Is there a problem with Solent Coastguard?

henryf

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What has happened to Solent coastguard?

Anyone who boats in the Solent will be familiar with ineptitude on the radio be it using the wrong channel, saying the wrong things or just generally getting in a bit of a fluster. The people who call out for every friend they think might be out for the day or have a long conversation on channel 16 about how far behind their chums they think they are as they head for the pub.

But the bedrock has always been Solent Coastguard. A calm and steady voice in the storm, a bastion of correct radio procedure, a paragon of patience on a busy bank holiday.

Until now.

Something has happened and I'm not sure what. All of a sudden the messages are unsure, there are pauses, gaps, incorrect radio procedures. It's as though Solent Coastguard has been taken over by a school work placement team.

"Has anyone seen a blue and white speedboat with 5 people on board in the Solent?"

Well yes, pretty much everyone out there will have seen one with 5 or so people on board at some stage in the day, there were loads of boats out there. A few people called up in response.

"No, I don't think that's the boat we are looking for."

"Were there any dogs on board?" To a caller who had already stated that their blue and white speedboat didn't seem to be in any difficulties.

So what were we looking for? A stolen boat? Abducted children? Bad taste swimwear?

No, it turns out that someone had reported an engine failure and a boat taking on water. It was a bit choppy out there in the middle of the Solent and I can see how a situation would deteriorate.

I'm not an expert in these matters but something along the lines of, "A small 21 foot speedboat has reported engine failure and taking on water in the Solent but they are unable to give their position. Could all vessels be on he lookout for such a vessel and report to Solent coastguard. We have instructed the crew to wave their arms above their heads to alert passing boats" would have been prudent.

The problem is I'm not sure the new Solent Coastguard have ever been out on the water. They don't see familiar with well known landmarks or features and they don't seem able to steer the situation as Solent Coastguard of old would have done.

Maybe I've just caught them on a few bad days but something seems to have changed, and not for the better.

Any ideas?

Henry :)
 

gjgm

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Just different, seems to me. I have been thinking that as I do not have a long/lat chart in my head, starting by saying roughly where (East/West/Chichester/Allum Bay etc) would be a massive help in letting me know if I might be 1/2 mile or 20 miles away. Rattling off a lot of numbers is not adding much intelligence.
Still, if I got 500 calls a weekend saying I used my radio the other day, can you tell me if it miraculously still works- would try my patience.
The speedboat one was probably not easy for them either if they do not know where it was and could not make contact and seems sensible to ask the 1000 boaters out their to be their eyes.
They are still there, and still providing a free service to you and me.
 
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petem

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What has happened to Solent coastguard?

Anyone who boats in the Solent will be familiar with ineptitude on the radio be it using the wrong channel, saying the wrong things or just generally getting in a bit of a fluster. The people who call out for every friend they think might be out for the day or have a long conversation on channel 16 about how far behind their chums they think they are as they head for the pub.

But the bedrock has always been Solent Coastguard. A calm and steady voice in the storm, a bastion of correct radio procedure, a paragon of patience on a busy bank holiday.

Until now.

Something has happened and I'm not sure what. All of a sudden the messages are unsure, there are pauses, gaps, incorrect radio procedures. It's as though Solent Coastguard has been taken over by a school work placement team.

"Has anyone seen a blue and white speedboat with 5 people on board in the Solent?"

Well yes, pretty much everyone out there will have seen one with 5 or so people on board at some stage in the day, there were loads of boats out there. A few people called up in response.

"No, I don't think that's the boat we are looking for."

"Were there any dogs on board?" To a caller who had already stated that their blue and white speedboat didn't seem to be in any difficulties.

So what were we looking for? A stolen boat? Abducted children? Bad taste swimwear?

No, it turns out that someone had reported an engine failure and a boat taking on water. It was a bit choppy out there in the middle of the Solent and I can see how a situation would deteriorate.

I'm not an expert in these matters but something along the lines of, "A small 21 foot speedboat has reported engine failure and taking on water in the Solent but they are unable to give their position. Could all vessels be on he lookout for such a vessel and report to Solent coastguard. We have instructed the crew to wave their arms above their heads to alert passing boats" would have been prudent.

The problem is I'm not sure the new Solent Coastguard have ever been out on the water. They don't see familiar with well known landmarks or features and they don't seem able to steer the situation as Solent Coastguard of old would have done.

Maybe I've just caught them on a few bad days but something seems to have changed, and not for the better.

