Monday, 4 June 2012

Auxillary Coast Guard... less than just a name

Close to where Jennie and I are from, two Coast Guard Auxiliary members, a volunteer position, died in a training mission. This is incredibly sad, but sadly shows that you get what you pay for. The area was the renowned Skoocumchuck narrows, where the current reaches up to 16 knots creating a standing breaking wave tall enough to surf. The training mission took 4 members through the narrows at about peak ebb in their 25 ft Zodiac Hurricane inflatable, which are incredibly stable seaworthy boats. They flipped it and two crew swam away from the boat and floated to safety, while the other two were under the boat. The real coast guard looked for them, and eventually found them under the hull dead. This is incredibly sad for the families, but was avoidable.

After some research Jennie and I found out all you need is a boaters operating card, a basic radio course, and basic first aid to be a volunteer, wow..... We have met some of these volunteers, and one was bragging how they would go teach boating safety drunk. They do many training exercises which ultimately end in potlucks ad drinking.  To me it is an abused institution where ego comes first.

This brings me to the point of the sea has no room for egos. Jennie and I are very cautious and are extra diligent when we do anything on the ocean. We have found ourselves in poor situations with help being too expensive (commercial towing off a sand bar), or hundreds of miles away, we learn to fix our own problems. When a coast guard boat, designed for its stability, capsizes and kills half the crew within a few hundred meters of shore there is only one thing to blame, ego.

Any one who thinks riding in a tidal rage with a 16 knot current is good training is an idiot, especially when there is a 5 knot current immediately beside. The only people who ride waves like that are off the Columbia Bar in 50ft self righting million dollar plus lifeboats manned by professionals, and with helicopter back up. Plus from a lifesaving point of view, rule number one is don't put your life or the lives of others in peril to save someone, especially if that someone is not real. The thing with a rage is it will spit you out eventually, so from a life saving point of view, wait at the exit. That is what the locals who dragged the Auxiliary Coast Guard survivors to safety did. I am just confused why the volunteer coast guard is putting bystanders at risk to save them from a very poor decision.

Jennie has years of life guarding and specialized water rescue training and experience, and is highly qualified in first aid; I grew up around the water and learned to respect it's power through generations of family who made their living from the sea. We do our best to stay away from trouble, not go looking for it. In our opinion, the volunteers should leave real issues to the professionals, and stick to towing boats with clogged fuel filter back to the dock. You get what you pay for, and giving fancy expensive toys to volunteers so they can massage their ego is a waste of money. Pay some professionals to do it, and charge the ego driven boaters for the service.

Local News Article


SV Pelagia said...

Too bad the Harper conservative government is seriously cutting funding, resulting is cuts to the professional Canada Coast Guard (Vancouver's Kitsilano Coast Guard Station is still slated to close at the end of the Summer).

Dave and Jennie said...

If people are prepared for the worst and take the ocean a bit more seriously the Coast Guard would be less busy. The cuts are to get rid of over paid bureaucracy, they are not reducing the amount of boats, just the amount of office chairs. In fact didn't they just tender 8 billion in contracts to seaspan in North Van for new CG cutters. Anyways, it's bad when the real CG has to save the volunteers from such an obvious poor decision. That to me is a waste of money.

SV Pelagia said...

"not reducing the amount of boats"...

Having the boats moved from Kitsilano and to the Fraser River -- far away from English Bay/Burrard Inlet/Howe Sound (where they are most typically needed) is NOT simply getting rid of over paid bureaucracy.

The way DFO (and especially the CCG) have been cut over the past years/decades, I doubt there is much in the way of too many office chairs etc. Buy perhaps we have different viewpoints.

(As for the new shipbuilding tenders, as far as I know, the numbers and functions of the new ship tenders are not yet known -- except that the first ship Seaspan will build appears to be a Fisheries research vessel.)

Dave and Jennie said...

Blaming the current government for trying to alter course on 40 years of poor fiscal decisions is a little nieve. The government of Canada is broke, and oil revenues can only keep an inflated bureaucracy afloat for so long. There are other professionals in Vancouver Harbour who can assist vessels in "distress", rcmp, harbour patrol, sea-tow. It is better the heli crew is available to pull CG volunteers out of rapids they shouldn't have gone into in the first place, than bridge jumpers and drunk boaters get rescued.

SV Pelagia said...

Well, that was an insightful response....

I do appreciate it that you have published our conversation, even though we clearly differ in our political/social viewpoints (other bloggers sometimes choose only to show comments that are more in agreement with their own).

The CDN government is more and more depending upon the volunteer auxiliary coast guard (indeed, just this morning, a minister stated this re the closing of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station) -- based on your original post, I assumed you would disagree with this move; but perhaps I was wrong.

Hopefully, you and I can agree on our high respect for the men and women professionals on the water and in the communication centres in the Canadian Coast Guard.

Of course self-reliance and full and proper preparation are essential, but they are not always sufficient nor are difficulties always predictable. Hopefully you or us do not find ourselves in distress on the water (regardless of our mental status at the time) in the future without access to a rapid response to our troubles.

I'll close my comments here on this topic,and will continue enjoying reading your blog.

Dave and Jennie said...

There are lots of people who share your view point. And in a perfect world there would be no aux CG because they would all be paid pros. But as a country we are broke and need to make tough cuts. The Kits station is one of the least useful stations, so it goes first. This cannot be blamed on the government without consideration that the government acts on behalf of the people, otherwise we would they might risk not getting voted in. We do need more professional Coast Guard presence, and less volunteers, but unfortunately we have no money and they are low on the priority list. Much of the void could be filled by private companies at the cost of the individual and maybe that would cause people to double check, or think twice before making a distress call. Most things on the water can be solved before professional help is required, but inexperienced boaters with big egos don't prepare and waste resources, which is what happens most of the time in Vancouver Harbour. I guess I'm just a tough love kinda guy.

Ron said...

Hey Dave and Jennie, I read your blog post on the CGAux incident and although I agree with your points in general, the fact that I personally knew one of the gals involved, makes your comments a bit sharp. Its easy to judge from an armchair, or a boat in the carib. : ) The other half of that is I am a boat towing professional ( )and it gets frustrating watching the USCGAux take work away from us here locally. Seems that the gov should be promoting business, not giving fuel away to volunteers that are taking our income away. I calculated that one particular Aux operator takes about $27,000 from us on a yearly basis. ouch! My wife and I thought of starting a version of our boat towing company up in B.C. where she calls home, but we would not even consider it until the Aux is hobbled so we can make a living.
We wish you fair winds and following seas!

Dave and Jennie said...

Ron, the hard part when we lose someone close to us for stupid reasons is we hide the reason to protect those we lost and those still around. The solution is dialogue. I lost my brother in November, he made some stupid decisions and it killed him, does this make him a bad person or a stupid person, absolutely not. But was he stupid doing what he did, absolutely. I grew up around these waters and that current at full flow is no place for a boat, so they did make a wrong decision going into it, yes a very bad choice.

Also the thing that gets me about volunteers, especially middle age or older on the water, is they have hidden agendas, inflated egos, or are closet wanna be heroes. Young people might just be looking for career experience, but old people..... They just put a new $500k boat at the dock by my house and kicked out the water taxi who in reality does 75% of the rescues requiring immediate help in the area. So much can be said on the subject.

In noo way did I mean to tarnish the two women's names, just bring up a point that the CGAux are trying to be heroes, when what we need on the water is common sense.