Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On the Miss Ally... the final chapter

Search confirms no bodies in capsized boat

February 24, 2013 - 1:42pm By The Canadian Press

HMCS Glace Bay, on site for the search of the Miss Ally, with the Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) using the remote operated vehicle to inspect the capsized vessel. (Contributed)

About 500 people gathered at a church in southwest Nova Scotia today to grieve the loss of five young fishermen from the community.

Pastor Phil Williams spoke at the Calvary United Baptist church in Woods Harbour and urged the residents of the small fishing village to support one another.

Families of the men aboard the Miss Ally when it capsized last Sunday sat in several rows at the front of the church, hugging each other and crying as church members sang and prayed.

RCMP say a remote underwater vehicle has confirmed that no bodies are aboard the 13-metre overturned boat, which was found about 240 kilometres southeast of Halifax on Saturday.

The Mounties say the HMCS Glace Bay conducted an assessment today with a remotely operated vehicle and corroborated reports from divers on a private fishing vessel that no bodies are in the Miss Ally.

They say the assessment also confirmed that no wheelhouse or sleeping quarters are attached to the vessel’s hull.

The RCMP say their air, water and ground search activities will conclude today.


Nickerson ‘was a good captain’

February 25, 2013 - 9:06pm By AARON BESWICK Truro Bureau

Local fisherman Sandy Stoddard speaks with reporters outside of the Calvary United Baptist Church in Woods Harbour on Sunday. Many residents of the small fishing village attended a special service dedicated to five local fishermen who were lost at sea after their boat capsized last week. (CP)

There’s a game of chess every captain fishing a small boat in the North Atlantic in the winter plays with the sea.

You wait till the weather’s good, then you go and fish hard and get back to the wharf before the weather sets in again.

And it’s not a game, really, because the stakes are so high.

It’s just fishing.

If you win, you make a good living for yourself, your family, your crew and their families.

And that’s a wonderful thing to do.

“And when you’re a young captain, the youngest aboard the boat, and you have the respect of these older men — that you’re a good captain and have the ability to catch fish — it’s a powerful thing,” said Sandy Stoddard, 57, of Woods Harbour, who’s been a fishing captain since he was 19.

“It was the same for (Miss Ally captain Katlin Nickerson). He was a good captain and the youngest aboard his boat. He wasn’t reckless and it wasn’t inexperience that led to his decisions. The only difference between Katlin and me is that I made it home and he didn’t.”

Stoddard was fishing halibut from his boat, the Logan and Morgan, in the Gully, about 210 kilometres northeast of the Miss Ally during the days leading up to the horrible blow that stole five young men from Woods Harbour.

With halibut catching a fair price and a hard winter having disrupted fishing, both boats were out trying to get their quotas. Stoddard said the Miss Ally had 12,000 pounds of halibut quota to catch south of Yarmouth in Fishing Area 4X. It was a catch the 14-metre boat could have easily carried without settling too far down in the water.

The boats set their trawls — long lines bearing about 90 hooks that hang between two buoys. The baited hooks are set to hang low in the deep waters to catch the bottom-feeding halibut that have two eyes on the same side of their heads.

Both Stoddard and Nickerson, 21, were watching over their weather equipment two low pressure systems forming in the south.

On Feb. 16, Stoddard said he called Nickerson to say he was hauling his gear and heading to Petit-de-Grat, Cape Breton, aiming to get back to the wharf and land his catch before the storm hit.

“Katlin intended to head in too, but he lost his inverter.”

The inverter converts electricity produced by the big diesel engine driving a fishing boat to a form that can be used by its lights and some other electronics. Without lights, the crew of the Miss Ally couldn’t find their gear in the dark.

So they waited until morning.

All the while, the low pressure systems combined far to the south, strengthening their haul of wind as they barrelled toward the Miss Ally.

“He had 24 tubs left in the water, and that would have taken them six to eight hours to get out,” Stoddard said.

“They’d have started at the crack of daylight. I talked to him Sunday afternoon and he was on his way in.”

The Miss Ally steamed north toward Sambro, but the storm came upon it, blasting the boat from the southwest before the wind turned and came from the northwest at hurricane force. The coast guard reported wave heights of up to 10 metres, blowing snow and zero visibility.

Stoddard was aboard his boat at the wharf in Petit-de-Grat on the evening of Feb. 17 when he heard the distress call on his radio.

At about 11 p.m., the Miss Ally’s emergency beacon went off. A United States Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft was first on the scene. Its crew reported seeing a life-raft but was forced to head home by the extreme weather after dropping a marker nearby.

Two Canadian Coast Guard boats, the Sir William Alexander and the Earl Grey, fought their way toward the Miss Ally’s last known position but only found its overturned hull.

“People will sit and speculate on what happened, but the truth of the fact is that they were caught in a terrible storm,” Stoddard said Monday.

“People need to know that Katlin did nothing more than any one of us other captains have done in our lifetimes. He wasn’t being reckless and he wasn’t being brazen. He was getting his gear out of the water and the storm came up a bit faster than he thought.”