Any ideas?

Henry :)

Probably been outsourced to somewhere inland, manned by people who have never seen the sea.
 

jac

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Probably been outsourced to somewhere inland, manned by people who have never seen the sea.

It has.

Lots of threads on Scuttlebutt re this. Happened last year and is IIRC at Fareham and now handles call from over the entire country ( or at least will do) Very few of the old coastguards transferred to the new contracts & office so the experience was lost. Unfortunately I suspect the bean counters looked at it as being no different to say the 999 control room that police or fire use, not realising that the sea doesn;t have lots of nicely labelled locations for callers to use to define location.
 

henryf

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Ah, I see. That explains things.

In this instance I appreciate the occupants of the speed boat didn't have such things as flares to set off but I would have told them to wave their arms in the air thus alerting passers by to their plight and also to make it easier in narrowing down which boat we were looking for. I would also have given a bit of background - looking for a boat that has broken down etc.

It's easier when you've been out to sea and understand what it's like on the water. Knowing the full story (read on the BBC website this morning) I fear we may have seen the boat earlier in the day a mile and a half or so East / South East of the Bramble bank. I couldn't make out a colour as it was a small speedboat sitting low in the water, no one was waving arms and there seemed no signs of obvious distress. It looked as though people were fishing. The problem is I can think of a dozen boats which might have fitted the description and not knowing exactly what we were looking for I didn't want to waste time / divert resources from the casualty.

Henry
 

gjgm

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Ah, I see. That explains things.

In this instance I appreciate the occupants of the speed boat didn't have such things as flares to set off but I would have told them to wave their arms in the air thus alerting passers by to their plight and also to make it easier in narrowing down which boat we were looking for. I would also have given a bit of background - looking for a boat that has broken down etc.

It's easier when you've been out to sea and understand what it's like on the water. Knowing the full story (read on the BBC website this morning) I fear we may have seen the boat earlier in the day a mile and a half or so East / South East of the Bramble bank. I couldn't make out a colour as it was a small speedboat sitting low in the water, no one was waving arms and there seemed no signs of obvious distress. It looked as though people were fishing. The problem is I can think of a dozen boats which might have fitted the description and not knowing exactly what we were looking for I didn't want to waste time / divert resources from the casualty.

Henry
I suspect that there is deliberate element of not prejudging the situation and so leading to subsequent errors. To say anyone seen a boat with people waving their arms might mean you motor on past because they are busy bailing, or whatever and not waving their arms.
I know the (old fashioned ) protocol is to repeat everything, but yes, I know its The CG.. you've said so 30 times in the last three minutes ! I think if I was sinking beneath the waves I'd rather we didnt spend the next thirty seconds introducing ourselves, yet again. Especially in MayDay Silence is in operation.
 

jac

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I suspect that there is deliberate element of not prejudging the situation and so leading to subsequent errors. To say anyone seen a boat with people waving their arms might mean you motor on past because they are busy bailing, or whatever and not waving their arms.
I know the (old fashioned ) protocol is to repeat everything, but yes, I know its The CG.. you've said so 30 times in the last three minutes ! I think if I was sinking beneath the waves I'd rather we didnt spend the next thirty seconds introducing ourselves, yet again. Especially in MayDay Silence is in operation.

IN Henrys defence, I have heard a lot of Coastguard traffic over the last 9 months where it's not so much the use of the equipment or procedures that is the problem - more the case that they don't know how to respond to the information given with lots of long pauses from information being received to a response even during an exchange.

I used to work in telephony centre 20 odd years ago and it reminded me of the trainees on the phone there. Long pauses whilst they digest the information, try to find a process, refer to a supervisor etc. I heard one report of taking on water after collision - long pause - I and my crew were asking things like how much, can you locate the source, are pumps coping, can they make port etc. A couple of minutes after the report the CG lady responded by asking the questions we immediately thought of.

I'm sure given enough time they will get better but I expect they are growing quite fast at the moment so have constant stream of recruits coming through the door so can be variable quality. In solent CG times it seemed fairly stable staff as you recognised some of the voices. Once New Solent CG have got up to establishment we will just have to hope that staff turnover is relatively low and that they can build up staff with many years of experience.
 

gjgm

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IN Henrys defence, I have heard a lot of Coastguard traffic over the last 9 months where it's not so much the use of the equipment or procedures that is the problem - more the case that they don't know how to respond to the information given with lots of long pauses from information being received to a response even during an exchange.

