Along the coast of the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard helps ships that get into difficulty at sea. The Coast Guard, like the Navy, is controlled by the U.S. government. It receives the money that it needs from the government; therefore, its ships, planes, and helicopters are  very modern. In Great Britain the system is very different. So lifeboats?

There are a small number of men, called lifeboatmen, who go out to help ships in trouble. These brave men often risk their lives, but they receive no money for their work. They live in small towns on the coast, and most have other jobs.


The special lifeboats that they need are provided by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (R.N.L.I.), a private group which depends completely on money from private people. The R.N.L.I. does not accept any money from the government. As a result, it cannot always buy the best and most modern lifeboats.


For example,  ten years ago, British researchers began to criticize the lifeboats which were in use at that time. According to their studies, the lifeboats never sank, but they turned over in certain sea conditions and stayed upside down in the water. However, there was a new kind of lifeboat that did not turn over. The R.N.L.I, began to buy this safer kind of boat, but it could only buy one every year.


Some years ago, on the southwestern coast of England, a lifeboat station that did not have the new type of lifeboat received a radio call from a small ship that was sinking. The call came in the middle of the worst storm in forty years. The sea was very rough, but the lifeboat  went out to try to save the men on the sinking ship. Two hours later, the radio of the lifeboat stopped, and nothing more was heard from them. One day later a helicopter found the lifeboat. It was lying upside down in the sea.


Probably a large wave hit it and turned it over. Everyone in the lifeboat had died. No one had survived.  The news of the disaster shocked the people of Great Britain. A number of people began, to criticize the lifeboat system. In their opinion, the U.S. system is better. “We cannot send brave men out in boats which aren’t safe,” they said. “They need the best boats which money can buy. The government must control the lifeboat system.”  Today, however, the system remains the same.

(This article was written in 90’s)


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