23 November 2013

The Devil in the Chartroom.

I'm sure I've gone on about EPIRBs, SSB and all the other acronyms that people load their boats down with, so that they can bleat for help when things go wrong, they get seasick, or it all just gets too wet and uncomfortable.  You will gather I don't have a lot of time for them.

If you decide to go wandering over the sea in a small boat, it is ridiculous to think you have a right to be baled out when it all goes to custard.  Fair enough when you're pottering around the coast within VHF (or mobile phone!) range: the boys and girls who come to pick you up will probably enjoy the challenge and it won't cost the taxpayer too much money.  But to institute a full Search and Rescue in the middle of the ocean is really making yourself out to be far more important than you actually are.  I'm sure the world will continue to turn and society (more or less) to function without your valuable input; just accept your fate and drown like a gentleman.  All that money spent on picking you up out of the 'oggin could be much better spent on a lot more people who are actively contributing to society.

The latest in the line of devices to help you bale out, are the little trackers that normally-self-sufficient sailors are adding to their boats.  The theory is that friends and relatives will be able to follow them across the ocean, so that everyone can feel 'in touch'.  And, supposedly, said friends and rellies won't be worrying.  Yeah right.  This year, two of my friends fitted these devices and, in my opinion, the results have been from bad to disastrous.

One friend's device stopped transmitting for the simple and sufficient reason that there was no money left in the account.  Those following his track, instantly went into panic mode and only the fact that they first debated the issue prevented them from contacting the Coastguard to 'see if they had heard anything'.  How could they have?  The self-sufficient friend in question does not carry an SSB.  Needless to say, a few days later, he turned up safe and sound explaining why he'd 'gone off the air'.  Now the damn transmitter is playing up again.  He's had enough and it's soon to be on its way to the recycler.  Friends and family will just have to go back to the good old days of hearing nothing of him when he chooses to traverse an ocean, and he can go back to enjoying his peace and quiet.

The incident with the second friend was far worse.  These wretched transmitters allow you to send wee text messages and, of course, your location.  So you can shout for help.  Now my friend had had some truly horrendous weather, he was getting very tired; he'd had a few issues with water ingress and rig malfunction.  All things he has dealt with in the past.  He had a little device on board with a blinking light that said to him 'You don't need to carry on with this, you know.'  They should be fitted with horns and a pitchfork, for they are surely little devils in disguise.  If you can't give up, you won't, but the devil spake and he was tempted.  So he called for help and, in due course, along came a ship and, when the wind had moderated to less than 45 knots (the conditions were appalling) he was picked up.  He was very nearly crushed during the transfer from perfectly seaworthy yacht to the large ship and his brave little boat, that had looked after him loyally for tens of thousands of miles, survived being lifted up and repeatedly flung against the steel hull of the huge vessel alongside, and was last seen drifting disconsolately into the murk.

My friend has physical injuries that will take months to heal.  As for the mental ones: 'I can't believe, now, that I felt things were so bad that I needed to abandon the boat.'

As Bill Tilman once said: 'we were distressed, but we weren't in distress'.

Without that little devil, my friend would probably be happily anchored near waving palm trees, the storms a fading memory and doing some minor repairs to his stout little ship.  Now,because of that devil's insidious influence, he has lost his uninsured home, his joy and his freedom to roam the world.


  1. I feel really sad for your friend.

  2. Hi Missee Lee,

    Yikes... tales to make yer blood run cold! I hope your second friend is recovered and underway, again. A beauty of small and simple is the ability to bounce.

    We (Anke and I) just stumbled upon your blog, and have now read all your posts, which we thoroughly enjoyed!

    We're hoping no news is good news, but also that you keep posting. The world needs more of your perspective!

    Fair winds, wherever they've blown you,

    Dave and Anke

  3. And I've been looking at Triloboats before now - a lot of ideas I like a lot. TEOTWAWKI is a different kettle of fish. I'm not a survivalist - I can't see myself scraping a living when it all goes to hell. I hope I shall have the courage to retire gracefully from the world as I know it and let the stronger elements continue the human race. In the meantime I - and I'm sure you two - am enjoying what's left of it and doing my best not to speed the end too quickly.