Wednesday 25 May 2011

An adventurette

I had intended to post yesterday about Monday's rescue mission, but got distracted by events in Joplin, Missouri.

What happened was that I had a call to say a number of divers were stranded on Islandmore, towards the North end, and that they would appreciate being rescued. A south-westerly wind had been gusting to sixty miles an hour and apparently they had been diving on the wreck of the Alastor, when three of the party became detached from the rest and found themselves unable to swim back to the wreck, and being carried by wind and tide towards the North, and the open lough.

Fortunately, because I wouldn't have been able to row in to the jetty from the mooring in those conditions, I had decided to tie the dinghy to the jetty and allow it to dry out between tides: normally this is a no-no because the dinghy is heavy and for much of the jetty's length there are large stones scattered around on the shingle, which can damage the hull. Anyway, the dinghy was available so I said I would be with the divers in less than ten minutes. Before leaving, I fetched a lifejacket from the shed and told Lynn what was going on; then headed off with the wind on my stern, rolling violently but staying dry.

I hope they won't mind me saying so, but when I got there the divers, four of them including a chap in a dry suit who had swum Ringhaddy Sound on a rescue mission of his own, were a little wretched looking, standing in the surf in their wetsuits and presumably feeling the cold. With so much weed in the shallows, and the wind blowing me onshore, I didn't want to get into a position where it would be impossible to leave; so I signalled that I would tie off to a motor cruiser whose stern was swinging to and fro on a mooring perhaps forty yards into the sound, inched my way, head on to the wind, towards this readymade belaying point and at the last minute moved forward with the boat hook and grabbed one of the cleats at the stern. I tied off and allowed the dinghy to drift into the shallows stern first, paying out line as I went, and this strategy worked a treat. When I came within wading distance, the divers came to meet me and we loaded, first the gear, which felt inordinately heavy, then two of their party - and headed over to the mainland, where their colleagues were lined up on the foreshore to see them in.

We repeated this operation for the remaining two, and to precis the rest of the adventure, all was well. They offered profuse thanks and even money, and I discovered that they were members of Dunstable Diving Club and had arrived from Luton on the Saturday morning for three days of diving in Strangford's famously suitable waters.

I sensed a tiny bit of embarrassment, a feeling with which I'm all too familiar when it comes to getting into sticky situations at sea; and honestly, this has nothing to do with anything but it made me smile nevertheless: someone mentioned that if you take a map of GB and a pin, and try to find that point which is farthest from the coast, in any direction, the chances are you'll come up with Dunstable.
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