Monday, December 11, 2006

The Search for Laura Gainey

By now you'll all have heard of the weekend long search for LAURA GAINEY, who was swept overboard by a "rogue wave" in high seas off the coast of Cape Cod Saturday night. She was sailing on the PICTON CASTLE, a tall ship - a clipper ship - down to the Caribbean for the Christmas holidays, with a full crew. She wasn't wearing a life jacket, nor was she lashed to any of the masts during the gale, which would seem to be the first of common sense safety measures in a harsh sea storm. Tall ships, like cruise ships, can't turn on a dime and return to pick up a "man overboard". The crew heard her scream for help as she went overboard, and immediately threw life jackets, life preservers, and markers into the sea.

We used to own a small 22' Tanzer sailboat. We both took sailing lessons, although mine consisted of a day long seminar so that I knew enough to tack back and forth and steer it so that I wouldn't perish on our open lake back home in Ontario. Even with such a small sail boat, it's impossible to turn around quickly to save anyone who's gone overboard. We worried so much about our children that we ended up getting babysitters when we went sailing, as we couldn't afford another $1000.00 for a back railing, and the kids didn't enjoy the heeling of the boat anyway. To go back to get someone who's fallen overboard, a sailboat would have to tack back and forth about four times to "come around", IF the winds were good, and I'd imagine it would take a good half hour to an hour for the person to be treading water to get rescued. If they were lucky, another boat would get to them faster. When I took rescue swimming in police college, we had to swim 2 miles in a front crawl, and tread water for 15 minutes. I remember how exhausting it was.

I can't help but think that Laura Gainey has died doing what she loved. Why her Captain didn't follow obvious safety measures is a question that someone will no doubt investigate. In a news report this morning he was asked "why" none of them were wearing life jackets in the middle of the storm. He answered, "well, the railings are tall enough that no one usually goes over." Oh really?I don't think "usually" is going to satisfy a grieving Mr. Gainey and his other three children, who've already lost a wife and mother to brain cancer. I know that if I were Mr. Gainey, I'd be suing that Captain and his boat company with the help of a good lawyer. Merry Christmas to you, sir!


Milquetoast said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Add to the fact that no boat should be sailing those waters in December, that this is the relief captain's first voyage at helm, the Picton Castle sails under a flag from the Cook Islands (due to loose regulations regarding licensing) even though she basically hails from N.S., and all the numerous accidents/fatalties in the tall ship world in the last 2 years....where the hell is the Coast Guard in all this?? How many people have to be injured or killed before the CG gets their act together and start shutting down dangerous organizations?

Laurie said...

The Coast Guard has been out there searching for her for over 4 days now, along with the Cdn Coast Guard and a Cdn Hercules Search and Rescue air plane with heat recognition equipment. I agree, the US Coast Guard, or some other US organization, should be able to monitor these ships that sail out of their ports under different countries flags but have US crews during these unseasonable times. You could say that she and the others on the crew knew the dangers and took the risks - so their lives are their own responsibility. However, the Captain bears the complete responsibility for what goes on on his ship, and basic safety measures are one of them. Not wearing life jackets in a gale, or tying yourself down during a gale, is basic common sense. I don't care if they're doing a "reenactment" of life on a clipper ship in the 1700's. Does anyone with half a brain want to go back to the 1700's and live that way? No. Milquetoast is right...the CG need to get their act together and however the US does things procedurally down there, prohibit tall ships from coming and going during the gale/hurricane seasons. There is no reason for any lives to be lost in the 21st century!