Monday, October 22, 2007

Book Review: Public Safety Diving

A friend of mine recently gave me a book as a gift, "Public Safety Diving" by Walt Butch Hendrick & Andrea Zaferes. While this book was written for government agencies like fire/rescue and law enforcement, it offers some excellent advice that pertains to those of us engaged in wreck removal and salvage diving. The sections on equipment, back-up divers, and effective search techniques are especially useful and enlightening. Scroll down to order from

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mangled MARBs

So there I am, cruising (perhaps I should say "toodling"?) down the coast of New Jersey, and I'm bored, so I follow a call for assistance over to channel 22. As I listen to the confusion only the CG seems capable of adding to a simple non-emergency assistance case, I nearly fell off the helm chain when I heard CG Atlantic City ask for the mariner's BOAT/US membership number!

Perhaps the CG would like to mail out the renewal notices from now on? This was not just a matter of getting lost in the MARB flow chart; the word "membership" does not exist in the policy, and I for one think we should insist that it remain that way. The USCG is not your dispatcher, they shouldn't offer to be your dispatcher, and you shouldn't ask them to be your dispatcher. With the exception of some rare cases with very difficult communications, the CG should not be requesting membership information from disabled boaters.

As long as we're on the subject, here is another peeve of mine: "Do you have commercial salvage?" I hear that question from the Coast Guard to disabled mariners far too often. Invariably, the question is asked at some point during what should be a nice, clean-cut MARB proceedure. Is is just me, or are the CG radio operators getting really sloppy?

First of all, "Do you have commercial salvage" isn't even grammatically correct. One could have a contract with a commercial salvor, and one could have a membership with a commercial assitance organization, but salvage is a verb (the word commercial is just a modifier), its not something you could own or 'have', which would be a noun.

The problem is that even if I cut them some grammatical slack (less than my 4th grade english teacher would have), a MARB has nothing whatsoever to do with membership. The criteria is pretty simple: emergency or NON-emergency. The MSAP decision flow chart is completely void of any mention of cost, financial arrangements, memberships, etc; and correctly so. Once the CG has determined that they are not responding, they should ask the following:

"Is there a friend, marina or commercial assistance provider you would like us to contact on your behalf?" (see USCG SAR Mission Coordinator Maritime Assistance Decision Flow Chart).

The industry has worked hard to differentiate between salvage and non-emergency towing and assistance. Indeed, the memberships expressly exclude salvage services. The question "do you have commercial salvage" not only obliterates that difference, but the term salvage is one that today's recreational boater has been taught is a threatening idea that should be avoided at all costs. And now, when all they need is a simple jump start, here is the US Coast Gaurd suggesting that they need salvage?

Next time you hear "Do you have commercial salvage?", make a very friendly call to the watch commander and remind them to try and follow the MSAP more closely.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Good Sam Claim

This story in the Ludington Daily News should be worth following. It seems a good Samaritan is seeking a 20% award for towing an unattended and adrift sailboat to safety.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Held to a "Higher Standard"

Have you seen this story about a pleasure boat that was run over by a tug & barge? Once again, I have to begin with a disclaimer that I don't know any more about this situation than what I have read in the media.

There are a few things here that I think are worthy of comment. The first is that the CG has decided that they will not "take any action against" the owner of the pleasure boat, who was anchored within a marked navigation channel. According to the story, the tug & barge had enough room to avoid hitting the pleasure boat. Okay, I buy that. The tug & barge crew will have trouble defending their actions.

Here is the part that bothers me: by not taking action against the pleasure boat, isn't the CG sending a message that its okay for pleasure boats to anchor in marked channels? Keeping the big guys and little guys separated should be a huge concern for the CG, and in my opinion, the CG should expect the little guys to do their part.

I have to assume that this case will result in some huge wrongful death lawsuit against the tug company. If the CG officially takes a stand and says the pleasure boat was partially at fault, will that diminish the chances of a huge settlement to the family of the deceased? That would paint the CG with a very un-flattering brush, making them seem cruel and un-sympathetic.

Which brings me to the second point.

"They're not professional mariners," he added. "We hold the licensed mariner to a higher standard; they are operating a commercial vessel."

Suppose the opposite was true? Would the CG be taking action against the pleasure boater if they found out he holds a 100T license? Not a chance. The reason they are not taking action is that somebody died, and the CG feels its their job to find a guilty party. So don't tell me this is about holding people to higher standards.