Lives Saved at Sea More by Luck Than Judgement


The Marine Accident and Investigation Bureau (MAIB) has released a report on the investigation of the disappearance and fortunate rescue of the small fishing vessel, Water-Rail.

Two lives were put in considerable danger but superyacht manager Adrian McCourt of Watkins Superyachts believes they were “saved solely by luck rather than judgment.”

The UK MCA and MAIB face an uphill task with incidents such as this. Anyone intending unqualified, ill-prepared aerial adventure can be grounded by air traffic control authorities, but any fool can go to sea in a bath-tub without a plug if they feel so inclined. Sadly, persons who place themselves in this kind of risk situation will fall well-below the radar of the MCA and will never see an MAIB report.

In this case, an incompetent and underequipped fisherman in his late seventies and his grandson, a supermarket worker along for the ride, set to sea and were soon lost in fog. Given that the boat’s normal routine was working creels within 0.25 miles of the coast, being rescued two days later over 40 miles out to sea in worsening sea conditions was little short of a miracle.

That the two intrepid seafarers only put on their life-jackets when instructed to do so by the rescuing skipper is just the last punchline line in a long farce. One would imagine this humour was not shared by the men’s family, who had been informed that the boat and crew had probably been lost at sea.

Captain McCourt says, “We were in two minds whether to circulate this report, the second small boat report in two days. We look hard to find lessons for the large yacht crew who, one would hope, understand the use of a compass, and the need to take appropriate equipment with them, not leave it ashore. Undoubtedly, the importance of preparing for every voyage, particularly understanding the limitations of the vessel and crew as well as taking marine weather forecasts into account is well understood.”

Captain McCourt is ensuring that those crew on board Watkins’ managed boats, particularly those handling tenders read this report and he says. “If nothing else, one is reminded that there is an unfathomable depth for stupidity when boats are concerned.”