Helping The Heroes Who Help Those In Distress
I’ve never had to be rescued at sea, though I’ve come close to calling for help on a few occasions. My granddad sailed on square-riggers long before radios, GPS and other equipment we tend to take for granted. In those days if you went over the side or your ship got into trouble, the chances of being rescued were slim to none.
That may have had something to do with me signing on as part of an inshore lifeboat crew many years ago. Most of our “shouts” were for people who had been washed out to sea on a water toy, surfboard or dinghy. I’ll forever remember the looks on the faces of those we saved — often exhausted, frequently scared but forever grateful that we’d come out to rescue them. As part of the U.K.’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution, we did what we did because we believed we had a calling. The RNLI is not run by the British government. It relies entirely on voluntary contributions for funding — most of the lifeboat crews are volunteers, too — so it was a homecoming of sorts when I found out about the Association For Rescue At Sea (afras.org).
AFRAS’s mission is “to provide worldwide support and assistance to volunteer maritime rescue services and to recognize and honor extraordinary maritime rescues.” I asked AFRAS chairman Dana Goward how the organization came to be. Many of the rescue services outside the United States are funded voluntarily and, as such, rely on charitable donations, he says. AFRAS provides a “clearinghouse” through which tax-free donations can be made and distributed to organizations the donor designates. search-and-rescue organiza- tions around the globe.
AFRAS provides support to