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

Wednesday 8 July 2015

They that go down to the sea in blow-up dinghies

As the coastal Darwin Award Hopeful season continues, we have the slightly baffling story of two would-be mariners picked up by the RNLI off the Somerset coast.

The lifeboat crew, scrambled from work when the Coastguard spotted the child-sized boat drifting a mile out to sea, arrived to find the leaking 5ft dinghy occupied by two full-grown men 'oblivious that they were out of control and at the mercy of the very strong tides'.

The intrepid amateur seafarers had been at sea for three hours already, having drastically underestimated the distance to their intended destination of Steep Holm, a rocky island five miles offshore in the Bristol Channel.

What they expected to do there is, it has to be said, something of a mystery:
It is a nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest famed for its beautiful May-flowering wild peony. It is home to the remains of a 12th century Augustinian priory.
While it also boasts the remnants of wartime military installations and a Victorian barracks (now a 'Visitor and Education/Exhibition Centre'), it is hard to see this plethora of aesthetic and intellectual stimulation appealing to the bare-chested duo - one sporting abundant tattoos and a back-to-front baseball cap - pictured in the RNLI report.

Even if I am wrong and their motives were of the loftiest, they chose an odd way to go about it. Regular day trips are on offer and, given that Steep Holm is 'in the middle of a busy shipping channel, isolated by brisk tidal currents and a difficult landing place', it takes a special sort of mindset to purchase a toy boat from a beach shop and set off merrily into the blue.

Sadly for the men and women of the RNLI, there's a lot of it about.

Update: The Mail has since got hold of the story - claiming in its inimitable style, that they were 'five miles out' and 'without a paddle', despite the oars clearly visible in the accompanying video and the article stating 'a mile'- and identified the pair:
Mr Hole - a tattoo artist - said: 'It was going well until we got a small puncture and the boat started slowly going flat. We were miles from where we set off. I'm not sure how we got the puncture, but I think it might have been off one of the beer cans cutting the inside.


  1. Perhaps they were really trying to get to Benidorm?

  2. Demetrius, always assuming the Mail did not make it up, this quote from the article suggests they would have certainly have been happier there:

    'This is just another day for Mitch and Blacky - they are always out doing the most nutty things, enjoying themselves. They just love having a bit of fun, as much as they may be a pair of plonkers!'

  3. I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    I lost my common sense there, I wonder if I’ll die?

  4. Brilliant, AKH! I'm tempted to steal that for the sidebar this summer.

  5. Perhaps they should add to their tattoo collections by having, "Please do not breed with this cretin" etched on their foreheads?

  6. A little harsh, perhaps, pen seive; in any case, if the back-to-front baseball cap, the reckless irresponsibility and being 'a pair of plonkers' do not constitute sufficient deterrent, I doubt a politely-phrased request will have much effect.

  7. Mr. Hole the tattoo artist. Yes. My money's on the peonies.


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