A couple of years ago, I sailed from here (Fort Myers, Florida) to Key West
, with a friend, I will call Capt'n John, aboard his Islander
36'. Shortly after we got out of sight of land (this was after dark) He went below and came up with a pair of night vision binoculars. I thought this would be a great chance to have a look at the stars ... he said, "Look around us on the water". To my complete astonishment, I counted 7 vessels ... all with out any lights showing. I asked, "What the Hell ...?" He said, "Yeah, 1 or 2 are idiots that simply don't have enough smarts to turn on their nav lights ... and 1 or 2 are fishermen going after fish
that are out of season ... the rest are smugglers" ... "Smugglers?" "Yeah, some are illegal aliens (Cubans, Hatians, Dominicans, Hondurans et al) and the rest are drug runners". I freaked, "Man ... we gotta call the Coast Guard!" He said, "What? You don't think they already know they're out here? .... At times when I make this run at night, I count a dozen vessels on the water
I said, "Well we gotta do something
!" He said, "Look man ... get real, these guys have more sophisticated electronics
, faster boats and more guns
than the Coast Guard ... there ain't nothin' that they can do about it."
I have known "Capt'n John" for a long time, and trust his "local knowledge" completely. What he told me was that if the USCG came after the smugglers, they would just make a run for shore and jettison their illegal contraband ... if that didn't work
, it would become a running gun battle ... with the USCG underfunded and under armed. Now ... think about it ... if you
were a Coastie .. knowing the situation ... would you risk life & limb to engage in a gun battle (that you might very well loose) knowing that the next night, there would be a dozen other boats out there, and that your efforts & sacrifice had been for nothing?
Met with a friend in the USCG the other day, complained about powerboaters not coming of plane when they passed (typical here) and he just smiled at me and said "You know, we belong to homeland security
now ... and that's our priority now", I asked about search and rescue
... he sighed ... and a very slow smile crossed his face ....... "yeah, we still do that too" ... I asked, "Well, how in the Hell do you do both?" ... again ... the slow smile told all ... he said, "If you're in trouble, tell us you're an Iraqi insurgent with a bomb, looking for a place t put it! .... That way ... you'll get a faster response, and can clear it all up later"
Guess what I'm trying to say here is know, love & respect your local Coasties ... but also understand that they are underfunded & overworked ... so don't rely on them the way we used to.
Bob & Lynn