasty ill informed staff) Things are a lot better, I objected their climbing on board no if buts or maybe, Immigration boarding within smooth waters??? Australian registered yacht?? any way they are a lot nicer and friendly and they are now boaties who know about the water sailing and general seamanship, Don't mind them at all NOW

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