Thunder and howling, a surf-roaring night

This will be a lengthier comment on an American Facebook thread, so I’ll rather put it in a blog post. It touches on so many of my pet peeves, real vs. perceived danger, the cost of rescue, and sailing!, I can’t just write a witty sentence or two.

Somewhere out in the Pacific, a circumsailing family – including a baby – got under way, and it so happened the baby fell ill and they needed rescuing. As much as the same thing could happen to the infant in its cot at home, and then an ambulance would be needed, too, there is a community of commentators out there who think the family was ignorant of dangers and neglected their child’s safety.

„You cannot submit your child to such dangers!“ say some. To which I point out that children die outside their school under the wheels of cars driven by other parents who drove their kid there because it was „safer“. That most people die in beds, many in bathtubs, yet neither beds nor bathtubs are banned. But most of all that only a way of embracing life and its risks also gives you its chances. But I leave that paragraph to someone who has walked the walk and talked the talk: Nancy, who also pointed me to this, has already said it far better.

Nis Randers„Who will pay for that rescue, we must!“ howl others. The history of rescue begins with the biblical Samaritan and has never ended with a professional fireman or a volunteer mountain rescuer. People go out of their way and risk life and limb for others without asking if those others deserve it, if those others are better men as themselves, or worse. If two cars crash, shall the ambulance driver establish first who is at fault and who the victim, and then save only one? What if the driver who had right of way is a mean drug pusher and the one who was texting and didn’t look out is a „proper“ employee and father of two, whom will you rescue first now? Those who go out and save others do so without consideration of their own risk or the other’s benefit. And who pays for it? We all do, that’s called solidarity principle. If you fall ill, no matter if undeserved from cancer or self-inflicted from years of heavy smoking, the cost of treatment will be borne by the community of the insured – by us, the healthy ones. If you are shipwrecked in German waters, you will be saved by the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service, a donation-funded volunteers organisation. Funded by those safe ashore. And yes, before I go sailing, I make a donation just as before I go skiing I make a donation to the Rega, the Swiss mountain rescuers equally dependent on such patrons.

I grew up with my parents‘ holiday sailing craft. I was brought aboard for the first time when I was perhaps about three months old, almost drowned in my sleeping-bag around age two, fell overboard – in my life jacket – countless times, of whom only about one or two were remotely dangerous, we almost got lost at sea in fog in pre-GPS times. Of all the leisure sailors I know all returned safely to port almost all times, reefing their sails for a last time at old age. Some saved others from damage, one even saved other lives at sea. I personally know circumsailors. I learned that while at sea you are in God’s hand, the risks of a well-prepared voyage are straightforward. „A ship is safe in port, but that’s not what ships are built for.“

I conclude with link to a German poem about the dangers and benefits of naval rescue as well as an early example of helicopter parenting, „Nis Randers“ by Otto Ernst. I was lucky enough to find a very lively English translation by Peter G. Czerny far better than I could have done it. Read it, and read it out loud!

Final word to my normally German readers: Das Gedicht „Nis Randers“ von Otto Ernst findest du idealerweise im eigenen Bücherschrank. Wenn nicht: Google ist dein Freund. Und Achim Reichel macht spannende rockige Musik aus solchen alten Balladen:

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