Other PicoMicroYacht

Friday, 12 May 2017

On rescuing cruising dinghies

PicoMicroYacht has been written about as being more than a dinghy, because it has many of the accoutrements, such as an aerial based VHS system, AIS monitoring and 'central steering.' Plus, like many dinghy cruisers voyages are planned as if it were a coastal yacht.

But of course it isn't a yacht and, when encountered by other vessels, it is seen as a dinghy, albeit difficult to categorise.

PicoMicroYacht can produce different reactions, an interesting one being that it should be rescued.  I thought I was alone in this, until I read  the 'Dinghy Cruising Companion' by Roger Barnes, a mine of really useful information and a really great read.

In a section titled 'Avoiding being 'rescued' when you don't want to be' Roger provide advice what to do if someone decides you need rescuing when you don't.

He writes 'always remember that the other vessel has the best of motives. They do not know you are an experienced dinghy cruiser. They probably think you are going to get into trouble..... so do not get angry. Refuse their offers politely, with lots of 'thumbs-up' signals and broad grins. They will probably interpret this as meaning that you indeed want a tow, so you will have to do lots of head shaking too. If you can read the name of their vessel, call them on the radio and confirm that you are not in any difficulty.'

In fact, some of his friends have experienced pressure from the crews of inshore life boats who 'judged that they were in potential danger. If you find yourself in such a situation, remember that the lifeboat coxs'n cannot require you to accept a tow...The best policy in these situations is not to be intimidated, but to remain devastatingly polite at all times, and to refuse all offers of unnecessary help with effusive thanks.'

Of course the lifeboat crews are there to rescue people in imminent danger and many people are saved because other people have spotted them in trouble and reported it to the coastguard. Perhaps it is better to be safe than sorry in reporting a person in potential difficulties.

I have 'avoided rescue' twice so far. One was off the Soar Mill Cove,  in South Devon. PicoMicroYacht was coming back from Bigbury on Sea to Salcombe and a head wind from the East got up. I was rowing hard into the head wind making reasonable progress as the waves increased. A motor boat came along side and offered a tow. I declined politely on the basis that I was not in trouble and if the wind got too much to continue, I could turn round and safely go back to Hope Cove. Later on I was rowing into Salcombe harbour just past the Ferry Inn and I spotted my 'rescuers' having a drink overlooking the harbour. A friendly 'thumbs up' in both directions and they cheered me past.

On another occasion it was more involved. I visited Margate on the North Kent Coast with the intention of voyaging to Broadstairs.

When I got to Margate it was apparent that there was a very strong northwest wind and it was out of the question going East to Broadstairs, especially going round the potentially rough and dangerous North Foreland.

Instead, PicoMicroYacht  was launched to have quick row around outside the harbour. It was safe because the wind was blowing onshore up into the Thames Estuary and the tide was also coming in.

The worst that could happen would be that I be blown on to the shore and there were no big waves to create danger, the offshore Margate Sands providing shelter. But it was very windy, about force five.

I was out there and decided to try putting up the mizzen sail. This took longer than I thought and I kept having to stop and row again to keep myself from being blown onto the shore.

Eventually I went back in, landing on the sandy Margate Harbour beach.

I then saw that the RNLI were launching a rescue boat and, as PicoMicroYacht was being pulled up across the sands, a quad bike driven by a lifeboat man came down the beach. I greeted him..

Me: 'is there a rescue going on?'

Him: 'Yes, there is a small boat out there in trouble... we are just about to go out..'

Me: 'I didn't see one. I was out there and didn't see anything'

Him: 'We are just about to launch..'

Me (looking worried): 'oh.... oh dear.... I think it might be me' (followed by an apology).

Someone must have called the coastguard reporting a small dinghy in trouble of Margate Pier.

The quad bike went back to the rescue boat and whilst they had a quick discussion and then  started to stand down. I got on with de-rigging PicoMicroYacht.

Then a Land Rover appeared and drove slowly down the sands. It was the  Coastguard, who got out and smiled politely.

Him: 'Is this your boat'

Me (needlessly rather sheepishly):  'Yes'

Him (with a notebook and slightly tilted head): 'what are your intentions'

Me: 'Well I was thinking of rowing to Broadstairs, but it is FAR TOO WINDY, so I went for short row. That would be CRAZY.'

Him: 'But what are your intentions in the future?'

Me: 'Well I like to row in the sea.. .I have come from Gillingham, but not today, of course...'

He then explained the false alarm report and encouraged me to radio the Coastguard when I go out to sea.

We shook hands and PicoMicroYacht  and was wheeled up the beach onto the pier, passing the lifeboat crew as they were eating fish and chips.

It calmed down a bit and out to sea there were ships waiting at anchor.

This was over five years ago and PicoMicroYacht has had many adventures since, but never been rescued.

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