Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Lives at sea should not be put at risk by stupidity.

Severn class lifeboat in Poole Harbour, Dorset...Image via Wikipedia

The Olive Tree was looking like new, just off the slip, with her fresh coat of paint, as if she was trying to impress me, and wanting me to stay this time.
Its crazy, but boats sometimes seem to have their own personality, and like certain females attract a mans affections by the way they look, their attributes (in a boats case the equipment aboard)or in the Olive Tree to me, the years we had been together, and the adventures we had been through.
New adventures lay ahead for me and the Olive Tree, but would the bond between us prevent me from straying to one of the many new or younger models of fishing boats that were beginning to take her place?

The first day back at sea after my two weeks as a safetyman driver, and what could have been classed as a holiday in comparison to what lay ahead, only brought a sense of excitement, rather than trepidation, although the excitement that lay ahead was brought about not by our doing, but by the inexperience of someone else.

Being our first day back we decided not to stray very far, so we steamed over to the "HOLY ISLE" area of "ARRAN" where there is deep water with the chance of good fishing on a day such as this.
It was sunny with a slight breeze blowing from the south west which had been constant all weekend, but the forecast told us it was to strengthen to force 9 as the day went on, so we thought if we could get a day in here, we could go to Ayr and land our catch and let tomorrow take care of itself.

Sure enough the fishing was good, and after two hauls my uncle pointed out a small boat in the distance that had been bobbing about close to the ferry lane that runs between Ardrossan (on the mainland,) and Brodick (on Arran.)
The next time we shot our gear, it took us closer, and we could see a man waving at us, but thinking nothing of it we just waved back, as small vessels of this kind sometimes ventured this far out to try a spot of sea angling.

As we were towing, the ferry passed close by it, and we could see the man waving more frantically, so once the gear was aboard, we decided to go for a look, as the wind was beginning to freshen, as forecast.

When we approached the small craft we could see the look of desperation on the mans face, and we heard him shout, "Thank God." I've been here all night,that ferry nearly ran me down, and never even seen me."
We edged as close as we could without doing any damage so we could attach a tow rope, and as soon as it was fixed the man almost begged to come aboard our boat.
The sea was starting to rise, and the little boat was bobbing about quite ferociously, but as soon as he got the chance the man grabbed our rail and somehow struggled aboard.

It turned out that he had bought the boat in Ardrossan, and had left on the Sunday to sail round to the east coast, by way of the "Mull of Kintyre" up through the Inner Hebrides (small islands off the west coast of Scotland)to the Caledonian Canal, out through the Moray Firth into the North Sea, and down to Montrose, which is half way down the east coast of Scotland.
The main problem with that was, other than the fact that the boat was only about fourteen feet, and he had no food, other than a thermos flask, and a few packets of crisps, he only had a road map, (YES A ROAD MAP) to guide him all that way through treacherous tidal currents at the Mull, and in-between the islands all the way up to the canal, not accounting for the wind that was freshening to gale force as we towed his little boat behind us, or any other hidden obstacles or drawbacks on the way, such as the engine failure he was now faced with only a couple of hours from his departure point.

He still never saw the error of his ways after we pointed all these things out to him, and when we informed him we were taking him to Ayr, (just under two hours steaming) he had the cheek to ask if we would take him back to Ardrossan, which would have been very inconvenient for us, but never bothering about us he was quite annoyed when our course never altered and we headed for Ayr.
Instead of thanking us he moaned of the inconvenience to him, until I lost my rag, and shouted. "Do you realize that we have just saved your life" "If we had not come along you would be sinking now, with not even a life jacket to save you" "Its just as well your engine broke down or you would be getting swamped at the Mull by now" pointing to the waves breaking with white water by this time..

After my outburst it seem to bring some reality back into his life, and he began to talk about hiring a lorry to transport his boat to Montrose, and as I looked over our stern his little boat was beginning to take on a lot of water, between the speed we were towing it, drawing its stern down into the waves and the rising seas.
I sort of giggled as I thought to myself, if I don't point out to my uncle what is going on he won't have a boat to worry about.

We got him safely back to Ayr and the next the next day the boat was lifted out of the water, until it was picked up for transportation the following week, probably at less cost than it would have sailing it round (especially when you take his life into consideration) and the fact that it would only take hours by land compared to over a week by sea in that little boat.
I shudder to think what happened to him once he got it seaworthy again, as the North Sea is one of the last places an inexperienced person should be carrying out, self taught, seamanship.

This was one lucky man, escaping certain death if his engine had not broken down, and for the grace of God who must have guided us there that day, so when he shouted "thank God" when we picked him up, he just might have been thanking the right person, as he never got round to thanking us.

Even experienced seamen get caught out sometimes, but they give themselves a fighting chance by having all the correct equipment aboard, Radio, check with forecasts, and coastguards, and an added protection the fishermen have is each other,as they are always in contact, working near each other, and are usually first on the scene should anyone need assistance.

The fishing boats are all over the sea, and have saved many a life by being near to the scene of what would have been a tragedy had they not been there.
If the fleet is cut down to the numbers the European Union would like, more lives could be lost at sea than there are now, something that the landlubbers in that Union never think about, having never done anything more exciting that get stuck in a traffic jam on the way to their warm cosy office.

Anyone going to sea should, at all times take the utmost care, learn as much as they can about the area they are sailing in, take proper charts to determine depths and rocks, as the sea is one of the most dangerous places to be in any weather, and although we have a great lifeboat service in this country, we should not have to call them out through sheer stupidity, and put other lives at risk needlessly.

This boat was not the first boat I towed in, (the stupidest, YES,) and not the last, but how many other adventures, would I share with the Olive Tree, as the new generation of boat began to enter the harbours and hearts of fishermen?

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  1. Although I know I shouldn't be, I'm always amazed by the attitude of some people. They never seem to give a thought to anyone other than themselves. I'm not really surprised he didn't thank you. Good story Donald.

  2. Finally there is someone equally stupid as the couple who left their child playing alone in a swimming pool. If I wasn't there, they could have lost their boy. I, myself, thought I was too late. The moment I saw him floating, I gave the farthest dive I could give to get to him fast. Thank God (the right person to thank, too, in this case) he gained his breath after I gave him a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I know that pool by heart because that is where I learned to swim when I was young. Another life-saving incident happened to me again in the same pool, but not as worse as this one. The couple, by the way, didn't thank me, too. Instead, they blamed each other for the accident. Talk about stupidity. Next time I'll them a road map. LOL.

    Some people, unfortunately, aren't as smart as they should be when in the waters. Or even when they are not yet in the water as they don't know what to bring to the sea. And for goodness' sake, the boat should be considered before anything else. Maybe the man you rescued took for granted what the sea can do, especially its wrath when the weather isn't fine. Or thinking he might play pirate or find a treasure somewhere. Or maybe he's just plain crazy.

    You had a big catch that day. You saved a life, thanks to you and Olive Tree. That sure is another memorable experience for you both. The newer models of boats would surely find honor to be driven by you, too, because you're a great fisherman.

  3. Another great story.


  4. Wow seems that man you save could have been a little more thankful! But made for a great story to tell later. Thanks!