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

Monday, 2 May 2011

They went to sea in a sieve, they did...

Funny how these things seem to happen in threes; first there were the three intrepid paddling-pool sailors in the Manchester Ship canal, then the three Darwin Award hopefuls who bobbed about in the English Channel all last Saturday night in a toy dinghy with a single paddle.

'Equipped only with a bottle of wine and wearing shorts and T-shirts, the foolhardy men launched their seven foot inflatable craft from the beach at Littlehampton, West Sussex, at 9pm on Saturday.'

'Craft' is perhaps not the word for the sort of flimsy inflatable boat sold in seaside discount shops, at least in terms of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Luckily for them, it stayed afloat until they were picked up by the long-suffering RNLI at 8am, two miles off the English coast at Worthing.

And last, but by no means least, Tynemouth’s lifeboat was called out today to retrieve three men in a dinghy being swept out into the North Sea.

'Crewmember Jill McCormick said the men, who had gone out to have a drink, found they were unable to row back because of the strength of the tide.'

 So what unites these dopey trinities, apart from a predilection for unsuitable inflatable vessels? The answer, predictably enough, is the hazardous combination of alcohol and a bank holiday weekend.

So what to do? Much ink (so to speak) has been spilled over the cost of this sort of call-out and the fact that recovering it would entail expensive and time-consuming administration. Under the circumstances, it seems very restrained that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency press release simply says:

'We urge the public to exercise caution and remember alcohol impairs your judgment.'

 In fact, they are almost as restrained as the lifeboatmen off Newlyn who went to the aid of a stricken fishing boat, only to find that one of the crew was facing charges for swiping a RNLI collecting tin in a burglary a few months before.

And did they ‘accidentally’ drop him overboard? Or leave the thieving scum to swim? No, despite the overwhelming temptations offered by the occasion, they rescued him just as if he was a civilized human being. Not only do these people risk their lives at the drop of a hat, they somehow manage to stay patient even when rescuing the terminally incompetent on a regular basis.

Members of the RNLI, I salute you!

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