August 7, 2012
Mariners must consider economic cost of foolhardy decisions – Belmar

Residents of Bequia are hailing the skills of 12 young sailors who are safe after encountering difficulties at sea, during a storm last Friday.{{more}}

But Deputy Director of Grenadines Affairs Herman Belmar told SEARCHLIGHT on Sunday that the economic cost of such “foolhardy” decisions must be seriously examined.

Belmar said that a meeting of several state agencies was being proposed for tomorrow to see what can be done in the future to prevent incidents like last Friday’s, when 12 young men set out on two sailboats for Carriacou, in the midst of a tropical storm warning.

The young men encountered difficulties after the rigging of both boats was damaged.

Two of them defied their captain’s order to abandon the smaller of the two vessels and were rescued by a Kingstown-bound ferry around 9 p.m. Saturday.

About 10 hours earlier, the other 10 youths had made it safely back to Bequia after considerable challenges at sea.

Northern Grenadines representative Dr Godwin Friday and Belmar were among persons — including the other sailors — who welcomed Richard Olliverre, 18, and Warren Hunte, 31, back to Bequia Sunday, after their rescue the previous night.

“I think the guys they had their hearts set on going to the regatta and it’s something that they have done and I am sure that they considered the conditions when they left,” Friday told SEARCHLIGHT, when asked how he felt about his constituents venturing out to sea during a storm warning.

“I know you and I may think that prudence might dictate some other course, but the important thing is that they used their skill and ability to deal with the conditions and they are back here safe and sound and we hope that this experience will strengthen them and make them better sailors in the future,” he said.

He said that the youths were skilful sailors and that word of their rescue “was the best news we’ve heard in Bequia in a very, very long time.

“… Let’s not forget, most of the boats made it to Carriacou,” he said, even as he noted that many residents of the island prayed for the safe return of the youths.

“… It is something I am sure they will learn from and exercise their judgement, taking this experience into account in the future,” the lawmaker further stated.

Belmar also noted the prayers for the lads and spoke of their skills.

“The courage and the skill and the determination of the young men to fight the elements to get back here — we should give them some praise for that.

“But I think it was a little foolhardy on their part to face the elements as they did. I tried to discourage them, but they were determined,” the former teacher said.

“I know the eagerness to participate in a regatta of that nature overruled. They decided that there were going to go, they went, they got into difficulty. Thanks to God and to their skills, they are back with us,” he said.

Asked what practical lessons the youths and other residents of Bequia — which has a strong sailing tradition — can learn from the development, Belmar said:

“This had to be seriously analysed. Not just the mistakes, but the cost — the cost to the country economically. It will be a big burden for us.”

Belmar said that the local and regional disaster mechanisms were in full effect as part of efforts to rescue the youths.

He further said that private sector personnel were involved and spent hundreds of dollars in phone calls.

“This has serious impact. But, the lessons that we have to learn out of it, I think is to meet and work together, so that in future, the safety aspect of mariners is taken into consideration,” he said.

He said that state officials were hoping that other sailors participating in the Carriacou regatta would have returned to Bequia by tomorrow for a meeting with national maritime officials to discuss the development and put systems in place to benefit the entire nation.

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