A few weeks ago I headed out to Santa Cruz Island in a light breeze–a rather boring breeze in fact. I was relaxing in the sun twirling my thumbs when I heard a voice barely come through over channel 16: “Hello…I need help.” I jumped below, turned up the volume, and heard it again, impatiently singsongy, “Hello, somebody, I need help.” That was all he said.
I was about to respond to his call when the Coast Guard came in: “This is the United States Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles hailing the vessel calling for help–are you in distress?” A few seconds later, the unidentified caller responded, “Somebody…we need help…we need somebody to bring us more gas.”
Oh for the love, I thought. With nothing better to do, I eavesdropped on the rest of the conversation, which included the Coast Guard trying (in vain) to a.) get any sort of identifying information on the boat, b.) get the guy to swtich to a different channel and call Vessel Assist instead, and c.) give his position. I was almost laughing by the time the Coast Guard officer was saying “okay sir, you’re going to see a 33 number and a 118 number… I need you to tell me what those are.”
This poor fellow was only a mile or so from the beach, and clearly had no idea what he was doing. I was laughing only because I knew the Coast Guard wouldn’t let him wash ashore, but on the other hand, I was amazed that people like that are allowed to go out boating. Despite the Coast Guard’s efforts to switch to a working channel, the ridiculous conversation tied up 16 for about twenty minutes–what if someone else really had been in distress?
ASA has long made sailing education accessible, effective, and fun, but now that we’ve teamed up with BoaterExam.com, there’s absolutely no excuse for not knowing the pointy end from the square end. By taking BoaterExam’s ONLINE education course and earning your Boater Education Card, you can make our waterways safer, avoid state licensing fines, and even entitle yourself to reduced marine insurance.
So if you can’t find time for a hands-on course with ASA (although you should make time; you’re missing out!), you can still become a responsible skipper by earning your Boater Education Card from home. Find out more information at http://asa.com/education_card.html. Copy that!