There was once a lifeboat crew who really enjoyed their work. Lifeboat crews are usually unpaid, and each lifeboat station is run by a network of volunteers and supporters- but this particular crew were particularly well supported. Local businesses would make regular contributions for maintaining the boat, the boathouse and its tractor, and there were many fundraising events that brought villagers and townsfolk out in force. Their boat (the Amelia Dagsworthy) was particularly well kitted out, with all the latest gadgets and hardware.
But there was a problem.
This crew weren’t particularly brilliant at performing rescues. On one particular mission, they went to rescue a fishing boat and succeeded in pulling off its whole stern by towing it too hard in the wrong direction. This fact did not go unnoticed by the local fishing community, who became loath to ask for help, preferring to call each other for assistance over their short-wave radios.
On another mission, they ran out of fuel because someone had forgotten to check the levels in the tank before setting off. The Amelia had to be rescued by a passing fisherman, who quite enjoyed returning them to port - very slowly, and finally taking a circuitous route that went round the harbour. Twice.
Then there was the time they got lost in the fog hunting a sailing dinghy in trouble, because their pilot couldn’t read a map very well, the GPS and the radar broke down, and they somehow only managed to get back by following a few seagulls. And then there was the general meeting when a loud dispute over rosters led to some volunteers leaving, declaring this wasn’t what they wanted to be spending their leisure time on, and by the way, why were the organising committee all members of the same bloody family? Every year?
The Coastguard (who carry the ultimate responsibility for rescues) finally concluded it wasn’t worth using Amelia Dagsworthy, and after all, there were other lifeboats available along the coast. This left the remaining crew with a bit of a problem. What were they meant to do if nobody officially asked them for help? When the local seaside villages had their open harbour days, the Amelia was duly taken out on show, and the crew did their best to look busy, pottering around the coastline and harbours and looking as if they knew their business, but it was all getting rather awkward. What does a lifeboat do when nobody seems to want rescuing or saving- at least... by them? Mystified, the crew and their remaining supporters got together to discuss the problem.
What would you suggest?
And in your own experience, where else would this dilemma be applicable?