On Monday, as Woods Harbour planned a memorial service for the five young fishermen whose bodies haven’t been found, Stoddard asked a favour. He said that those who don’t fish should respect the decisions made by those who do and try to appreciate that sometimes there’s no one to blame.

“You have to go fish when you can fish. This is our profession, we know what we’re doing.

“If you take how many trips actually sail off these wharves year after year, I guarantee you there’s a lot less accidents on the ocean than on the highway.

“Katlin was a good captain, and I had a lot of respect for him.”



There really is nothing to add to this sad and final chapter. No doubt the TSB will conduct their investigation and draw whatever conclusions and lessons they must from this. The irreversible fact is that these five young lads are gone. For whatever reasons. But the wee boats will continue leaving the docks, in Wood's Harbour and countless other little ports around the Atlantic Provinces. For such is the life of men who draw their living from the sea. Remember that when you balk at the price of your favorite seafood, at the local market. These men get so little in return compared to the middle-men and the final sellers of this product. 'Tis scandalous indeed...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A hasty salvage, perhaps...?

So I’m reading an update in today’s Chronicle Herald (Halifax, NS) which details how rather than waiting for ‘the government’ to mount a salvage and recovery mission, local skippers have volunteered the services of their own vessels, as well as some volunteer divers. They are by all accounts currently heading out to the still-floating hulk of the Miss Ally to undertake their own salvage operation.

Again, I can understand how emotions can drive people to do things which are best left in the hands of those more savvy and qualified. I don’t know how big the vessel is which intends to salvage the Miss Ally, but they had better ensure that if she turns into a giant anchor, she doesn’t carry them down to Davey Jones’ locker with her. Salvage and recovery is a very specific field of endeavor and requires expert knowledge if it is to be carried out safely and successfully. It is not something that just anyone can try their hand at. It’s not simply a matter of lassoing a floating hulk and towing it back to land behind you.

As for those intent on diving the wreck for bodies, notwithstanding the fact that the Miss Ally is a fairly small boat (or maybe because she is…), if those divers are not trained in this field, or at the very least as clearance divers, then they are endangering themselves as well. This might be seen as ‘courageous’ or ‘noble’ by some, but it is in fact simple stupidity which is bound to end badly for all concerned. Salvage is an enterprise which must be approached with a great deal of knowledge, experience and forethought. Again, it is a risky business carried out in an even riskier environment.

I hope for all concerned that this turns out well, but there is a very lengthy track record of dismal failure, when it comes to those whose impatience goads them to “take matters into their own hands”.



Pressure mounts to salvage N.S. fishing boat

February 21, 2013 - 12:17pm By ALISON AULD The Canadian Press

UPDATED 3:01 p.m. Thursday

WOODS HARBOUR, N.S. — The RCMP have asked the Defence Department for help as the Mounties face mounting pressure from a Nova Scotia community demanding the recovery of a capsized boat that could contain the bodies of five young fishermen.

An RCMP spokesman in Woods Harbour, said Thursday the Mounties are now waiting for approval from Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Nova Scotia's representative in the federal cabinet.

But some in the community were not content to wait any longer.

The father of one of the missing fishermen said a private boat with four divers aboard left from the Halifax area to find the capsized 13-metre boat.

"So we've decided we don't want to wait any longer,'' said George Hopkins. This boat could sink. There's nothing guaranteed and it's afloat right now, so we're going to search for it.''

He said other fishermen near his home in Woods Harbour were also getting ready to join the search for the Miss Ally, which flipped over in rough seas Sunday night. One fishing boat, the Lady Faith, left Thursday afternoon from the area.

"We're not forcing anybody's hand to do it,'' he said in an interview. "I've had lots of calls from people wanting to do it.''

Hopkins, whose son Joel was aboard the vessel, says the community can't wait for the RCMP or the military to take action because the partially submerged boat could sink at any time.

Federal search and rescue officials have said it was up to the RCMP to decide what to do because the case was handed to the Mounties when the search for the men was called off Tuesday.

Maj. Martell Thompson, spokesman for the military's Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said a military aircraft has been dispatched to the area to determine whether the Miss Ally was still afloat.

The military confirmed that the boat's upturned yellow hull was last spotted by the coast guard on Wednesday afternoon.

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau, a former fisherman who represents the area, says he has approached federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield to determine whether a salvage operation is feasible.

"I asked him to consult with his cabinet colleagues and review his options,'' he said in Woods Harbour. "I am just bringing the concerns of the community to him.''

Erin Filliter, a spokeswoman for Ashfield, said the RCMP was in charge of the file.

"We do leave this type of decision-making to experts,'' she said. "Currently this is an RCMP investigation, so at this time it would be led by the RCMP.''

Pastor Phil Williams at the Calvary United Baptist church in Lower Woods Harbour said the community has rallied behind the families' call for a salvage operation.

"I would venture to say that if you took a poll you would have 110 per cent,'' he said in an interview. "(We) want Miss Ally brought up at all costs, expense, whatever. It's essential for peace and closure.''

