Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The causeway out of Mersea is not drained...

Of all the people in a position to appreciate the number of Darwin award hopefuls in our midst, it is surely the RNLI who see the most.

Their call-out records describe a cornucopia of thwarted opportunities to depart this world as a result of carelessness, imprudence or downright idiocy, from the woman and her son floating far out to sea in rubber rings or the three men adrift in the English Channel in a child's toy dinghy to the would-be weekend yachtsmen bumbling about in the busiest shipping lane in Europe (for all these and more, see the label RNLI).

And if that were not enough, there are the occasions when they have to step in to rescue stranded motorists and pedestrians cut off by rising sea water; latter-day Cnuts for whom tide-tables are clearly a source of ineffable mystery.

This week's spring tides brought us spectacular news footage of waves overtopping harbour walls and lapping at the doors of coastal homes, but, in rural Essex, some rather more mundane dramas were unfolding:
A lifeboat manager has called for improved warning signs at an Essex causeway after 13 people had to be rescued at high tide within 24 hours.
The West Mersea Lifeboat rescued a woman, child and a baby on The Strood, towards Mersea Island, on Thursday and 10 people were caught out on Wednesday.
Like his Northumbrian counterpart, the local lifeboat operations manager is 'fed up' with calling his volunteers away from work or family to deal with the handful of motorists every year for whom the word 'island' is not sufficient clue that some care should be exercised en route at high tide in the absence of a bridge.

As events at Holy Island have shown, putting up bigger and better warning signs will still not deter the true Darwin Award hopeful who clearly thinks such things do not apply to him. The next half-wit to be fished out leads to a call for lights, and the next one, to barriers - how far do we have to go to protect people from their own stupidity?

You can almost sense the exasperation behind the latest press release:
"Essex Highways would like to remind users not to take unnecessary risks on The Strood and to use a common-sense approach when the water is at high tide."
Good luck with that one!

Update: More in the same vein...


  1. In the good old days of the turnpikes they road would have been closed at any high tide. But then it was the horses that mattered.

  2. Oh, I don't know, Demetrius; I'm willing to bet the odd arrogant chancer would be willing to try hacking over the marshes; the difference is that no one would feel obliged to fish him and his unfortunate horse out of there.

    Give someone like that a mobile phone however, and the knowledge that the emergency services and RNLI have no option but to, if necessary, risk life and limb to rescue him if things go wrong and you have a recipe for disaster.

  3. There's a lugsail boat native to Mersea - tis a fine place.

  4. I'm surprised they got past the roads and areas closed by red flags - denoting firing range in use - on the south of Colchester to get to the Strood.

  5. JH, I know little about it, but it seems to me that the East Anglian coat has spawned an astonishingly large number of distinct types of sailing craft for such a small area.

    Woodsy, perhaps they relish a challenge.