I used to work in telephony centre 20 odd years ago and it reminded me of the trainees on the phone there. Long pauses whilst they digest the information, try to find a process, refer to a supervisor etc. I heard one report of taking on water after collision - long pause - I and my crew were asking things like how much, can you locate the source, are pumps coping, can they make port etc. A couple of minutes after the report the CG lady responded by asking the questions we immediately thought of.

I'm sure given enough time they will get better but I expect they are growing quite fast at the moment so have constant stream of recruits coming through the door so can be variable quality. In solent CG times it seemed fairly stable staff as you recognised some of the voices. Once New Solent CG have got up to establishment we will just have to hope that staff turnover is relatively low and that they can build up staff with many years of experience.
I am not party to how the fomer CG worked or how the new one works. I am just questioning whether the change, as mentioned by HenryF is leading to any material difference in rescue, or is just a different way of working. Maybe they are far better at allocating lifeboat resources now (just as an question).
 

henryf

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Jac has probably voiced my observations more eloquently than I was able to. We have done exactly the same, asked the relevant questions to ourselves because Solent CG wasn't. I've almost felt like stepping on on a couple of occasions to help them by asking those important questions.

Knowing landmarks you can often guess where someone is then ask them a couple of other questions to confirm. Can you see a large collection of chimneys, a church spire, something which looks like an air traffic control tower with a big radar on top etc. if you're sitting in an office you won't know what the area looks like.

Good advice from the CG can calm people down, stop a bad situation becoming worse and so on. Stuff that many people would do instinctively but possible forgot to under pressure. Knowing we were looking for a boat that had lost power and was taking on water would narrow things down and stop people reporting boats happily underway or sunbathing.

I still maintain the waving of arms is a very simple and effective means of relaying distress which non boating people - without a radio, gps, flares, charts etc might not be aware of.

Ask people to look out, absolutely, we have gone out of our way on a couple of occasions to track down and rescue people when asked, but ask the right questions then give us a bit of a clue what we are looking for like the good old days.

Henry :)
 

prv

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Coming to this thread late since we're on the boat - all I can say is if you think they're bad now, you should have heard them last September when Fareham Coastguard first started! One in particular sounded terrified every time he picked up the mic.

Pete
 

jac

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I am not party to how the fomer CG worked or how the new one works. I am just questioning whether the change, as mentioned by HenryF is leading to any material difference in rescue, or is just a different way of working. Maybe they are far better at allocating lifeboat resources now (just as an question).

Not sure that a Mayday would be handled much differently in many cases as they know what to do. It's a clear process - task the appropriate resource and ensure communication between rescuer and rescueee. It's the other situations such as Henryf alluded to where it's not so good as there is no text book. Not sure anyone has died from it yet but it builds delays in which when push comes to shove COULD cause a fatality that a more experienced CG could have prevented
 

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Don't be too hard them, this is what the Spanish coastguard replied to me in the Bay of Biscay after the previous day's storm... Me: 'Gijon radio, Gijon radio, Gijon radio this is motor yacht xxxxxx, we have found an overturned 10 man liferaft at coordinates xxxx,xxxx, have tried to recover but unable due to the heavy swell'........Spanish CG : 'what do you want us to do about it!'

Not very comforting....
 

gjgm

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Don't be too hard them, this is what the Spanish coastguard replied to me in the Bay of Biscay after the previous day's storm... Me: 'Gijon radio, Gijon radio, Gijon radio this is motor yacht xxxxxx, we have found an overturned 10 man liferaft at coordinates xxxx,xxxx, have tried to recover but unable due to the heavy swell'........Spanish CG : 'what do you want us to do about it!'

Not very comforting....
But how long did it take them to answer ;)
 

sailorman

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What has happened to Solent coastguard?

Anyone who boats in the Solent will be familiar with ineptitude on the radio be it using the wrong channel, saying the wrong things or just generally getting in a bit of a fluster. The people who call out for every friend they think might be out for the day or have a long conversation on channel 16 about how far behind their chums they think they are as they head for the pub.

But the bedrock has always been Solent Coastguard. A calm and steady voice in the storm, a bastion of correct radio procedure, a paragon of patience on a busy bank holiday.

Until now.

Something has happened and I'm not sure what. All of a sudden the messages are unsure, there are pauses, gaps, incorrect radio procedures. It's as though Solent Coastguard has been taken over by a school work placement team.

"Has anyone seen a blue and white speedboat with 5 people on board in the Solent?"

