Editorial: A sense of how much we hazard

17:00, May 02 2014
andre kinzler
MISSING: German skipper Andre Kinzler.

Editorial: The seas off the southern coast call out to free spirits.

They hold the promise of adventure, excitement and challenge.

They don't ask for much in return. They demand it.

Past tragedies have made many of those requirements familiar even to inlanders -- not just a seaworthy craft and real maritime skills, but also a vivid sense of humility in the face of the sea's capacity to change monstrously.

Now we have three more people missing in distressing circumstances. There is much we still don't know but it's already looking like another requirement should be added to that cautionary list -- diligent communication.

Whatever the cause of the disappearance of Andre Kinzler, and his two friends Lea Tietz and Veronika Steudler aboard the Munetra, there's already evidence that Kinzler wasn't an especially communicative seagoer.


That does matter. The Bluff maritime radio is not some sort of chatroom for those who might be feeling talkative.

Well, okay, sometimes the chatter does foray from the strictly factual, locational and intentional and into the realms of the conversational and cheerful. But there's a real safety-enhancing purpose behind all that regular checking in.

It's a key part of how seagoers look after themselves, and one another.

There's ample evidence of Kinzler's friendliness so perhaps his disinclination to become part of the network had more to do with a lack of awareness of its importance.

That's the scenario put forward by Kinzler's Central Southland farm boss Jim Cooper, who makes a plausible point when he suggests the 33-year-old German may not have understood New Zealand sailing systems and, particularly, the culture of keeping connected.

Another issue is that Kinzler was, in such a terribly unforgiving environment, shy on experience. While not a rank novice, he was certainly still learning.

The extent to which he was doing this without sufficiently involving those of greater experience is as yet an unanswered question.

He had been working here as dairy farm manager, but only after first cycling around the country. Impressing as a hard worker, he devoted his spare time in pursuit of his dream of sailing the world.

Bluff has said goodbyes to many an adventurer. Some, like Gerry Clark, who went down at the Antipodes, and Harry Mitchell, who died in the storm-tossed Southern Ocean, were older men who had survived many calamities before their luck ran out. British rower Jim Shekhdar was at least able to be rescued alive.

It's not just the visitors who get into strife, either. Miserably, the record of recent years is also populated by fatal sinkings which have offered up cautionary reminders of how even seasoned Bluff-based seagoers could be caught out.

Everyone needs to be educated, adept and careful as hell out in those waters.

Kinzler hazarded more than his own life, taking two teenagers with him. That he did so suggests he did was not acting in the real knowledge of how much he was truly hazarding.

That, in itself, is desperately sad. But all the sadder if the lessons that stand to be learned from this case aren't taken aboard by the rest of us.

The Southland Times