Every now and then someone does something stupid or someone does everything right and gets into trouble, he finds himself in a situation that he can’t get out of on his own and calls mayday (see How to Call Mayday When Canoeing or Kayaking). This happens to both professional and recreational boaters and it happens to kayakers and canoeists. We rarely hear about the rescues of people from freighters or off of cruise ships, but if a kayaker or canoeist gets into trouble, there’s no doubt it will make the 6 o’clock news. That news is often followed with the pundits calling for the person that got rescued having to cover the costs, because “government is too expensive to spend money on idiots” and the U.S. Coast Guard should be doing something more important such as “keeping illegals out of our country” — it doesn’t matter if the victim did everything right.
Shit happens, people get lost, people get hurt, people get sick, little kids wander off into the woods. Then we go out and find them and rescue them. As a society, it’s our responsibility to do this, and, so what if it costs money. A society isn’t just about businesses recovering money for services. Having these services freely available for everyone regardless of their income level or ability to pay creates our freedoms to pursue our dreams. That might mean some idiots have to get rescued now and then, but it also means that we have the back of a poor but highly competent person who through no fault of his own gets into trouble and needs a rescue.
To those pundits and folks that think the victim should pay for his own rescue: bull! It’s one of the 11 U.S. Coast Guard mission to provide Search and Rescue and the 10 to 25 million canoe, kayak and SUP participants (see The Death of Sea Kayaking?) helped pay for those 11 missions with our tax dollars. When one of us gets into trouble we shouldn’t have to pay anymore than anyone else, and everyone in this country should know that we have your back.
More information about the U.S. Search and Rescue plans: