Professional Skipper Ė February 97 issue            back to articles menu

"In Praise of Alcohol and Freedom from Oppression"
Once again some changes are mooted - that of Registration of boats, Licensing of boaties, and giving the police power to test for and prosecute drunk boaties-in-charge. Steve pokes a bit of fun at the contra arguments and finishes on a serious note.

Like any true Kiwi male, I feel it is my God-given right to treat my liver as I see fit, get totally, paralytically legless when I feel like it, climb on board my 300hp 5-ton floating gin palace and terrorise the rest of the boating population if I so wish. If someone dies, maybe even me, well, thatís life (if youíll pardon the pun).

 As for these control freaks who want to breathalyse boaties, make us learn things and get licences and register our boats, well, thatís the closest thing to Fascism I can think of. Who the hell do they think they are? Our fathers (oh all right - and mothers too I suppose) fought for freedom in two world wars, and thereís no way Iím gonna let anyone take that freedom away from me.

 Breathalyse boaties? Who are they kidding? For a start, who is going to perform this operation? The Police? Get real.... thereís not enough of them on dry land to do the job theyíd like to do let alone out on the briny, and they are the first to admit it. And how do they judge who needs breathalysing? I can just imagine the conversation on our lone Police boat.... ďOh, look, thereís a boat weaving from side to side, letís get him.... Oh, thereís another...and another... damn me if theyíre not ALL pissed...Ē I know the argument is to save lives, but letís face it, with so many lives lost on the roads in spite of breathalysers, one or two more on the water really isnít worth all the aggro, and anyway, every sport has its danger element. Being run down by a pissed boatie is all part of the excitement, isnít it? I read somewhere that 30% of road accidents are caused by drunk drivers. Do you realise what that means? 70% of accidents are caused by SOBER PEOPLE.  Pissed people have less accidents! If thatís not the best reason for getting legless Iím damned if I know what is.

As for Registering boats - well, we know thatís just another way of raising money, another form of Tax. And by what right do they make it more difficult for an honest thief to steal a boat and have some chance of getting away with it? I suppose this is going to mean that we all have to have those ugly and unattractive numbers plastered on the front and back. How tacky. And I guess they will have to be illuminated at night too? And will the dinghy need to be registered ? Or is that to be treated like the spare in your boot? Itís all just too difficult to think about.

And finally, the license thingy. How dare they imply that the good old kiwi bloke (and blokesses I guess) doesnít know how to handle a boat. As a Nation we are BORN with that ability, just like Rugby, Racing and Domestic Violence, er, I mean Beer, and anyway, whatís to learn? The rules are simple - just start the motor, stick it in Ďgoí, push the Ďgo fast knobí as far forward as you can shove it, and do your best to miss everybody else by twisting the wheel thingy violently from side to side. Simple. The difficulty of the task reduces in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed - another damn fine reason for getting legless. I can never remember which side of the channel to go down, so if you stick to the middle or follow someone else youíll usually be OK. And as for those red and green things that they stick in the channel - well, theyíre never anchored right ON the shallow bit, so as long as you pass close by youíll be OK whichever side you go on, yeah? Actually theyíre bloody handy for hanging a rope on to when youíre fishing, too.  I learned it all from my Dad, and he only had the one accident and sure he lost the boat and damn near killed himself too, but that only happened because he actually got so drunk he passed out at the wheel and well, you canít blame a bloke for what happens when heís unconscious now, can you.

So donít you dare question the Kiwi macho image, or force some people to admit to being a bit frightened that they might not be as capable as they think they are, or that they might not know as much as they think they do, that they may might be too old to learn, or that they might just have to start being responsible and accountable for their actions, their own safety, and the lives of others. Thatís just too much to ask.

Isnít it?

Ok, now letís be seriousÖ

Iíve done my best to paint a picture of the macho kiwi mind set that goes along with opposition to licensing, registration and an attempt to limit drink-driving at sea.  The Maritime Safety Authority supports these initiatives, as does every other skipper Iíve spoken to.  Iíve yet to hear someone make any kind of rational argument against licensing and registration.  The only such arguments Iíve heard have been from anti-control freaks shouting about ďBig BrotherĒ - and thatís just not rational.

 I remember how proud I was when I passed my Road Test and earned my driverís license.  I never saw it as control.  It was a necessary part of life.  I felt the same when I passed my skipperís ticket.  A group of my peers had judged me and found me competent. Licensing will lift standards of knowledge and competency and that has to be a giant step towards improving safety of life at sea.  I will be interested and intrigued to see any rational contra argument.

Carpe Diem

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2001 All rights reserved by the author.                                                                                                                       back to articles menu