Pierre Murray, regional manager of operations for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said a team of investigators arrived in Woods Harbour on Wednesday.

Murray said they plan to review communications between the crew and family members, friends and search and rescue officials.

Hopkins has said he was in touch with the crew shortly before its water-activated emergency locator beacon went off just after 11 p.m. Sunday.

The Miss Ally was on an extended halibut fishing trip when it ran into heavy weather — 10-metre seas and winds approaching hurricane strength.

Murray said the safety board's investigators will also look at the boat's stability assessments, construction and inspections as well as the crew's experience and training. The vessel was built in 2006 and had to be inspected every five years.

"We're going to try to find out what was going on, what type of weather they were experiencing, if the boat was damaged or if it was taking on water,'' he said from Halifax.

"The difficulty is that we don't have a boat and we don't have survivors, so what we can do is try to get as much as we can right now.''

Murray said the independent agency once recovered a small fishing boat from the bottom of the Bay of Fundy to help with their investigation into a sinking that claimed four lives. But he stressed that conditions were more favourable then.

"It was a bit different from going out there in the open sea and trying to recover a boat,'' he said.

In January 2004, the 9.7-metre Lo-Da-Kash, based in Maces Bay, N.B., was heading back from Campobello Island when it sank with four people on board. The Transportation Safety Board conducted a dive on the vessel in May 2004 and it was raised to the surface four months later and towed to shore.

With files from Michael MacDonald

For the folks of Wood's Harbour, NS...

I know there is much grief and heartache in your community, as I sit and write this. I know there are calls to resume the search for your loved ones who are lost at sea. Rumors and speculation about what might have been spotted, by whom and when, will always arise in instances such as this, fuelled by a sense of desperation and a natural unwillingness to accept the inevitable truth. Grasping at straws, is a term which comes to mind and I can understand this state of mind and soul absolutely. It is a completely human and natural reaction to the mind-numbing pain that lances its way through the hearts of the residents of Wood’s Harbour, notably the families and friends directly affected by the loss of the Miss Ally.

What is actually known? They were about 120 miles Southeast of Liverpool, NS in mountainous seas (10 metres) and hurricane force winds. The first signal of trouble was the intercept of an EPIRB transmission at around 11:00pm on Sunday evening. This device will normally transmit when a vessel has sunk, as it is activated by water. Some models can also be activated manually. At no time during the investigation of this incident, was it ever even suggested that there had been a distress call intercepted on Marine VHF Channel 16, prior to the EPIRB being activated. This in itself tells us much. It means quite simply that the boat had capsized before any of these young men could make it to the radio to report their situation. This forcibly leads to the next question: where were the lads on the boat when she capsized? Were they down below, save for the one or two who might have been in the wheelhouse, guiding her through the storm? Were they up top on deck? Had any been lost over the side before she was capsized? Were they wearing their immersion suits, or simply the yellow ‘canary suits’ over their work clothes?

There have been credible reports of a life raft having been spotted. Had this life raft been properly secured to the Miss Ally, it would have automatically deployed after the vessel had sunk, released by a hydrostatic cord which would then had allowed it to float to the surface, the fiberglass clamshell separating and the life raft self-inflating. Once the raft had reached the surface, if there was no one close by to grab it those hurricane force winds would have taken it and sent it skittering across the waves. Sea anchor deployed or not. As one of the local residents quipped: “Like a balloon on the water”. It is also possible that the life raft was manually released from it’s cradle and the painter cord pulled to inflate it…

When I think of shipwrecks and souls lost at sea, I am often reminded of that poignant line penned by Gordon Lightfoot, when he wrote of the Edmund Fitzgerald:

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes... when the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

I have read comments by some on various news sites, that would imply that if these lads had come from prominent families, their remains would already be ashore somewhere. The absolute idiocy of such a remark cannot be overstated. Clearly it comes from someone who has no understanding whatsoever of SAR procedures and even less regarding the courage and dedication of those who provide these vital services to Canadians. To even suggest that the degree of response to such a tragedy is based on some mythical socio-economic class structure, is the very embodiment of howling ignorance and an insult to those who dedicate their lives to the safety of others. It would follow that their feet have likely never touched the deck of any boat of ship, much less spent any time at sea. I would go so far as to remind them that the body of Michel Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, still lies at the bottom of Kokanee Lake in British Columbia. An area far ‘easier’ to search than the vast expanses of the Atlantic Ocean and one not subject to severe wave and current action.

