October 15, 2013

Manners makyth boaters

IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED to me that I should write a column about radio etiquette for boaters.  You know, how to be politically correct on your VHF radio. I have rejected the idea because it is so boring.

I mean, everybody knows you don’t tell your mates on Channel 16 how you’ve just pumped out your holding tank in the middle of the yacht basin. Everybody knows not to ask the Coast Guard for a radio check, because it makes them so mad. Everybody knows you never end a conversation with “over and out.” If it’s over it’s not out. Jeez, make up your mind.

One thing that might not be so well known is that you should hold the microphone about two or three inches from your lips and talk briskly in a deep, gruff, macho voice.  You see, the same VHF channels that you use are also used by loggers, fishermen, rum runners, tugboat skippers and Somali pirates.  These are tough guys, and they can hear you when you’re calling your yacht-club friends anchored nearby on Happy Daze to come on over for sundowners. You don’t want those tough guys out there to think you’re effeminate, or a pushover, or unable to resist a boatload of hairy party-crashers. You need to sound tough, too.

I can’t vouch for this, but a macho voice on the radio might also just dissuade the Coasties from boarding you for a potty inspection. When they call you on Channel 16 and say they’re going to board you, ask the nice officer if he once signed a statement swearing to uphold the Constitution of the United States. When he says yes (because they all have to, you know) ask him why he’s contravening the Fourth Amendment, which states that he can’t board and search your boat without a warrant from a judicial official; and that your right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and that he needs probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, describing the boat to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. Says so right there in the Constitution, officer.

They’ll board you, of course. At gunpoint, if necessary. They don’t worry about contravening the Fourth Amendment because they have the backing of the Pentagon and those bums in Congress, who will knowingly ignore the Constitution when it suits their own ends and when the negligible number of votes from the yachting fraternity is not going to affect their chances of re-election.

Apart from that, all I can add is that you should never mention on Channel 16 the name of any boat called M’Aidez.  When I was young and naive — well, that is, even more naive than I am now — I named my racing dinghy M’Aidez.  I thought it was deliciously chic, not to mention absolutely hilarious. (I told you I was naive.)

We raced offshore in those days, and the results of races were sent to the beach party from the committee boat by VHF radio.  It didn’t take long for everyone to discover that whenever my boat’s name was mentioned in the results, every marine radio operator within listening distance pricked up his ears and prepared for action.

God knows what would have happened if I’d ever needed to be rescued and somebody had broadcast a Mayday for M’Aidez.

Today’s Thought
For as laws are necessary that good manners may be preserved, so there is need of good manners that laws may be maintained.
— Machiavelli, Dei Discorsi

 A Hollywood film unit hired a public relations officer for a movie they were making in Africa.
The director explained: “Your job is to promote goodwill.  So be sure to humor the locals. If they say Africa is bigger than Texas, don’t argue. Agree with them.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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