Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lifeboat in two alerts - 1986

I'm on a roll in posting items on my blog - here's one about the time I made the Evening Press newspaper on 21st April, 1986, but for all the wrong reasons.

In the year up to when I got married, I lived in an apartment with my brother Brian on Strand Road on Sandymount. The sea was literally across the road. On a cold windy day Brian and I decided to go wind surfing.

We got on well and at one stage met for a chat quite far out to sea. We decided to swap boards - this was not a good idea. I was having difficulty with the new board falling in a lot. Brian of course headed off into the distance showing me how it was done! Needless to say I was getting tired - I also had a thin wetsuit on, and I was also getting cold.

Now the wind picked up, and it was an off-shore breeze. The tide was also going out - Eugene was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn't know it at the time but I was in great danger of drowning.

I kept trying to get the sail up on the board, but tiredness and cold (especially my hands) meant that I kept falling back into the sea. I was determined not to leave the board and to try to make it back to shore - so I decided to try to make my way back. The sea was shallow enough for me to walk, but with the wind and the tide in the wrong direction for me I was quickly blown further out to sea. Now I was getting worried. Brian could see I was in difficulty and bravely came out to me - I was never so glad to see him. We decided that he would go back to shore and get help - I was definitely scared when he left.

It's a weird feeling being on your own in Dublin Bay surrounded by a million people who don't know your life is in danger. Little did I know it, but several people on the shore saw that I was in difficulty and phoned the emergency services - this was in the days before mobile phones.

At this stage I could just about stand on the sea-bed on my toes and keep my face above water. The wind was in my face and was also whipping up the waves - splashing me with cold water. I'm certain hypothermia was setting in - I got the feeling of euphoria that is often associated with the cold.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, I could stand firm and the water was only up to my waist - I had come to a sandbank. Now it was a lot easier to move. I could now work my way back to shore by staying in the shallower water - what relief. Brian came rushing out from the shore and took my board and sail - I could barely carry them. We were greeted at water's edge by a Garda in bare feet with his trousers rolled up to his knees! Despite my ordeal, I thought this was the funniest thing. He told me that there had been five separate calls to the emergency services and that the DĂșn Laoghaire RNLI lifeboat was out to sea looking for me. He was quickly satisfied that there had been a genuine danger and let me go back to my appartment across the road. I quickly got the wetsuit off and climbed into bed with two quilts to warm up. Roma came with glucose to speed the process up and in a short time I felt well enough to get up. She was not happy with me getting into such danger only five months before our wedding!

Ths clipping above, which I still have, reminds me of my mortality. Though I never met the RNLI crew who were looking for me, I have since had a great respect for these volunteers who sometimes have to put to sea to rescue people who do stupid things like going out windsurfing on a cold windy day.

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