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

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Risking life and limb

'Against stupidity', says a character in a Schiller play, 'the gods themselves contend in vain.'

What hope is there, then, for the men and women of the RNLI and coastguard service, faced with this sort of thing?
Warnings about the dangers of boozing and swimming have been issued after a man was found clinging to a post in Swansea Bay as darkness fell.
The 24-year-old was eventually found holding onto an outfall post, which at high tide is around half a mile out to sea.
One hopes he has learnt a valuable lesson; in any case, given where he was picked up, I doubt he'll be socialising at close quarters with anyone for a while.

More recently, the much-publicised tail-end of a hurricane last weekend caused organisers in Cowes to postpone the start of a round Britain sailing race because of the poor weather conditions in the Channel and led to 41 cars being damaged on a ferry to Guernsey.

Such dramatic weather conditions, naturally, sent Darwin Award hopefuls scurrying in search of their surfboards and inflatables:
Coastguards rescued dinghies, kitesurfers and windsurfers as strong winds blew along the Jurassic Coast.
Sunday turned out to be quite a busy day there; in between fishing out several wind- and kite-surfers who had lost control of their contraptions, the coastguard, RNLI and ambulance were all needed to help an adult and child who had been blown out to sea in a small inflatable boat. Two more people in a second inflatable boat had to be rescued soon afterwards when it started shipping water.

Even on land, the stupidity continues unabated:
Safety warnings have been issued after a weekend of risk-taking on Dorset’s beaches. Beachgoers still continue to risk their lives near unstable cliffs – sunbathing just metres away from a warning sign.
While we are all familiar with the many unnecessary warning signs that clutter up our green and pleasant land, cliff collapses are surely sufficiently frequent and serious to give any rational beachgoer pause for thought, especially after a spell of wet weather. The Darwin Award contender, however, clearly feels the laws of nature should not apply to him (or her).

The same mentality is doubtless responsible for the situation reported by an exasperated Brixham coastguard last month, after a woman with a broken ankle had to be rescued from a closed-off section of coastal path:
“It was noted during the course of this rescue that more than a dozen people ignored signs and climbed over barriers to use this section of the coast path which is closed due to safety reasons.”
While once could argue that these people should be free to endanger themselves in any manner they think fit, it would be a very good thing if they could be brought to realize that the rescue services do not have the choice.


  1. Take the rescue expenses out of their accounts, property, or their estate (with any luck).

  2. R, for the kitesurfers and windsurfers, perhaps launching boats to assist should be treated as in ski resorts which charge for calling out the emergency snowmobile or helicopter. This would normally be met by insurance; for those without annual policies, cover could be bought by the day when equipment is hired.

    As an incentive to pay up, perhaps their equipment could be retained until the sum is met in full.

    The Retrospective Darwin Award contenders putting their children into untethered inflatables in an offshore wind are less likely to cough up but, having been returned to shore, the children should be obliged to watch the inflatable toys in question being destroyed - it might save the next generation from being cast adrift in the same way.

  3. Update; some good news for a change!

    A Rhyl jet-ski club member who 'has had occasion to use the services of Rhyl RNLI in past years' dropped in with a cheque for £100.