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EXPEDITION

On April 28, 1947 the rather tired looking Peruvian Navy tug "Guardian Rios" towed an extraordinary looking object out of Callao Harbour, Peru. A closer inspection showed it was a collection of balsa logs lashed together with ropes made of jungle fibre. On top sat a straw hut and just forward of it was a single pole mast to which was fitted a simple square sail rolled up. A long steering pole aft projected well astern and this whole contraption looked extremely crude and ready to fall apart. Some six Europeans stood on deck checking everything and looking concerned at the tugs progress. Some 50 nautical miles later out in the Humboldt Current after some signalling, only one of the Europeans spoke Spanish, the tug cast off the raft as it turned out the contraption was. So finally the sail was lowered to show a large face and the Kon-tiki Ekspedisjonen was now underway. The voyage so well known needs nothing further from NAUTICAL LOG, and of course a book was written, in Norwegian. In March 1950 an English language translation was published and for my 14th. birthday that year I received a copy from my parents. It was a great story, which is still in my bookcase, and just the adventure to whet the appetite of a boy planning a career at sea. Well so I thought at the time anyway!!

Since that time there have been many voyages around parts of the world and indeed around the world itself. Some well known and successful but far more than are usually discussed end in tragedy. We have the successful passages of Francis Chichester, "Dove", The Volvo Ocean Race and also the losses of Fastnet and Tasman. More recently we have had the "Junkcraft" passage from Los Angeles to Hawai'i, "Mystery" from Cornwall, England to Melbourne, Australia and now the proposed "Plastiki". With this latter name there seems to be an influence of the "Kon-tiki" but at least they left the hyphen out.

Well I did go to sea some two years after reading the "Kon-tiki Expedition" and a whole lot more sea stories. Over a career that lasted some 50 years I learned that there was a lot more than just building a raft and setting sail. The sea is an unforgiving mistress and will bite back hard if not treated with great respect and knowledge. I also learned that many countries have ocean rescue services and Coast Guards which go to sea when things really fall apart for seafarers. We forget all too quickly that these guys and gals also have families and they set out in appalling weather with the very clear understanding that there is quite a high probability they may not return. Here I speak from direct experience having had the honour to serve with such people for part of my career. Also there are agreements to direct ships from their normal course of trade to assist other vessels at sea. This is done most willingly and with pride in this great tradition of the sea. However it is done often at great expense to a shipowner and should not be considered a "right" due ocean passage makers on private expeditions. Shipowners are required to obtain Certificates of Seaworthiness and Marine Insurance Certificates before proceeding to sea.

In reading of the "Plastiki" for example on their website there were several comments, most rather supportive but I suspect not from knowledgeable seafarers. One was downright harsh and described Mr. de Rothschild as a "self-indulgent twit". This was rather rude of the commenter but expresses a viewpoint, it is a somewhat self-indulgent expedition. One might well argue that Mr. de Rothschilds money is his own to do with that which he wishes and this is true up to a point. When the spending of that money affects other people to the degree that this project could then there is surely a duty to assess that impact and provide for it. It is very important that these types of private planned ocean passages are done in coordination with the National Maritime Authority. Safety is Paramount and a Certificate of Seaworthiness should be obtained, also the vessel and the entire expedition must be fully covered by marine insurance. Then should they need assistance or even rescue by a National Rescue Service the costs of such assistance will be fully reimbursed by the expedition's insurance. It is clearly quite unfair to expect the taxpayer to pay for a private expeditions rescue, particularly in the current economic conditions.

Good Watch

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