I’ll never forget the day: I was run over by a RIB

MBY reader Mike Rothary recalls how a reckless RIB driver nearly turned his happy swimming excursion into a nasty accident

My wife Mary and I were anchored up in Palma Nova, Mallorca (pictured above). We were with some boating friends that we know from our home berth of Sant Carles.

After a few hours Mary and some of the other ladies decided to go snorkelling, so they headed off round the rocks on the south of the bay.

A friend and I were happily chatting on the back of our Princess 67, Jennywren, but after a while we nipped over in a tender to join them.

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On the way back I swam with the girls, while my mate climbed back in his tender and escorted us through the anchorage. One of the ladies had a ‘Sub’ swim buoy so we were all well marked and easily noticeable.

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As we approached Jennywren, Mary and I decided to check the anchor, as it’s easy to see in the clear water how well it’s set. We were within 20m of our boat when suddenly, from nowhere, a big RIB was on us.

Mary screamed, but it made no difference. It ran right over me! It’s absolutely terrifying to see the underside of a hull coming at you at speed.

Propellers underwaterI swim round Jennywren all the time so I’m used to pushing away from the hull as she swings on her anchor and I think subconsciously that is what I must have done in this instance, as the propellers just missed me.

Thankfully, I was swimming with fins because as the boat forced me under, I automatically used them to keep away from the RIB’s centreline and I saw the twin props turning in the water about 12 inches away from my face.

According to Mary, who was bobbing anxiously nearby, I just popped out from under the back of the RIB. However, just as I was safe, the RIB stopped and reversed its engines!

The driver appeared to have finally seen me and was apparently coming back to see what was wrong.

The Aftermath

Mary later gave me grief for the torrent of bad words that came out of my mouth as I saw him coming at me again. The English driver didn’t seem at all bothered. He just leant over the side and declared that it was okay as he was an instructor.

He seemed to be trying to tell me off for being in the water, which made me even angrier! I told him in no uncertain terms to go away and swam back to my boat, understandably shaken.

Apologies to any quality trained instructors, but this incident just demonstrates what I’ve often thought. Those who can’t do – teach!

The instructor in this case really needs to go back to basic training. I’ve been driving RIBs at my sailing club for decades and we were always taught that when someone is in the water, the engine must be switched off.

Mike RotharyI still do this – even with our tender. He was going too fast, shouldn’t have been driving so close to anchored boats and should have cut his engine the moment he realised there was a problem. Reversing back over the victim was a stupid thing to do.

Apparently there are around five fatalities a year in the Balearics as a result of motor boats hitting swimmers.

I feel incredibly fortunate; I’ve been run over by a RIB and I’ve lived to tell the tale! It could easily have been a very different outcome.

What was your most memorable day at sea? E-mail your story to mby@timeinc.com and we’ll pay £100 for any that we use.

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