Thursday, August 02, 2007

For none are so free as the sons of the waves?

This chap, dear reader, has a very strong streak of libertarianism in his veins. I detest Big Government interfering with my life and spreading it's evil tendrils of legislation into my life.
As you know I take part in two sports which are currently out of the reach of the Nanny state. Gliding - which the Campaign Against Aviation doesn't touch (regulated by the British Gliding Association) and Sailing.

Sailing is what my rant of today is all about.

It is currently (still) my god given right as a free Englishman and subject of her Maj to take to the water in any personal vessel I choose and sail where I want to. I need no permission, ticket, licence or examination to do so. If I wish, I can go and drown myself. The chief rescue organisation is a charity RNLI (to whom I lend my financial and one day physical support).

The onus on safety is a personal one. I am not obliged to wear a Lifejacket, crash helmet or even waterproof clothing. One's awareness of the fact that the high seas are a dangerous place means that there is a natural selection process at work. Should I wish to be able to carry out the sport with a modicum of personal safety or comfort, then the onus is entirely on me to seek out competence training. Again, this is administered by another charity - who also receives money off me The RYA.

The small overlap we have with the world of legislation and government is in buoyage.
But even then, one doesn't get their photograph taken for passing a port hand marker to starboard. The onus is on you to be aware, awake, know what you are doing and know where you are - so that if you chose to leave the 'Jack In The Box' to port on the way up the Lymington river - it is your fault and your fault alone that you spend the rest of the afternoon waiting for the tide to lift you off that rather spectacular mud bank. An Ignominy that no amount of cheerful bonhomie or two water grog will quench.

It is self controlled, and regulated. Peer pressure of standards of behaviour mean a stern look from the Harbour master if your crew are rowdy is as sufficient a reproach as the pressure of a drunken attempt at mooring costing your GPS antenna, next door's pushpit rail and the capital crime of damaging the paintwork - committed in front of an entire marina laughing at your feeble skills.

The traditions of the sport have been so deeply entrenched that they have outlived the current concept of democracy - after all we have had a Navy since Alfred burnt the cakes - and these waters run deep. Blood is the same salinity as sea water, we sons of the waves stand by our traditions of behaviour, honour and care for one's self. The epitome of a society freed from the yoke of state legislation.

Sea faring Libertarians - if you will. Sail and let sail.

OK - to make a vessel work requires leadership - but it is a contract entered voluntarily - and to make it work requires more self discipline than anything else - we need each other's mutual skills to make the thing work. Ask any racing crew who is the most important member of the crew - and they will all answer that it is everyone but them.

There is a cloud on the horizon, scudding towards us like a line squall.

We live under a very illiberal government. The regards 'us' as dangerous. Our views and behaviours are a threat to their approach to running our lives.

The fact we are aspirational enough to carry out the dream to work hard to earn a slot on a vessel - either by accumulating wealth enough to buy the smallest bilge bucket - or by working up the skills to earn a slot on a race crew….

We represent all the things they hate.

We are self reliant, self disciplined, aspirational and require no law to show respect to our fellow sea farers.

We must therefore be stopped.

The full pernicious forces of the Nanny State are being turned on us. The legislative Guns Of Navarone are being trained on us, while the vile officers of this movement load the shells and powder to batter us into their ways.

As the interweb's heir to David Niven (don’t laugh) this Chap needs to draw the attention to my audience to the first triffidesque tendril, the ranging shot from Nanny to our way of life.

They are a cunning foe. They use the full armoury of the Left on us.

The poisoned apple? Their trojan horse?

Good Old Health and Safety

It is for our safety. The Safety of others. How can we argue with that? Well buried within the lines - there are dark forces demanding the very things we fear.
The old chestnut of creating a problem, then being seen to crack down on it is the other tactic.

Drinking and Sailing .

Hold on, you cry, all they are suggesting is that you chaps shouldn't be pissed on the water. Well, by and large we aren't.

Is it for our safety?
Well, the Marine Accident Invesitgation Board only reported about 24 fatalities on leisure craft for 2006-2007 - out of half a million users. Less than half of those were alcohol related
(Link via RYA website)

Even RoSPA and the Coastguard say:

"The members agreed that the current statistics that were available from MCA, SEAREM and INREM were all unreliable as a source for accident statistics for watersports." -

So - we have a problem that doesn't exist. So why legislate against us?

