A call to duty, a colleague mourned
Whenever you’re on the water, it’s imperative to know what’s going on around you at all times. Vigilance and situational awareness are hallmarks of good seamanship. As another season finally gets under way everywhere in earnest, the Coast Guard is asking pleasure boaters to take their already heightened sense of awareness for weather, obstructions and other potential hazards and expand it to include any activity on the water that strikes them as suspicious.
The Department of Homeland Security in April reiterated its concern that our major ports are especially vulnerable to an attack by a small vessel, possibly one carrying a dirty bomb, a missile or explosives. The potential targets? Anything from nuclear power plants to cruise ships to bridges.
With 14 million small boats and 95,000 miles of coastline, Homeland Security knows it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. That’s why they’ve turned to us. We all need to be aware of the department’s Waterway Watch program, which is patterned after the neighborhood crime-watch initiatives.
The telephone number for reporting a suspicious vessel or activity is (877) 24WATCH. Write the number down, and put it on board your boat for the season. If something strikes you as particularly odd or unusual, don’t hesitate. Make the call. Along with our commercial brethren, who knows the waters better than we do?
Times have changed. A decade ago, the notion that terrorists in small boats would try to strike targets in our ports and harbors was virtually unthinkable. But the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000 followed by the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 shook our sense of security and changed a lot of conventional thinking about how and where we’re vulnerable — and how to protect ourselves.
No one wants to see a “big brother” atmosphere prevail on our waters. After all, it’s that unique sense of freedom and independence we rediscover each time we get under way that we so value. One way to preserve those freedoms is by remaining vigilant, by keeping our eyes open and remaining alert, and by not being afraid to speak up, either to report something out of the ordinary or in defense of our personal liberties.
For more on the subject, read Jim Flannery’s report starting on Page 12.
It’s with great sadness that I write this next dispatch. Longtime Soundings
writer JoAnn Goddard died unexpectedly April 28 of natural causes. She was 44. At the time of her death, she was covering a boating conference in Washington, D.C., for Soundings Trade Only, our monthly boating business magazine, where she worked for the last three years as an associate editor.
In seven years as a reporter for Soundings, JoAnn wrote hundreds of stories ranging from the America’s Cup and adventure sailing to rescues, mishaps and environmental news. A journalism graduate at the University of Massachusetts, JoAnn was a fast, accurate and versatile reporter, a quick study of all things nautical.
In a world of increasing specialization, JoAnn was the quintessential general assignment reporter, the instant expert, the competent professional who could give you 800 words by the end of the day on a cyclone tearing across the Indian Ocean, a waterlogged sailor found treading water, a piece of boating legislation winding its way through a state legislature. She was fair and objective, and she never cared about inserting herself into a story. A real pro.
When Soundings was in a rebuilding mode 10 years ago, JoAnn was the first general assignment reporter I hired as we put together our new team. She did a lot of heavy lifting in those early years, and for that we owe her a real debt of gratitude. She also won a number of boating writing awards, including top prize for “journalistic excellence” in 2001.
Maneuvering through our warren of cubicles, we’d pass each other a couple times a day on the way to the galley or the head or the copy machine. After working together for 10 years, it wasn’t necessary to speak each time we saw one another. We were comfortable old shipmates with jobs to do.
And even though we might forsake the small talk, we’d make eye contact at least once a day, and JoAnn would flash that lovely smile. Truly a gift. And for that moment, the workplace brightened, and we could have been offshore in a fresh breeze, dancing through the hollows and ridges on a well-found boat.
We will miss her.
"In the midst of the gale I cold do no more than look on, for what is a man in a storm like this?" - Joshua Slocum