Smith notes that the southern latitudes are known as the Roaring 40s, the Furious 50s and the Screaming 60s. In other words, it's not as though Barnes took a supreme risk and counted on others to bail him out.
It's just that 99.9% of seaman, Smith says, follow a simple code:
"It's a pretty deep-seated tradition," he says, "that if a ship is in trouble and that if your vessel is in the area and is closest to it, you'll go help the other guy."
Yes, there have been occasions when rescuers have died, Smith says.
So, here's my conclusion: Ken Barnes might have gotten in over his head. Maybe he made tactical mistakes. But it's as likely he got blindsided by a rogue wave that wasn't preordained.
And if I'm reading the maritime code correctly, as these sailors explain it, when you rescue someone from likely death on the high seas, you don't then hand them a bill for your services.
Dana Parsons' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana
.email@example.com. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.