September 21, 2016

When might ain't right

AUSTRALIANS cruising under sail have developed a well-earned reputation for contempt of authority. One lovely example I came across involved an Aussie yacht and an American warship.

Not many of us realize it, but American warships roam freely over all the oceans of the world, bossing other vessels around, including small sailboats.

I myself was highly indignant when, in a British-flagged 30-footer, I was stopped by a U.S. guided missile cruiser while I was minding my own business in international waters 200 miles off Puerto Rico, en route from the British Virgin Islands to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was sailing with my wife and my 17-year-old son.

The 548-foot-long USS Wainwright came roaring down on us out of the path of the sun and scared the life out of us. They made us all line up in the cockpit and grilled us about who we were, where we were going, what passports we held, and a whole lot more. They had no good reason to stop us, and they had no right to ask those questions. We were angry and resentful, but we were so intimidated we didn’t even dare take a photograph of them.

But the Aussies, aboard the 45-foot steel ketch Hinewa in their own waters, weren’t so easily intimidated. Here’s what they reported on a sailing bulletin board:

“We were off the Queensland coast, just outside the exclusion zone for a joint Aussie/U.S. landing exercise — just around dinner time. The weather was pretty dull so we decided to heave to for the meal and watch the show by eye, night-vision glasses, and radar.
“All of a sudden, ‘American Warship 123’ challenged us on Channel 16 by name, warned that we were close to the exclusion zone and that the boat would be seized if we entered it — and asked our intentions.
“We thanked them for the call, explained we were half a mile from the exclusion zone, hove to, and were in fact slowly moving away from the zone.

“With respect to our intentions, we then advised that we were still considering what pudding to have, but that we would definitely be having coffee afterwards.
“They don’t have a great sense of humor.
“I must admit we were a little miffed that we, an Australian-flagged yacht in Australian waters, could be challenged by a U.S. warship.
“But the scariest thing was, they must have been close enough to read our name on the bow (in the dark), yet we never saw them — no lights, no radar return near-by and nothing through the night vision.”
Today’s Thought

He who is too powerful seeks power beyond his power.

— Seneca, Hippolytus


“Have your eyes ever been checked before?”

“No, doctor, they’ve always been brown.”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for another Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Eric said...

Are you suggesting the Navy of the United States of America, is acting in a pirate way?
I suggest that if you, or anyone else were, there would be no words for the rest of us to read.
Frankly, I'll run up the Gadsden and Confederate flags under my stars and stripes, any time I see a US military ship on the sea, just so they know I'm on their side.
If they want to inspect my boat, they are welcome, anywhere, any time. If they are the Iranian navy, they will not take me alive.