In this month’s Confession, we hear how a Doral owner’s sunny cruise to a riverside pub turned into a rescue operation
After a hectic morning taking my American friends to Blackpool Promenade to do the typical holiday maker things, I suggested heading north for a relaxing afternoon trip up the River Wyre Estuary in my Doral Bowrider.
Everyone was keen so off we set to Blackpool & Fleetwood Yacht Club where my boat is kept ashore.
It was a glorious day and we launched the boat and headed up river with the 150hp Mercury outboard purring away.
We picked our way through the serene countryside up to the delightful Cartford Arms Inn on the river at Little Ecclestone, which can only be reached on a reasonably high tide. We passed under a small toll bridge, moored at the Inn and settled in the gardens with a nice ale.
“This day couldn’t be any more perfect,” I told my friend Rob as we sat in the sunshine. It had been raining for almost two months solid prior to his arrival, so he must have brought the good weather with him.
Some time later I realised the tide had turned. As we were quite a long way up river, I knew we had to get a move on so everyone quickly piled back into the Doral and off we set.
We were all smiling as we sped along the estuary but 10 minutes later disaster struck. We clipped a sandbank and the engine began to scream and kick up mud.
With a falling, tide I desperately tried to drive the boat off the drying bank, using the engine, and moving my passengers around hoping the shifting weight would release us, but to no avail.
The only option was to get out and push. I jumped out and the water didn’t even reach my knees – we were well and truly in the shallows.
Two kayakers came alongside and got out to give us a hand, but after lots of grunting, pushing, pulling and cursing – nothing. As the kayakers paddled off in the receding water I called a friend at the yacht club hoping he could reach us in the Safety RIB, but he too had run out of water.
By this time everyone was getting cold and tired and I had no other option but to call the local coastguard for help. They responded swiftly, sending a land-based team with special equipment to get us off the sandbank and across the mudflats.
I secured the boat and left with the others knowing I would have to return that night and wait for the boat to refloat on the 4am high tide.
After filling out a report for the coastguard and thanking them profusely, we set about rushing back to my house to get dry clothing, a sleeping bag, torch and food. I then dashed to the yacht club to hook the trailer to the jeep and position it on the slipway for me to recover later.
With everything in place I set off for a countryside walk back across the mud to the boat before it was dark. The coastguard was aware of the plan and I informed them I was back on the boat. The boat had a camper cover and seats that folded down to make a sunlounger.
I set my alarm for 3.10am, filled my face with sausage rolls and tea, and was asleep within minutes. It was the first time I’ve ever slept on board and hopefully the last.
I awoke before the alarm went off and peeled back the camper cover to reveal a beautiful starlit sky lighting up the dried out estuary. It wasn’t long before the tide eerily started to creep in, covering the sandbank and eventually lifting the boat.
I fired up the engine, hit the nav light switch, pulled up the anchor and headed towards the yacht club. Luckily there was no wind and the water was like a mill pond, even though the tide was running in fast.
Back at the jetty I recovered the boat, locked it away in the compound, contacted the coastguard, drove home and collapsed into bed. I’m happy and relieved to say nothing like this has happened since!
The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.
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