Questions CG's judgment

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, August 05, 2004

I was recently a visitor in your lovely town off a cruise ship and had the occasion to go on a kayak excursion. We were north of Juneau in a group of 40-plus kayaks, seemingly all beginners. The outfitter had a chase boat on hand to help anyone who decided to roll their kayak and to help an unfortunate to keep from dying from hypothermia. One could imagine that having a safety boat on hand lessened the fear of first-time kayaking in the ocean.

In the middle of the excursion, our guide was radioed to come at once to where the safety boat was because the U.S. Coast Guard demanded that someone in authority deal with a violation of nautical rules.

Our guide kept us all in a close group and we proceeded to paddle the mile to the Coast Guard boat that was hove to next to the safety boat. As we stood by, our guide was told that the safety boat lacked certain safety items, namely, throwable life cushions, a fire extinguisher, and a flare gun signal device. Being in violation, the safety boat needed to go ashore immediately and had to come into compliance with the marine safety rules at once.

The safety boat speed to shore, and the Coast Guard left and there we were, all alone, a mile out and no safety boat, 40-some beginners floating there in the sound, like bobbers. Being a licensed seaman and Great Lakes boater I know very well the maritime rules and the Coast Guardsmen were correct and lenient in not issuing a citation. But to leave all those novice kayakers out there alone was to me a big error on the part of the Coast Guard. I could Imagine some skipper on a Coast Guard boat who was raised in Kansas shipping to a Mayday distress call only to tell the survivors in the water that they had to be in compliance to be saved.

Richard Weiss

St. Ignace, Mich.

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