I have a theory - this is a perfect reason to enforce compulsory licensing of craft and the testing and licensing of their skippers.

Why? If you have pulled someone over for drinking, the sanction will be to take a way a licence. You can't imppund the vessel - it probably doesn't even belong to them.

Right now we don’t need one - as I mentioned before the sort of person who takes up sailing is the sort of person who wants to know about it and is prepared to learn.

So, cue government issued sailing licenses and tests and permits (with test centres etc) as well as water-fund licenses. The sea will be nationalised….how long until charging a tax on mooring or anchoring in British waters?
All To be paid for, by us - the sailing public. Yet another stealth tax.

'No, no,' you say - 'they can't mean that - there must be another sanction'…. Well - here is what they are saying:

The Act also enables the Secretary of State to designate additional classes of people as 'marine officials' with the power to detain a vessel if they reasonably suspect that a person who is or may be aboard the vessel is committing, or has committed, an offence, pending the arrival of a uniformed constable to administer a preliminary test. - Stephen Ladyboy

Hmmmm…..bit of hole in this - most boats are rented, making that a form of piracy. Red Herring I reckon.
But in there was another sinister line.

'Marine Officials'.
A waterborne police force with powers to stop and check, take you off your yacht and off to the rozzers for a breath test?

So - will they tow your vessel? Will they know how to sail? What about your crew?

Anyway - have a read of what the Chaps at the RYA have to say.

But what of the motive behind this? More people die changing their duvets (probably) than have booze related accidents on the Solent alone. Good sense and self preservation take care of that.
Well, we are currently out of their reach - what better way to crowbar their way into our lives than under the pretext of our safety?

Us 'rich' yachties are a prime target for legislation. With legislation comes us handing more money over to the government to employ busy-bodies to come and tell us what to do.
It is a way of levying stealth taxes on us, and if we complain - we can easily be lableled as 'rich' and they can stoke the fires of resentment against us.
But what else to come?

Compulsory lifejackets? More standards and inspections…….

Compulsory lifelines and jackstays? Again - standards and inspections…...

Full Commercial DfT standardisation of every vessel - think of all the extra public employees!

Inspectors, visitors and scrutineers - all to be paid for by us - the so called Have Yachts. The bitter nannyists must be licking their reptilian lips in delight at all of this.

Lets get things straight - most yachties are like me. We scrimp and save so we can access a boat. Not all of us are footballers (They have scumseekers anyway). Our boats are shared amongst many and are slavishly kept going well past their sell by dates out of love. You can go sailing for under a grand a year.

Ultimately - this represents another attempt to shift of our liberty into the hands of the state. We can only go out and play if Nanny licenses us to do so. And then we must play to her rules.

Interestingly, the legislation is also rather poorly thought out. It is full of holes - meaning it will be open to abuse. In all sorts of amusing ways.

"I am satisfied that in bringing in an alcohol limit for non-professional mariners and in setting the exclusion limit at 7 metres and 7 knots we are providing the best balance between improving safety and avoiding unnecessary regulation.
Stephen Ladyboy at it again.

Interesting that a 5 metre RIB with a 200hp motor is exempt, yet an 8 metre unpowered skiff is not. Which is more likely to be a risk?

How will they determine length and Maximum speed?

Anyway - feast your eyes on the background.

Final thought - and this alone demonstrates that the landlubber who dreamt this up is the very worst form of window-licking mouth breather:

Jet skis will not be included in the regulations for now because the Court of Appeal has ruled that jet skis are not ships and are not therefore within the scope of the existing legislation I intend to consult on extending the legislation to them in due course."

You would have thought that the most annoying and unsociable things on the water would have been targeted, wouldn't you.

Despair shall drive me to my tincture.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with all your fears.
As a fellow seafarer of the Solent, and same class of boat as you, it is an ill concieved proposed law.

Reading the RYA link it says "The limit will apply to those persons involved in the navigation of a vessel". Hold on I'm the navigator, it's the helm that steers the boat. So if I'm out of it and the helm is as sober as a judge, if there is such a thing? Who gets carted off to the clink?
Most people I know run a dry ship until tied up along side. It's all the chav types with PWC's and RIB's that do the most damage and drink.
Rant over!

Nicodemus said...

I see it simply as the government's way of getting it's claws into our sport. We are a source of untapped revenue - so regulate and make us pay....