I am a man of the sea, having spent many years in the naval service of my country and much of that time at sea proper. The survival time of a person immersed in the waters of the North Atlantic, notably in the winter months, is about 6 minutes. The most one could hope for is 30 minutes. The following link provides ample graphic figures for Survival Rates in Cold Water as drawn up for Transport Canada and published by the US National Transportation Safety Board. Bear in mind the figures quoted in this report and the accompanying chart, then remember that the search itself lasted over 36 hours:


Possibly the worse aspect of losing a loved one at sea, is that we are deprived of that final goodbye. There is no known grave to revisit and mourn over. They are simply, suddenly gone forever from our lives. There is a lack of continuance. There is no final closure to mark the end of that life. If at all possible, should efforts be made to retrieve the vessel itself and recover the remains of any who were onboard? In my humble opinion certainly, if time and resources permit. Regardless of the situation, there will always remain this seeming chasm between what could, what should and what ultimately will be done. I cannot put myself in the position of the families affected, but as a sentient and somewhat compassionate human being, I hope as much as anyone could that there may yet be some measure of comfort for the residents of Wood’s Harbour.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sea Shepherd takes it's lumps...

Anti-whaling activists say they were attacked by Japanese ships

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 8:06 AM EST, Wed February 20, 2013

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd said ships from the Japanese whaling fleet attacked its vessels, ramming them and hurling concussion grenades.

"There's been the most outrageous attack on the Sea Shepherd Australia ships today," said Bob Brown, a member of the board of directors of Sea Shepherd Australia, describing it as the "worst incident" the group had experienced since one of its vessels sank two years ago.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Brown said that a large Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, had repeatedly rammed Sea Shepherd ships in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica where it was trying to refuel and that a Japanese government escort vessel had directed water cannon and lobbed concussion grenades at the activists.

He claimed the Japanese ships had intruded into Australian territorial waters and breached both international and Australian law.

2011: War over whaling in Japan "I'm very concerned and alarmed that Japan has decided to become pirates in our territorial waters," he said. "It's time the Australian government acted."

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said it was checking what had happened with the whaling fleet and was unable to comment further at this point.

Australian authorities didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from CNN, but the ABC cited Environment Minister Tony Burke as saying he was trying to confirm what had taken place.

"Let's wait until I can get those reports confirmed, but I won't be going quiet once I get the information," he said.

Japan annually hunts whales despite a worldwide moratorium, utilizing a loophole in the law that allows for killing the mammals for scientific research.

Each year, environmental groups like Sea Shepherd face off with Japan's hunters in a high seas drama that has led to collisions of ships, the detaining of activists and smoke bombs fired back and forth between the groups.


Now understand that I am all for the preservation of the oceans' species, particularly whales, dolphins, sharks and every other species that assures a viable and healthy marine ecosystem. Understand also that I am appalled by the continued whaling practices of ANY country, Japan included. These things are givens...

Now, understand also that under the 'leadership' of pseudo-Captain Paul Watson, the vessel of the Sea Shepherd Society have been endangering the lives of ships crews (including their own), by committing the very same irresponsible acts on other vessels. For this, they have always expected to be applauded by the mindless herds of their followers, who know absolutely nothing about the laws governing the conduct of ships at sea. They are a danger to themselves and all around them.

For them to find themselves on the receiving end of such attacks and actually have the audacity to bitch and whine about it, is absolutely laughable. Better put your 'big-girl' panties on, kids. If you're going to play with the big boys, you had better be prepared to get as good as you give...

On the loss of the FV Miss Ally...

This article has been copied from the CTV Maritimes Region website. It details the events surrounding the loss of the fishing vessel Miss Ally, which sailed out of Wood's Harbour, NS.

I am by no means a religious man, but whenever I hear news of such a maritime tragedy, Psalm 107:23 comes readily to mind:

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven."

Psalms, 107:23-30, KJV


Published Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 12:04PM AST

Last Updated Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 6:49PM AST

HALIFAX -- Two coast guard vessels and a rescue helicopter searched late Monday for the crew of a fishing boat that went missing off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia in 10-metre seas lashed by hurricane-force winds.

The 13-metre boat, based in Woods Harbour, N.S., had a crew of five on board when its emergency locator beacon transmitted a distress signal Sunday at 11 p.m., said navy Lt. Peter Ryan, spokesman for the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax.

"The weather out there was very poor, low visibility and high winds and very challenging seas," he said in an interview.

A search is underway for this fishing boat, the Miss Ally, after it capsized off the coast of Nova Scotia's South Shore Sunday night.

A Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter and two Canadian Coast Guard light icebreakers -- Earl Grey and Sir William Alexander -- were dispatched to the area, about 120 kilometres southeast of Liverpool.

The helicopter crew conducted a four-hour search Monday morning then headed to 12 Wing Shearwater near Halifax for refuelling before resuming the search.

Ryan said the crew of a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft -- a Falcon twin-engine jet from Cape Cod -- reported spotting a life-raft early Monday, but he couldn't offer further details.

George Hopkins, the father of one of the missing men, 27-year-old Joel Hopkins of Woods Harbour, said the name of the vessel is the Miss Ally and its crew is experienced.

"They are to a certain extent, but the captain is really young," said Hopkins. "I don't know how experienced you can be when he's only 21 or so. ... The oldest one is only about 32 or 33."

Hopkins said the crew probably had survival suits aboard. However, he said fishermen don't wear them while they're working because they restrict movement.

He said the Canadian Coast Guard reported seeing the capsized hull of the vessel, but Ryan couldn't confirm that.

