Idiot in a Rowboat Rescued in the Ocean

Does the person attempting to row across the ocean have to pay the USCG for the rescue when the inevitable rescue happens?

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Seems like the rescue isn’t inevitable:

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I rescued such a fellow many years ago.

Warning *** Old war story alert ***

Peter Bird rowed his boat, HELE ON BRITTANIA from San Francisco to Australia in 1983. He got to the Great Barrier Reef (about 9 months later) and the wind was howling with rough seas so he couldn’t row, which he needed to do if he was to navigate through any gap in the reef. He decided he needed help.

I was just working up my first command, the patrol boat HMAS BENDIGO off Cairns. The ship had not been declared operational but I was despatched to find him. He had good positions from sat nav but they had to be radioed to him at planned schedules ie no on-board readout. He was hove to with a sea anchor drifting NW with the prevailing SE trade winds.

I got to his last known position late at night and called on VHF. We eventually established comms and I proceeded downwind searching. I calculated he had until a bit after sunrise to be rescued before he was on the reef with massive swell and surf he was sure to die. His boat was undetectable by radar in those conditions so we shot 81mm mortar star shells up at intervals and asked if he could see them. No every time. These things are visible for miles and stay up for a minute or so but he was often surrounded by mountainous seas.

Just after first light I fired my last star shell less than half a mile from the reef. We spoke. No, he hadn’t seen it. I didn’t tell him I had no more. I turned to my crew and said, ‘He’s dead.’ Just then he came on excitedly saying he could see the smoke trail the star shell left. I got him to take a bearing and I powered along the reciprocal. He was barely half a mile to windward when finally seen by my lookouts (everyone on deck).

I convinced him he had no hope of rowing to a gap, surviving the reef surf or sitting it out at sea anchor. We could see the surf (shooting 30 - 50 feet in the air) but he couldn’t. He asked to come aboard and we got him up and tried to tow his boat but he’d broken the rudder in disembarking and with my minimum speed of about 8 knots at dead slow on one engine, the boat continually tried to capsize. So we got a bit clear, he got his logs and phots etc off and we towed some more until the eye bolt on his bow pulled out under the strain. There was nothing else to attach a tow to and my ship was still in danger so we watched her hit the reef and go over. She broke in two and remarkably both bits survived to wash up ashore on the mainland many miles away. Each end had a Satnav transponder, so they were easily found.

I could have done with a VHF direction finder. The ship, after all, was brand new. I later toured a scungy prawn trawler whose skipper I was drinking with in remote Bartalumba Bay (a frontiersville settlement in the Gulf of Carpentaria) who wanted to see all my new hi-tech stuff. He was disgusted. So he showed me his. He had everything I didn’t, two or three of them, and in colour too.

Anyway, I passed my search and rescue assessment for operational readiness without further tests. And the admiral gave me a pat on the head as he got to go on national TV and say how he’d made this rescue.



I thought that you were just labeling another risk taker as a complacent idiot. Then I got to this bit:

Yeah, let’s set out on a slow transatlantic passage with no backup plan if the GPS fails, that sounds like a good idea. :roll_eyes:

As for your (rhetorical?) question, I think making rescuees pay if their predicament seemed unnecessary is the wrong way to go. That way leads to a a slippery slope that ends in mandatory rescue insurance, finishing one of our greatest altruistic traditions.

I used to think idiot hiker-wannabe’s should be charged for their rescues when they go out on the trail wearing Crocs, with no food, water, gear or protective clothing. But a fellow hiker changed my opinion on the subject. His logic was, if hikers in danger were charged for their rescues people who needed help would be hesitant to ask for it & many would probably wait until it was too late. More fatalities & negative incidents would occur, the public & media would give hiking more negative publicity, the park services would implement more needless red-tape & restrictive policies to hike, less people would use the trails because of the bad press & less future advocates would be telling their Congressmen to fund the park services. All of these points could be used against the idea of charging recreational boaters for their rescues. And besides, a lot of young, gun-hoe USCG personnel get a kick out of doing these rescues & it is good practice for them.

I like this detail, row across and you get a certificate from the “official adjudicator”. So if you have one of the pre-1981certs and some one shows you one after 1981…

We need something like that on here, so we don’t have to keep retelling the story of how we navigated across the N. Pacific using nothing but a broken pencil stub and a soggy piece of cardboard, in winter.

Up hill both ways?

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If I had a certificate I could just post it.