The situation sounded dire. The Coast Guard got a call Monday afternoon from the captain of a yacht off the New Jersey shore who said an explosion aboard the good ship Blind Date had forced 21 injured and scared passengers into life rafts — and the boat was going down.
The only problem was, the whole thing was a hoax. And it’s not the only such not-so-funny scam, either. Last year more than 60 maritime hoax calls were made in New York and northern New Jersey. But few if any reach the truly operatic proportions this one did. About 200 rescuers joined forces for more than four hours via boat and helicopter to look for the nonexistent vessel. They included members of the Coast Guard, New York City police and fire departments, New Jersey State Police, Nassau County police and community volunteers. The unnecessary hunt for a fictional yacht will cost taxpayers an estimated $88,000.
For Pete’s sake, can we please just cut it out? Even little kids learn that pulling false fire alarms is a bad and dangerous thing to do; this is the same, only worse. The caller claimed to be transmitting from a solar-powered radio that couldn’t be tracked at the time. Since then, the call has been traced to land in New Jersey or southern New York.
Perhaps it’s time for the Coast Guard and other emergency responders to develop a system of identifying callers definitively so the necessary assistance can go to the other 400 or so annual distress calls, which are legit. Let’s hope we can learn something from this bad Blind Date.