I FEEL compelled to respond to the letter ‘Paying for rescue, published in the July 14 Echo.

Firstly, for me, the RNLI’s feet turned to clay when, in the late 1960s whilst in command of a British cargo ship, I responded to a distress flare (as the law required me but not the RNLI to do) sent up by a lone mariner whose large motor boat had broken down in the English Channel. Seeking relevant assistance from the RNLI, I radioed requesting the local station to launch whilst I stood by the casualty. Surprisingly the coxswain stayed in bed claiming “Nobody can be in distress on a night like this”. I then, again as the law required of me, took the distress in tow to a place of safety.

The organisation was further tarnished in my eyes when, some years later, the coxswain of the Lerwick lifeboat expressed his concern to me upon taking delivery of the new breed of lifeboat with a transom stern. He considered the design most unsuited to the truly heavy weather frequently experienced in those waters where sea kindly double ended boats had been the norm since well before Nelson was a boy. His remark “It’s just as well she does 18kts so at least I have a chance running before a following sea” said it all.

However, be the RNLI good, bad or indifferent, the mention in your paper regarding paying for their services is pertinent given the lack of controls governing the leisure craft fraternity.

The fact that my nine-year-old granddaughter can, without let or hindrance, take to sea any of the privately-owned craft berthed in Weymouth Harbour continues to amaze. There is still no statutory requirement for anyone to be qualified, equipped or trained in any way at all before taking any private craft to sea. The RYA run excellent courses for sailors but that influential organisation continues to refuse to even lobby for the training of those in command of private craft to be compulsory.

And so to the question posed by the letter’s writer “Should we tax boat owners to fund the RNLI?” The answer to that must be a resounding: “Not tax but the RNLI should charge for their services”.

Not to ensure the already incredibly well-funded RNLI does not run out of cash but to pressure boat owners to get themselves trained and insured as those in charge of private cars and planes must be.

Capt Paul Whittle MNRt’d Wyke Regis Weymouth