As for the life-raft, Hopkins said the U.S. Coast Guard aircrew spotted it using infrared equipment.

"They haven't seen anything since," he said in telephone interview from his home. "They're the only ones who saw the life-raft."

Transport Canada records show the vessel is owned by Katlin Todd Nickerson of Woods Harbour, who Hopkins identified as the captain.

The fishing boat, made from moulded reinforced plastic, was by built Hubbie's Boat Builders Ltd. of Clark's Harbour, N.S., in 2006, the records say.

The warden of the Municipality of Barrington, Eddie Nickerson, said the community of 7,000 was waiting anxiously for any news from searchers.

"I know all of the boys that were on the boat," he said in an interview. "It's a fragile situation."

Nickerson said he believes all five men come from different families, but most of them come from the Woods Harbour area.

"I just can't picture myself in the position of the families," he said.

"(But) it's good that much of the community is very supportive around here. Friends and family have gathered at the families' homes. They're all comforting each other and doing what they can do to make a terrible situation a little more comfortable."

Nickerson said a candlelight vigil was planned for Monday evening at the Calvary United Baptist Church in Lower Woods Harbour.

The municipality officially describes itself as the "Lobster Capital of Canada." Its website says the community is "rooted in tradition and shaped by the sea."

The overnight storm that swept through the Maritimes knocked out power for thousands of Nova Scotians and schools were cancelled in parts of the province Monday.

At Baccaro Point in southwestern Nova Scotia, wind gusts were recorded at 80 to 90 kilometres per hour throughout the night and much of Monday morning.

Stewart Franck, executive director of the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia, said the industry needs to find ways to prevent accidents at sea.

"There's sadness, but you also get a little bit angry because we hope to avoid these things," said Franck, whose non-profit association represents approximately 1,300 companies in the province.

"I'm sad that we're not there yet as far as an industry. ... Our hopes and prayers and best wishes go to the family and friends of the crew and the community."

Read more: http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/search-underway-for-fishermen-after-boat-capsizes-off-n-s-1.1161129#ixzz2LRgFnnzO


I am not going to offer up any speculation regarding the how or why of this most recent tragedy. For one, I was not there. For another, as the facts and figures come in, the truth will be plain enough to see. There is no need for anyone to pass judgement on a condemned man.

I will however go so far as to say that nobody I have ever known could be considered a seasoned master at the tender age of 22. I have no doubt whatsoever that these five young men were sterling characters and obviously hard workers. The life of a fisherman is not one for slackers. Enthusiasm and a healthy work ethic however cannot take the place of experience and sound judgement at sea. Ultimately, a skipper is the sole person responsible for the safety of his vessel and his crew. It's all part of the 'burden of command'. His decisions affect many, as this situation makes only too plain. 

It is sufficient to say that we mourn their loss and send our thoughts to their families and friends in Wood's Harbour.

A heavy first call of the day...

Talk about a way to set the mood for the day. I just received a call from a woman down Barrington way in Nova Scotia. She was asking for information on whom she would speak to, regarding lighting a re-built lighthouse (Seal Island Light) down there, as a memorial to the five young lads who were recently lost on the fishing vessel ‘Miss Ally’. I transferred her to the head office for Aids to Navigation in Dartmouth.

‘Tis a sad way to start the day indeed…

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An update of sorts...

So I have been monitoring myself a little closer these days, all in an effort to develop a better feel for how I am doing. It has been a radical shift from simply disregarding things that affect me on an ongoing basis. I believe I haven’t bothered cataloging the list of pains and aches I experience on a daily basis, simply because it would be a continuous exercise.

I find it immeasurably hard to break myself of this habit of ignoring what ails me. My character is such that when confronted with adversity, the reflex is to just push through it. Military training demanded it. Discomfort? Fatigue? Push through it… be a man… grow a pair… suck it up… show some intestinal fortitude… don’t wimp out… keep up the side… don’t let us down… if this was easy, civilians could do it… we’re counting on you…

So bearing in mind the era where I grew up, the social conventions of the time and the stereotypes we were bombarded with, coupled with 21 years of military service, it is not surprising in the least that I have trouble at times separating ‘the myth from the man’. I think the key word here is going to be honesty. To be honest with myself. That I am perhaps tired of carrying around this mantle of seeming-invincibility. That there are many times where I find myself reflecting on how much these recent events have exacted from me. That try as I might, I will never recover that physical person that I was.

I know I have no other option but to come to terms with this new reality. But I can also try to appreciate and fully understand the ramifications of all this. There has yet to be a night where shifting my position in bed has not caused me pain of some sort. I cannot lie on one side for too long, lest the building discomfort wake me up. So I spend most nights shifting from one side to the other. There has yet to be a day when I can walk without getting grief from either my legs, my hips, my knees or my ankles. When it comes to climbing or descending stairs, it is always done slowly, with great deliberation and trepidation. I still harbor this unreasoning dread (to me…) of falling. My knees and hips are normally the most affected by this particular exercise.

