On the importance of breaking the rules

  I recently received an email accusing me of breaking the law and publishing it on
the internet in an
article for all to see. The law in question is the 12 hour rule and
the coasties have been cracking down hard on it for sometime now. It is a low
hanging fruit for them, easy prey due to the pilot shortage. The writer of the letter
implied that I was acting irresponsibly by working over my watch.  To this I say
Bulls**t!!!! Grow some balls man!Reality is not so black and white, clear cut;
especially when it comes to safely operating a towboat.
 When I made the decision to stay behind the sticks that night it was not because I
did not have a proper relief on board or not that I was trying to perpetrate an act
of civil disobedience (although sometimes I have to fight the impulse to follow
through with my duty as an American and break laws that are clearly wrong
headed!!!); the reasons I remained in control of that tow were out of
safety and
respect. Safety for the tow, vessel, crew and community; respect for the man, who,
sleepy eyed and ignorant to the handling peculiarities of the tow he was about to
inherit, would be walking unprepared into a very demanding and unusual
situation. I was awake and alert. I was familiar with the handling characteristics of
the tow and we were in the middle of the highly technical maneuver that is getting
a tow into a lock. In my judgment it would have been irresponsible and unsafe to
get up and hand it over to my relief under those conditions. I broke the law and I
will do it again and again under similar circumstances. Laws are great yardsticks
for us to use to measure our actions but there are always circumstances which
must be considered. A good pilot must consider the law, the circumstances and
then use his judgment before making decisions.  We all need to use our brains
more and blindly follow rules less. We are not lemmings, we are free men, or at
least we are what is left of that ideal. The more we act like “well behaved” robots,
blindly following the rules without regard to the reality of the situation, the further
we move away from the great ideals that founded this country. Use your judgment,
make a decision and break the law once in a while, it is your
duty!

-Capt. Kerr A. Jess
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