What Were They Thinking?

Once again the Coast Guard rushes to the rescue of what appeared to be dumb and dumber and dumber and dumber yet. These four men in a 22 foot boat must have gone through their predeparture checklist as follows:

  • File a float plan – Nope didn’t do that.
  • Have a VHF radio onboard to call for help if necessary – Nope didn’t do that either. Is that the same as a CB radio?
  • Have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) – Nope, what is that anyway.
  • Have a working cell phone onboard – Nope, it wouldn’t work that far out anyway.
  • Decided it would be a good idea to take a 22-foot fishing boat 70 miles offshore – Sure, why not?
  • Made sure that there was plenty of fuel onboard to go that far out and back with 1/3 in reserve for emergency – Nope, actually didn’t even think about the amount of fuel that might be needed.

If you think the above scenario is funny or tongue-in-cheek, it is not. The following is the actual press release issued by the Coast Guard. Does anyone think it’s time to send a bill for the rescue to people who are rescued because of very bad judgement?

By the way, running out of gas is not considered an emergency but they could have at least contacted the Coast Guard who could have dispatched a private towing company to take them fuel. That would probably be a large bill to pay but a lot less than scrambling helicopters, planes and Cutters.

CAPE MAY — The Coast Guard rescued four people after the 22-foot fishing boat they were aboard ran out of gas 70 miles east of Cape May, Sunday.

The Coast Guard received a call at approximately 1:05 p.m. from the spouse of one of the people aboard stating her husband was to be home at 3.p.m. Saturday and he had not yet returned. His truck and trailer were still parked at the boat ramp they left from.

A HH-65 Helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., an HC-130J aircraft crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mako arrived on scene and continued to search for the people throughout the night.

At approximately 10:20 p.m. the HC-130J crew spotted the vessel through their multi-mode radar, which is an advanced operational radar system. After they picked up the initial target with the system, they were able to arrive to the location where the cream-colored vessel was spotted with four people aboard. The crew of the Mako was diverted to the area, launched their small boat, and rescued all four people.

A crew from Coast Guard Station Cape May moored the vessel at Spicer’ s boat ramp.

It was also reported the 22-foot vessel did not have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, and did not have a VHF radio aboard or a working cell phone.

“We were fortunate to find them,” said Capt. Todd Gatlin, Captain Of the port for Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia. “We received conflicting information on when they departed, where they might fish, when they were scheduled to return and even how many people were on board the boat. In fact, our initial searches, based off earlier information about where they had planned on going, was north of where the boat was eventually found. We shifted our search efforts and eventually found them only after talking to one of their friends who had previously fished with them. A float plan detailing who was on board and where they planned to go, with a schedule, would have helped tremendously. Additionally, an EPIRB, which could have been activated once they ran into trouble, would have allowed us to go right to them. We located these fishermen because of the outstanding investigative work our Command Center personnel put in and the superb search efforts of our personnel in the air and on the water. This case could have turned out much worse.”

The Coast Guard urges mariners to outfit their boat with a functioning marine-band radio. Using channel 16 on a marine-band radio is the most reliable way to communicate distress to search and rescue personnel in the event of an emergency while on the water. Cell phones are not a reliable means of communication while on the water due to gaps in coverage and limited battery life.

The Coast Guard also urges boaters to make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are on board your vessel. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.

Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and you should keep a watchful eye on the forecasted conditions.

Have nautical charts of the area you are boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication on board your vessel.

Wear your life jacket! More than 90 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.


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Filed under Boat Operation, Boating News, Boating Safety

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