As for my right hand which was broken, it has become a prognosticator of weather patterns, thanks to arthritis which invariably turns up as the weather changes. Still, it is usable so there’s always that. The left side of my body remains very much the worse affected part of me, however. My shoulder and arm provide a constant source of pain and discomfort and together with my left leg, the greatest of my limitations. This current status has been described by many medical professionals, as something which will not resolve itself over time. So that is the upshot of it…

I have come to terms with these facts, yes. But I have also come to terms with the fact that it is okay for me to feel, own and process whatever emotions I might experience as a result of all this. Yes, it’s okay for me to feel sad and disheartened at times. It is okay for me to feel angered and resentful that I have had, that we have had to live through this. I am purposefully refraining from commenting on the utter financial chaos that being off work for well over a year has occasioned. It’s okay for me to feel frustrated and vengeful about how our lives have been forever changed, simply because of a lack of attention, of boneheaded stupidity on the part of a total stranger. It’s also more than okay if I sometimes admit to being no more than a simple man, who at times feels all too frail and unsure as to whether he can cope with these changes in his life.

I don’t mean to sound melodramatic here, but until recently I was of the opinion that I could just bluff my way through the bad days. Put up a brave front, pretend that none of this could or was getting me down. I of course have been doing this for the sake of those around me, those outside the actual theatre of events. “Don’t concern yourselves about me… nothing to see here…”. Yet this was always done at the expense of my own feelings and emotions. I was constantly forcing myself to suppress how I was really feeling, in order to reassure others. Or maybe it was just to avoid boring the Hell out of them. Let’s face it, who wants to hear about another person’s problems…? I don’t know why I felt this compunction to do this, I just do. But again, it’s something I’m working on.

I can tell that all this is taking its toll on me. This last week I have been totally devoid of energy. It’s like I’m running out of gas. I’m no different than many other people, I reckon. I could really use some time off but can’t quite afford the time off. I’d love to take a vacation somewhere, but can’t afford the travel. So we live for better days, making the best of each of our present ones in the meantime. I remain a somewhat incurable optimist, but one who has finally embraced his right to care for himself and embrace his own emotions. For good or ill…

Friday, February 15, 2013

A journey of self-discovery...

So on the 31st of January, I attended a court meeting called an Examinations for Discovery session. This is where my lawyer and I sit down with a court reporter and the lawyer representing the other side in this ongoing legal action pursuant to the bike accident in July of 2010. I spent 4 hours being grilled by the opposing legal counsel, on everything to past history, health, medical history, finances, employment, family, the accident itself, the memory of coming to in the recovery room and what life has been like since. I suppose this is the first time since that event, where I have spent so much time immersed in the details of what happened and how it actually impacted me and those around me.

I have come to realize that when we suffer such an event, we seek to ‘compartmentalize’ it and store it away somewhere. We want to forget about it. Pretend it never happened, maybe. Perhaps because we feel that it is simply too immense to confront head on. To deal with it openly and honestly. Even though I am reminded at every turn, with every action I do during the run of a normal day. As we were discussing the accident, my 3-week stay in the trauma unit and my subsequent move to a convalescence home, I was quite suddenly overcome with emotion. It was at once a deep sadness, combined with a feeling of sincere gratitude for people like my first Physio-Terrorist and the attending staff of convalescent home, who started me down this road to recovery. I think it was the first time that I had been able to step back from it all and see myself as I was at the time. I do believe it was the first time I had allowed myself to feel any compassion for me. And I cried. We had to take a short break while I went for a smoke to regain my composure. Had I been on my own when I experienced this epiphany, I probably would have cried for the remainder of the afternoon.

I remembered with vivid clarity how very helpless I was and felt. How very reliant and dependent I had become on the care and well-meaning of others. It was truly a most humbling experience. Most of my energies were spent on presenting a brave face for my spouse and my caregivers. Their jobs were hard enough, why burden them with my fears or negative energy? I was entirely focused on rest and healing. Whatever was asked of me, I was more than happy to comply with. I was on a mission. But through this entire process, I never took the time out to grieve over what had happened. Over what both my wife and I had and were being forced to endure. I’m not necessarily talking about feeling sorry for myself, although perhaps some folks would look at it that way. But simply acknowledging the pain, the fear, the helplessness, the frustration, the anger that such a life-altering event carries with it. All those emotions have remained safely locked up inside me and I thought I was doing just fine, thank you very much. Clearly I still have much work to do. I have noticed that since the accident, my emotions flow in rivers just below my skin. It doesn’t take much to set me off these days. Obviously my body, my mind and my soul are telling me that they still have some way to go in dealing with all of this. It was basically, a watershed moment. Figuratively as much as literally. We have learned much in the last couple of years, because of the accident and it’s continuing fallout. It continues to be a learning experience…

I have since shared these thoughts and feelings with those who have been working with me throughout this ordeal. It has been suggested and I totally agree, that by addressing and discussing this more often, it will aid in de-fusing some of these emotions and lessening their effects on me.

