Saturday, January 24, 2009

The sheer guts of the Scilly Boys

Nigel Farrell (who I seem to remember from Nationwide or some sort of regional TV but perhaps I am imagining it) deserves big plaudits for his Parish programmes. Apart from anything else, the man seems to create his own "luck" (if you can call it that), at being in the right place at the right time. First, he did "Seaside Parish" in Boscastle and was there when the floods came. Now he's doing the endlessly absorbing "Island Parish" about the Scilly Isles and he was there to cover the drama of the Scilly Boys.

Last night's special episode about the Scilly Boys is worth seeing again on iPlayer. Four lads (although one looked about my age so perhaps "lads" is a misnomer) decided to raise money for the RNLI by rowing across the Atlantic from America back to their home on the Scilly Isles. Easy eh? People are doing it all the time, aren't they.

Well, actually no. After two years of preparation they left New York on a glorious day and had 13 days of good rowing to get seven hundred miles off the coast of the USA. Then a storm came, their boat capsized and didn't re-right itself (which it should have done) so they had to get into their lifeboat, phone Falmouth International Rescue (Scott Tracy to the rescue) and then they got picked up by a tanker.

Sounds pathetic doesn't? Only got 13 days into their row, first whiff of a storm and they chicken out into the lifeboat.

Pathetic, eh?

...Until you watch the programme and you understand the amazing grit and determination which the Scilly Boys displayed to survive. Rowing the remainder of the Atlantic would have been a breeze in comparison. They had to cower in two hatches with the boat capsized. Their radio didn't work so one pair didn't know if the others were alive. Their sateillite phone didn't work at first. Their radio beacon (EPO) worked but then detached itself from one of them in the water. On of them was buck naked so hypothermia was fairly certain in a matter of minutes for him. When they got out of the boat they couldn't detach the lifeboat from the boat frame. One of them managed to cut it out with a last gasp attempt, after much diving. Then when they got into the lifeboat it had lots of water in the bottom and they couldn't bale it out effectively because of the storm. Then they realised the lifeboat had become detached from the lifeboat and the esential "grab bag" with food, water and radio had washed away.

When they were finally lucky enough for a tanker to arrive near them, two of them almost got killed going up the rope ladder to the huge ship because the ladder was banging up against the side of it.

So, in the bravery department, those Scilly Boys really kick ass. They really demonstrate the sheer guts of the Scilly Islanders, which has been demonstrated over centuries.

So, Tim Garratt, Joby Newton, Chris Jenkins and Wayne Davey - well done lads!

(Two bits of humour in the programme: When one the boys finally got through to Falmouth Coastguard he said "It's Wayne here, we've capsized". The coastguard thought it was a lad who'd capsized in Falmouth harbour, not 700 miles out in the middle of the Atlantic. And when the lads were in the water, clinging to the capsized boat, one of them, in the words of one of the others, "At that point Joby decided to announce that he couldn't actually swim")

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