Well yes, pretty much everyone out there will have seen one with 5 or so people on board at some stage in the day, there were loads of boats out there. A few people called up in response.

"No, I don't think that's the boat we are looking for."

"Were there any dogs on board?" To a caller who had already stated that their blue and white speedboat didn't seem to be in any difficulties.

So what were we looking for? A stolen boat? Abducted children? Bad taste swimwear?

No, it turns out that someone had reported an engine failure and a boat taking on water. It was a bit choppy out there in the middle of the Solent and I can see how a situation would deteriorate.

I'm not an expert in these matters but something along the lines of, "A small 21 foot speedboat has reported engine failure and taking on water in the Solent but they are unable to give their position. Could all vessels be on he lookout for such a vessel and report to Solent coastguard. We have instructed the crew to wave their arms above their heads to alert passing boats" would have been prudent.

The problem is I'm not sure the new Solent Coastguard have ever been out on the water. They don't see familiar with well known landmarks or features and they don't seem able to steer the situation as Solent Coastguard of old would have done.

Maybe I've just caught them on a few bad days but something seems to have changed, and not for the better.

Any ideas?

Henry :)


Poor in our Thames area too

http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthrea...d-quot-maritime-safety-information-broadcasts

http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?437277-Thames-CG-amp-a-medivac-yesterday
 

grumpy_o_g

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It has.

Lots of threads on Scuttlebutt re this. Happened last year and is IIRC at Fareham and now handles call from over the entire country ( or at least will do) Very few of the old coastguards transferred to the new contracts & office so the experience was lost. Unfortunately I suspect the bean counters looked at it as being no different to say the 999 control room that police or fire use, not realising that the sea doesn;t have lots of nicely labelled locations for callers to use to define location.


In fairness, Fareham is not exactly inland, nor a long way from the Solent...
 

jac

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In fairness, Fareham is not exactly inland, nor a long way from the Solent...

Indeed not - it's more the fact that the experienced officers have gone and as they have taken in work from other areas ( e.g. Portland, Brixham) those staff have probably not moved to Fareham and have been replaced by people living round Fareham.
 

southseaian

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What may not be realised by the general boating public is that there are two groups of people working in the Coastguard stations.
Watch assistants are recruited locally and have a good standard of literacy and numeracy, and IT and typing skill.
This role developed from that of part time Auxiliary CG watch keepers, 'volunteers' who received payment for their duties. Employment laws and regulations have developed the role into a proper job.
Watch officers who are recruited nationally and will move around the country during their service. The requirement here is extensive seagoing experience. This could be from:
the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force or the Merchant Navy
other activities involving boat work and navigation.

The people you hear on the radio will usually be Watch Assistants who will be under the supervision of Coastguard Watch Officers.
Watch Assistants need training on the job but please be assured that there will be fully trained professionals overseeing.
Solent Coastguard has numerous aerials which will be monitored by several staff.
We are very lucky in the UK to have a coastline fully covered by VHF and monitored by a professional Coastguard Service.
HM Coastguard can call on many resources including the RNLI and other lifeboats for a rapid and free rescue service.
(Yes there are a few dead spots under cliffs and in sea Lochs but thats the nature of VHF radio.)
 
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sailorman

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What may not be realised by the general boating public is that there are two groups of people working in the Coastguard stations.
Watch assistants are recruited locally and have a good standard of literacy and numeracy, and IT and typing skill.
This role developed from that of part time Auxiliary CG watch keepers, 'volunteers' who received payment for their duties. Employment laws and regulations have developed the role into a proper job.
Watch officers who are recruited nationally and will move around the country during their service. The requirement here is extensive seagoing experience. This could be from:
the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force or the Merchant Navy
other activities involving boat work and navigation.

The people you hear on the radio will usually be Watch Assistants who will be under the supervision of Coastguard Watch Officers.
Watch Assistants need training on the job but please be assured that there will be fully trained professionals overseeing.
Solent Coastguard has numerous aerials which will be monitored by several staff.
We are very lucky in the UK to have a coastline fully covered by VHF and monitored by a professional Coastguard Service.
HM Coastguard can call on many resources including the RNLI and other lifeboats for a rapid and free rescue service.
(Yes there are a few dead spots under cliffs in in sea Lochs but thats the nature of VHF radio.)
Thats all very wel BUT, Dover had to call Thames Coastguard "Immediate" to get their attention & virtually tell them to extract the digit pdq
 
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