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 14 July 2015

They that go down to the sea in blow-up dinghies (Part 2)

A matter of days after the RNLI fished out a couple of lads adrift with their beer cans in the Bristol Channel, another rescue took place off the Kent coast (apparently a favourite spot for maritime Darwin Award hopefuls, as a trawl through the Tavern archives shows).
A dad has told of the terrifying moment he and his family lost control of their dinghy and drifted out to sea.
In this case, the accidental seafarer was accompanied in the 6ft dinghy by his wife, their nine- and seven-year-old children and their seven-month old baby.
The Gillingham resident, who has asked not be named, said his intention was to “go back and forth” in the shallow water near the beach.
“Families all the time take a dinghy out and have a paddle with their children, we were just unfortunate."
Unfortunate, perhaps, in the fact that the engine failed - although they only bought the boat two days before and were unlikely to be familiar with its management - and the subsequent breaking of an oar, but to set out with a full load and (to judge by the photos) only two life jackets between them was surely unwise, to say the least, especially with an outgoing tide (easily checked online) and a steady offshore wind (according to the RNLI).
“The funny thing is that when the oar snapped, I could have jumped out and pulled the dinghy towards shore because we were so close; it’s hard to explain, but the panic just set in."
Instead, they called for help as they drifted a mile out to sea in worsening conditions - the accompanying video shows the craft riding hazardously low in choppy water - using the mobile phone they had with them. This last precaution absolves them, perhaps, of seeking full Darwin Award Hopeful status despite entrusting themselves and their progeny to a fragile and unfamiliar vessel.

Stung by social media criticism, the father contacted the local press to give details of the rescue, including a gratifyingly thorough tribute to the RNLI crew, and a statement that, somehow, has Zeitgeist written all over it:
“In hindsight, we definitely shouldn’t have done it, trust me the lesson has been learnt. But it was never our intention to go anymore than a matter of feet from the beach, events just took over."


  1. The Gillingham resident, who has asked not be named, said his intention was to “go back and forth” in the shallow water near the beach.

    Adore it.

  2. Gillingham, Leysdown? Perhaps they were trying to get to Rochester to avoid paying the bus fare.

  3. JH, I just love that phrase 'events took over'. In the words of Aristotle, 'Choice, not chance, determines our destiny'.

    Demetrius, I rather like the idea that it could have been an unintentional day trip to Southend.

    WY, indeed! (Though I suspect the RNLI crew who attended had some other words- in private, at least.)


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