Volunteers keep us all safe

By Roger Moroney

I have been out on the big deep ocean many times. On three occasions I have been out there when serious storms were up and running.

Now I don't mind rough weather at sea, in fact, I quite enjoy it, but on one occasion aboard a modest sailing ship there were a couple of "uh oh" moments which had me wondering how far we were from land.

Turned out to be about half a nautical mile ... directly below us under raging seas.

Out offshore, when Mother Nature or King Neptune decide to apply their hands to the conditions then you are absolutely at their mercy.

Add in a sail or power failure, a broken or lost oar or an injury, then the recipe gets a little more complicated and dicey.

So who you gonna call?

Well, the Coastguard is a pretty good start.

I was talking to a member of the Hawke's Bay Volunteer Coastguard a couple of days ago and mentioned that back before the mid-'80s when they started up (in a very modest way) those in peril on the sea of Hawke Bay placed their SOS hopes on the nearest fishing trawler.

Today, the ever-evolving volunteer service has grown into something everyone in the Bay, and not just those who take to the sea, can be justifiably proud of.

The community has supported Coastguard and staffs its impressive response boat, communications, logistics, training and well, everything.

For an island nation, usually blessed with clement weather during springs and summers, having a dedicated marine rescue and assistance service is absolutely vital.

When boats break down and things go wrong you need a maritime version of a tow-truck and, when things turn real bad, a St John Ambulance.

Coastguard does that, but effectively and on an unpredictable budget.

At the end of last year, Government funding for the Coastguard Association was cut by $340,000 a year - a $1 million chunk in the next three years.

The figure was minimal anyway, as it costs about $10 million a year for the national Coastguard service to operate.

It relies on donations, public appeals and grants.

They have to pay rates and leases, maintenance costs, equipment costs, communication upgrade costs ... it's a blessing that so many people volunteer their time to do the hard yards.

Across the entire coastline last year volunteers put in nearly 350,000 hours, attending to an average of nine calls a day.

Think about it ... what would have happened to those people on the end of the call-outs if there was no Coastguard - no ready and willing volunteers to pitch in for them?

We have a beautiful coastline here along the Bay which we can enjoy, onshore and offshore.

And we are heading into the season when it attracts more to it.

Those who take to the sea should take several things with them. A reliable radio or communications system, lifejackets, a timetable of their journey which they have logged with someone ashore ... and gratitude that if something goes awry there is someone there to respond.

To all the Bay's Coastguard "vollies" ... good on you.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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