I'd guess the present Coastguard regions are at the upper end of what is feasible for a person to know well enough to be able to use local knowledge effectively. But a complex area like the West coast of Scotland is going to be much harder to know than a relatively simple area like the NE coast of England (not much to know about the Holderness Coast, for example!). And some areas are going to have to have dynamic knowledge - for example, the Humber Estuary can change radically from one tide to the next, and doubtless places like Morecambe Bay are the same.
The UK coastline is roughly 20,000 miles long. For how many miles could one person claim to have detailed local knowledge? Even if it was a hundred - which I suspect is pushing it - that would required 200 specialists on duty at all times. Which with shift working would mean four or five specialists for each section of coast. Coo, recruitment would be fun, wouldn't it?The issue of place-names and local knowledge can only partially be solved using technology, and the capacity of human brains means that there is a limit to the size of region over which a person can be expected to have detailed and useful knowledge.
Ultimately, though, this isn't about safety. It's about people wanting to keep their jobs. Which is fine, but different.
We dont have the money to pay for it, its that simple, we cant carry on borrowing from our children and grandchildren its crazy. Sure it would be great to say, here you go MCA times are good, lets double the budget, but in the real world things are very different.
There are also issues about unofficial names - for example, I doubt you'll find "Tinker's Hole" and "Bull Hole" on any official gazetteer.
Actually, any coastline is infinitely long. However, it isn't the length of the coast that is the issue, it is the area density of features of relevance to the task in hand. This, of course, varies wildly from place to place. My guess (see above) is that an area the size of a normal cruising area - for example, on the West Coast, the area from the Firth of Clyde to Ardnamurchan would be reasonable for a person to have detailed knowledge. Most of us on this forum have detailed knowledge of areas about that size; a professional ought to be able to duplicate this easily; I'd guess that we (as part-timers) do less well than a professional should, so my guess is that the current CG areas are about at the upper limit of "local knowledge".
Last edited by AntarcticPilot; 10-02-11 at 13:36.
We've been through this before. You're wrong, I'm afraid, because fractal boundaries only have infinite length of you can zoom in indefinitely, and you can't do that for physical systems. Once you get to electron-scale, further zooming won't give any more useful detail - it's not like the Mandelbrot and Julia sets. So while the length of the coast line at sub atomic scales is enormous, it ain't infinite. That quibble aside. you know what I mean.Actually, any coastline is infinitely long.
That's a couple of thousand miles of coast (on a yachting scale...). Mull alone has three hundred miles. I think most of us up here - and that includes people with vastly more experience than mine - still find charts useful, if only to separate the hundreds of Sgeir Dubhs ...However, it isn't the length of the coast that is the issue, it is the area density of features of relevance to the task in hand. This, of course, varies wildly from place to place. My guess (see above) is that an area the size of a normal cruising area - for example, on the West Coast, the area from the Firth of Clyde to Ardnamurchan would be reasonable for a person to have detailed knowledge.
The real crux of this debate is this question:
At what level in the system should local knowledge be available?
Under the current system, the CG work a fairly large but hopefully manageable patch. Nobody is suggesting that the CG staff have a perfect and comprehensive knowledge of every inch of shoreline. But they should have a good, useful, working knowledge.
Every two years they are tested on their knowledge of this area. They get to know the danger spots, the habits of boats which frequent the area, and the peculiarities of local conditions. They will know about confusing, informal, of duplicated place names- and they will know to seek clarification if needed at the point of receiving a mayday. They will not end that call until they know where the casualty is.
The 'guys on the ground', e.g. RNLI, probably have an even better level of local knowledge, because they work a smaller patch. Once the correct rescue team has been tasked, this is vital in completing the job.
Nobody, not even the MCA guys pushing for this change, is suggesting that local knowledge is not important. But what they are trying to do is to rely upon the knowledge of the rescue teams themselves. The assumption is that the CG who receives the mayday, and who coordinates the rescue, can 'tap into' the knowledge of the rescue teams.
Picture this scenario:
"Hi, is that the RNLI? Can you go and look for a boat off dubh sgier?"
"Ah, I'll call him back..."
Does anybody really believe that this is sensible? Does anybody really believe that this is safe?
I already assume that if I get into trouble anywhere on the west coast, I had better be able to give my position very accurately.
My only reference for this is a personal conversation with a CG watch leader. For those who have any faith in our CG at all that is probably good enough, for the rest of you who have already made up your minds it is obviously biased and not to be trusted.
What he said is, short of the call being lost part way through, the CG would not end a mayday call without having pinpointed the location of the casualty. This is their standard operating procedure. The new system is going to work on the assumption that they don't have to do that.