scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: THE PFD QUESTION
Mon May 22 2000 - 15:00:32 CDT
Captain James A. Umberger, USCG (Ret.), the immediate past
National Sea Scout Commodore, sent this along. I think that it
answers the practical problem of wearing PFDs. All Sea Scout, Tiger
cub, Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout and Venturing Leaders
should take notice.
Capn Jim said:
I thought all of you would benefit from reading the Commandant
of the United States Coast Guard's remarks for the kick-off of Safe
Admiral James M. Loy
2000 North American Safe Boating Campaign Kick-off
May 18, 2000
Mark Twain once relayed a dramatic situation in which a playful
young child removed an old hunting piece from above the family
mantle piece and jokingly pointed it at his grandmother. The
grandmother, playing along, pretended to cower in fear. The boy
held his grandmother in mock terror for several minutes and then,
in one fateful instant . . .
he pulled the trigger. The boy assumed the gun was unloaded.
He assumed it would not fire. He assumed that no harm would ensue
from his innocent game. And, Twain tells us, he was right. The
gun clicked and grandmother laughed. Even so, Twain warns us,
this incident was the only time he had ever heard of a boy not
killing a female relation with a rusty old unloaded weapon.
We make a lot of unwarranted assumptions about safety.
I'm going to kick off the 2000 North American Safe Boating Campaign
with a story about one of those assumptions: the assumption made
by millions of boaters that they will not unexpectedly go swimming.
On March 28th of this year, a Coast Guard seaman named Joshua
Wallace was making a routine round of the Coast Guard Cutter
Gallatin. It was four-thirty in the morning, just at the beginning
of morning twilight.
The cutter was on a routine patrol, steaming gently along in light
seas south of Haiti in the Caribbean Sea.
Joshua had a lot to look forward to. It was three days until his
24th birthday, and he was in the process of applying for advanced
training in aviation. He had scheduled a vision test during the
ship's next port call as part of that application process. But
first, he had to walk out on the bow of his ship, briefly check
the anchor gear, and continue his round.
Joshua had no plans to go swimming that morning. He assumed that
he was perfectly safe. And, from a safety management perspective,
Joshua had better grounds than 99.99% of all recreational boaters
for making that assumption.
After all, the bow of a 378-foot long high endurance cutter
affords vastly more manoeuvring room than recreational boaters
ever enjoy on their much smaller vessels. The forward deck is a
much more stable platform than recreational boaters will ever
experience, even tied up at a marina and the life lines on a
Coast Guard cutter are higher and stronger than those that serve
as the last line of defence for those few recreational boaters
whose craft are large enough to be rigged with any life lines
Furthermore. Joshua was well trained better trained than most
recreational boaters. He had been in the Coast Guard for more
than a year, had completed eight weeks basic training, spent ten
months at sea, and qualified for several watch standing positions
on his ship.
He knew his business.
Like the boy in Mark Twain's story, Joshua assumed there was no
danger. Unlike the boy with the gun, however, Joshua was wrong.
As near as we can reconstruct what happened, Joshua tripped over
a deck fitting and hurtled through the air. He either cleared
the life lines entirely or else he passed between the top two
rungs. Either way, he landed in the water.
By the time he resurfaced, spat out the salt water, and called
for help, the ship had already sailed out of hailing range.
Nobody saw it. Nobody heard it. In fact, nobody noticed Joshua
was missing for more than an hour.
Imagine the loneliness of watching your ship sail placidly away
from you while you tread water 200 miles from the nearest land.
When his shipmates found out Joshua was missing, they turned
around to retrace their route, launched a helicopter, and called
for a C-130 aeroplane to fly over from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to
join the search.
The tough part of being in the search-and-rescue business while
searching for a friend is that you know exactly how hard it is
to spot an object as small as a human head in a vast expanse
of ocean. It is nearly impossible, and the glare of the morning
sunlight makes it even more difficult.
We searched for ten hours. And this time . . . we got lucky.
The C-130 spotted Joshua, dropped a smoke float, and vectored
the ship over to retrieve an exhausted, sunburned, and
dehydrated-but living-Joshua Wallace from the water.
Joshua stayed alive in the open ocean for ten hours for one
reason and one reason only: he had put on his life jacket
before walking out on deck.
Even though he reasonably assumed that he was perfectly safe, he
protected himself against the one-in-a-million chance that he
would accidentally fall in the water during a routine round on
a calm night. It saved his life.
Our theme for the North America Safe Boating Campaign is "Boat
Smart from the Start. Wear Your Life Jacket!"
Joshua Wallace was smart. And he is alive. Nearly 90% of the
people who drowned in boating accidents last year would also be
alive today if they too had boated smart from the start.
Let's work together-with Snoopy and Theodore Tugboat
[promotional characters introduced earlier in the campaign
kick-off ceremony]-to get that message to every boater in
America this week!