For as much as it has been agreed that I have made some remarkable progress physically, it appears clear that on a psychological level I am only coming to terms with the work that remains ahead of me. I occasionally suffer from day-mares, where for no explicable reason my mind will start playing a movie of me involved in some horrific motorcycle-related incident. It doesn’t always mirror what presumably happened to me during the accident, but the effect is such that I find my heart rate elevated, my breathing becoming labored and I am temporarily filled with this feeling of dread. Almost like what one experiencing a panic attack might feel. Or maybe exactly that… I have no way of knowing, as I have never experienced these feelings before.

I do know that for the longest time after first being able to clamber into our SUV, I was extremely nervous as a passenger and would often have what can only be termed as ‘flashbacks’. I would stiffen or contort myself noticeably in the seat when confronted with these visions and my wife would take notice. She herself would become somewhat alarmed and invariably ask me: “What’s wrong…?” Initially, I didn’t know what to reply. I finally managed to explain what was happening to me and the frequency with which these visions occurred. Eventually when we both became familiar with ‘the routine’, she would see me tense up and simply say: “You’re back there, huh?” I would nod and we would carry on. What else could we do…?

These days it feels as though there is still so much to contend with on a daily basis. It feels as though I don’t have time to do what I must/should be doing. I rush and I rush. Either to work, on break, to lunch, inhale food as time allows, rush back to work, rush home. But even there, there are social obligations, paperwork, record-keeping, appointments to be tracked, logged, anticipated… There is simply no time. No space…

Every trip up or down the stairs of our home, is a poignant reminder of how my life has changed. The same applies for rolling out of bed in the morning. Some days are better than others, but they all come with their share of aches and pains. I enjoy the exercise that simply walking provides, but this too comes at a cost. I still believe that the benefits outweigh the owies experienced, though.

I will periodically revisit this topic in the coming weeks and months. If for no other reason than my own welfare, or perhaps for those who are living through similar circumstances.


WTF is wrong with Americans...???

So I’m reading this article on the CNN website this morning, which describes how 2 fifth grade male students from Washington State were thwarted in their plans to kill 7 of their fellow students. Quote: (CNN) -- Two fifth-grade boys armed with a stolen semi-automatic gun, ammunition clip and knife plotted to kill a classmate in Washington state but were thwarted when another student informed a school employee, authorities said Thursday.

The two boys, who told police they considered the girl rude and annoying, won't be tried as adults and will be in court next Wednesday for a capacity hearing, said Tim Rasmussen, the Stevens County prosecuting attorney.

The two boys, ages 10 and 11, told authorities that they were also going to kill, or "get," six more students at Fort Colville Elementary School in Colville, Washington, and even identified them from a class list provided by school employees, according to court documents.

The boys' plan called for the older to stab the girl off-campus with a 3.25-inch knife last week, and the younger boy would scare off any responders with a .45-caliber Remington 1911 semi-automatic handgun, court documents said. – End quote.

The Colt Model 1911 in question had been stolen from one of the lads’ grandfather’s home, after the young fella found the key to the gun cabinet. You can find the entire article at the following URL:


Now had they actually succeeded in carrying out their plan, this would have become yet one more instance of absolutely retarded ‘gun violence’ in the States. This would have been followed by a large hue and cry to ban guns in the State of Washington. Again, there would have been this knee-jerk reaction of focusing on the means of committing such a crime, rather than the actual reason of it all. Pray tell what goes through a young boy’s mind when he decides very matter-of-factly that he is going to kill a young girl, because he finds her annoying…??? And what does it say of this same society where he can readily find another young boy to eagerly follow such a scheme? Like I said in a previous post of mine, the endemic problem here in the USA or any other country is not the fact that people own handguns, or long rifles or even ‘assault weapons’… It is this rampant sense of entitlement to take another person’s life for the most trivial of excuses.

Bullying has been a factor of life for every single generation within memory. It is a common factor not only in a child’s early development, but it is a behavior exhibited by some people throughout their lives. It is, one could say, a natural part of our interactions as humans. It happens. Back in the day, we taught our kids to stand up to bullies, to learn to defend themselves. If there is one thing bullies fear and which inevitably will cure them of their ways, it’s for their victim(s) to grow a pair and slap the piss outta them. We have bred that out of our children over the past few decades. ‘Violence is wrong’, we tried to teach them. ‘You have to be the bigger person’, we tell them. ‘Turn the other cheek’, as the church crowd would say… All these platitudes don’t do a thing for a child who is being bullied. As we have seen, some kids are so woefully unprepared to deal with life, that they end up taking their own lives. Children have to be taught that there is in fact a proper time and place for aggression. Not only that, but they have to be schooled in its application. To not teach them this is not only disingenuous, but you are serving them up to those who would take advantage of their naivety and ineptitude.

