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No help from coast guard
The Michael Alonzo family boating incident off Gasparee Island is not the first time the coast guard has failed to respond to distress calls from the boating public. I have heard of many incidents of this lack of response from other sailors/boaters. I myself experienced this lack of care by the sailors and officers of the coast guard, who seem to not know that the primary responsibility of their unit to the citizens of T&T and international sailors is search and rescue.
I was on a yacht, Feathers Touch, just off Gasparee Island, together with the captain of the yacht, three women, my son and a one-year-old baby, when the vessel experienced mechanical failure. The wind, rough sea and tide were in the wrong direction, forcing the yacht towards the rocks.
A distress call was made repeatedly over the ship’s radio on the distress channel to the coast guard with no response—and via telephone. The telephone also went unanswered. A coast guard light craft eventually passed on its way to the prison island Carrera, and we flagged it down and requested assistance.
The coast guardsmen claimed that they could not assist in towing our stricken vessel to safety and said they would radio for assistance for us and would check on us on their return; we never saw them again. And their manner was most hostile. They were more concerned about us taking pictures of them and their boat.
Eventually a passing fisherman in a pirogue came to our assistance and towed us back to the yachting association next to the coast guard station at Hart’s Cut. A report was made to the coast guard after the incident about their failure to respond.
My son, who is a cameraman with a television station, while on an exercise with the coast guard, reported the incident to the public relations officers of the coast guard and Defence Force. My son was called a trouble maker and no follow-up took place and no apology made.
Every time we sail on the yacht, we make a test call to the coast guard on the radio emergency frequency, channel 16, to get a radio check. However, we never get a response to the international distress call which the coast guard is mandated to monitor and respond to. We get responses from other yachters and ships that our radio is working.
As for the six brand new coast guard vessels that were acquired at great expense, they sit idle at Hart’s Cut. Only one is dispatched to patrol our waters on a daily basis. What a waste. The coast guard is a complete waste of money and should be disbanded as it serves no functional purpose. It certainly doesn’t stop drugs entering our waters. Or come to sailors’ assistance in times of need.
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