The main lesson learned from my recently completed 1800 nautical miles
in Tekani 11 from Cairns to Mooloolaba and return along almost the full
length of the Queensland coast has been the abysmal communications
situation for small ships which now exists: due to what can fairly be
labelled as dereliction of duty by both state and federal governments.
Some 15 years ago, a similar journey in TEKANI 1 was made far safer by
OTC Coastal Radio stations which covered the whole coast with high
frequency, long-range transmissions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Any
problems, either sea-induced or medical met with instant professional
response and action….not so today… All this has been “replaced” by
Volunteer Coastgard stations manned by volunteers of varying degrees of
proficiency and nautical expertise…the irreverent, but sometimes
deservedly appropriate label of “Dad’s Army” is often used.
These ameteur volunteers deserve full credit for trying, but they are no
substitute for the real thing as the unforgiving sea continually
demonstrates when emergencies occur. Most are open for business during
daylight hours only, some only on weekends and all are really there to
serve the weekend recreational fisherman in his small outboard powered
open boat in semi-sheltered waters for a few hours.
sailor can use the AIS automatic reporting system used by commercial
shipping which can and does indicate his identity, position and speed
24/7, but this requires the installation of special equipment costing
many thousands of dollars and more battery power than the average small
boat can offer as it must be operated non-stop to be effective.
A cheaper alternative is to have a satellite phone on board with access
to satellite coverage. The illegal people smuggling industry uses these
by providing boatloads of illegal fare-paying illegals ( average cost
$10,000 per person) with one which is used in the Indian Ocean to call
AusSAR in Canberra direct. AusSAR contacts the Royal Australian Navy and
issues orders for a tow into port and eventual Australian citizenship.
I already have an Australian passport, but prudence has prompted the
purchase of an INMARSAT satellite phone for access to help in any real
emergency on TEKANI 11.
A late-blooming writer whose first novel is now available for purchase on line at www.bougainvilleblue.com
BOUGAINVILLE BLUE. A book based on some of the events and the people who lived through them when one of the biggest open cut mines ever built was born, lived and died in a few violent, dramatic years on the South Pacific Island of Bougainville.