Conversely, there has been this mass media campaign about and against bullying. The media have succeeded in dramatizing what is a basic rite of passage for human beings around the world. It is being treated as though it is a completely new social phenomena and it’s victims are being held up as modern-day martyrs. I suppose the misguided intent here is to ‘shame’ bullies into changing their behavior. This will never have the desired effect. Knowing that an intended victim can and will fight back, is the only deterrent a bully will ever comprehend. So our ‘victims’ are now caught in the glare of the media spotlight. The main thrust of all this supposedly has been to ‘empower’ them. Well, when you have not been taught to defend yourself physically or by the use of any other means, you quickly run out of options. Nobody else is going to step in for them (grown-ups can’t/won’t interfere, whether they be parents or teachers) so you have a choice of either two extremes. Kill yourself or kill the other person. And who says inept parenting is a victimless crime…

Still, this does not account for these two young lads. They were not being bullied, they were simply ‘annoyed’. Perhaps based of the media’s interpretation, they concluded they were being bullied and were therefore entitled to take whatever measures they deemed necessary to remedy their situation? It literally boggles the mind. That anyone could so cavalierly decide that young fellow grade school students should die, over some perceived ‘injustice’. Clearly these two show classic signs of sociopathic behavior. Similar if not identical to all those other individuals who have been involved in the latest string of senseless shooting sprees. Yet why is this phenomena seemingly so wide-spread?

Is it something in the air? In the water? Is it something ingested in the food they eat? Is there some external cause which contributes to such a psychological aberration? What the fuck IS going on with Americans…? Why has no one of any importance in that country finally seized on the fact that gun violence in the USA has fuck-all to do with the guns themselves, but rather the mindless ease with which individuals choose to use them against others? And for the most inane of reasons…

Thursday, February 7, 2013

An update on World Sniping Records...

In March of 2002, Master Cpl. Arron Perry and Cpl. Rob Furlong, both serving in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), shattered the longest recorded sniper kill record. This had been previously set by Marine Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hatchcock at 2,286 meters (2,500 yds) while in Vietnam, in February of 1967. Incredibly, Hatchcock used a .50 cal. Browning M2 machine gun fitted with a telescopic sight to register his kill on a lone VC.

M/Cpl. Perry took out an enemy combatant from a range of 2,310 meters, only to be bested days later by Cpl. Furlong who eradicated an enemy combatant from a range of 2,430 meters (2,659 yds). Both men were using the Canadian issued, bolt-action MacMillan TAC-50 rifle. The rounds used were Hornady A-MAX .50 (.50 BMG). The two men and others in their sniper cell made many such shots during their tour of duty in Afghanistan, as they fought alongside contingents of the American 101st Airborne Division (Rakkasans), during Operation Annaconda.

Since that time, the record has been twice eclipsed and credit should go where credit is due.

Cpl. Furlong's record was first broken in November of 2009, by a British lad. Corporal of Horse (CoH) Craig Harrison, serving with the Household Cavalry - Life Guards in Afghanistan. He eradicated an enemy combatant at a range of 2,475 meters (2,707 yds). He was firing a L115A3 Long Range Rifle, using .338 Lapua Magnum rounds. (LockBase B408 bullets).

More recently in 2012, also in Afghanistan, this record was broken yet again, by an undetermined Australian sniper operating with Delta Company, Australian 2nd Commando Regiment. Two shooters were employed simultaneously to take out the target, so who actually acheived the shot is unknown. He took out two enemy combatants consecutively (machine gunners) at a range of 2,815 meters (3,079 yds), using a Barrett M82A1. The rounds used were .50 BMG.

The records keep falling and God only knows, there is no lack of targets of opportunity out there nowadays. Better weapons, better munitions... The count continues.

A Search and Rescue Prodigy...

So I receive this call from a female resident on the Left Coast. She states that she is looking for information on employment opportunities within the our agency, in that area of the country. I ask her how she found out about our service and she begins rattling off how she has been actively involved in search and rescue for a number of years now so she's "always known about us". "And... how... did... you... find... our... number... today...?", I finally ask. "Oh... I found that on the internet", she finally clues in. (Listening/interpretive skills = 0).

I inform her that we do have a point of contact for this information and that it is in the form of an email address.

I then proceed to give her said email address and we terminate the call.

Not two minutes later, I get another call. Again, it’s a female caller from the same area of Canada. She is looking for job opportunities in SAR with the same agency. The lady sounds familiar . So again I retrieve the program from our database and offer the email address. At this point my caller advises me that: “Yes, I used that address and it led me right back to you…”. I ask her how this is possible, as I provided her with an email address and not a website URL. Again she states: “That’s the one I used and it directed me to you. I put it in Google and it led me back to you…!!!”. (Cognitive skills = 0).

After shaking my head to rid it of the dissonance created by my caller’s last comment, I slowed my speech to match the speed of her brain and painstakingly explained what email was all about and how to use it. I almost went on to say that no, you don’t need stamps for email either, but that probably would have been seen as cruel. Having assured myself that she sort of understood what I had just told her, I once more ended the call. If she does not have the presence of mind to sort out something as basic as the differtence between an email address and a URL site, when there is no pressure on or sense of urgency, I do not give her a snowball's chance in Hell working in the world of SAR.

If in fact there is a God of any sort out there, she will never darken the administrative doorway of any recruiting centre.