DUBLIN (Reuters) – Two Irish men who stole a fishing trawler after missing their ferry had to be rescued off the British coast where they were going in circles because they did not know how to sail. After hours at sea, the men called what they thought was the Irish coastguard for help.
“They thought they were just off the coast of Ireland,” said Ray Steadman, press officer of the Holyhead lifeboat in north Wales, about 66 miles east of Ireland.
In fact, the two were just 12 miles north of where they started in Holyhead and had called the British coastguard, Steadman told Irish broadcaster RTE Monday. Lifeboats and a helicopter were sent out to rescue the men, who were detained by police before being released.
They were later rearrested after the boat owner discovered some damage to his trawler.
Call me Mahoney. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having no Euros in our purses, drunk as Kerrymen, and with no way of getting home to Ireland, a mate and I thought we would steal a wee trawler and see if we could cross the watery part of the world from Wales to Ireland, driving off the bladder, and regulating the circulation on the way, if you catch my drift.
Now, I should point out that I am not in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and over conscious of my bladder. Nor do I mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a rule. You might even call me and Stevie Brennan the worst kind of landlubbers, but the fact is to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. It’s fair to say that my and Stevie’s purses were closer to rags than riches on that particular evening, which state of affairs somewhat sullied the congenial atmosphere of the ‘Hope and Anchor’, whence we had repaired much earlier that day.
So when Stevie said, “Oi’ve got it, John, the answer to all our problems!” I could scarcely have divined what his grand scheme would entail.
“Sure, Stevie,” said I, “an’ what would that be, now? Are ye fixin’ on hirin’ a Lear Jet, perhaps? Or perhaps you’re after havin’ the QE2 drop by and pick us up?”
His rubicund features dissolved momentarily in wry contemplation of my jest, then the earnest sincerity that I have learned to fear over the years reappeared in his green eyes.
“In a manner of speaking,” he said, tapping his nose, knowingly, “though it’s fairer to say t’would be us doin’ the pickin’ up.”
I considered him briefly through the bottom of my empty Guinness glass. The sun had been splitting stones since early morning, a matter we had resolved with copious amounts of the black stuff, but you could hardly say that my thirst was yet slaked.
“Do y’have any change?” I asked. “I’ve got the thirst of the devil on me!”
He produced a few coins from his pocket and slid them across the bar to the landlord, who set us up another brace. I tipped my glass and drank deeply.
“Go on, then,” I said, at length. “What’s this great idea of yours?”
“Well,” said he, “we’re agreed we cannot stay here the night?”
I nodded. No man prefers to sleep two in a bed and we could only have afforded a single room, if that. I don’t know how it is, but people like to be private when they are sleeping. And when it comes to sleeping with Stevie Brennan, in a strange inn, in a strange town, and with Stevie being a prize trumper after a day on the Guinness, then your objections indefinitely multiply.
“Well, I certainly don’t fancy a night under the stars…”
“Me either,” I concurred.
“…and we’ve missed the last ferry by about five hours…”
“Tell me something I don’t know, Stevie, lad!”
“…so the only thing to do is to get back under our own steam,” he concluded brightly, rewarding himself for his endeavours with a long draught of stout.
I stared at him.
“Under…our…own…steam?” I repeated slowly, chewing on his words like a dairy cow on cud.
He gurgled his confirmation.
“I don’t like to be a party-pooper at your brain’s Grand Opening, Stevie,” I said, “but I think I may have spotted a fatal flaw in your otherwise brilliant plan.”
His eyebrows twitched in eloquent enquiry.
I took his arm and guided him to the window. “You see that shimmery stuff,” I said, “just past the fishing quay?”
“The water?” said he.
“The very same,” I congratulated him on his perspicacity. “It was silly of me, I know, but – God spank me for a fool! – I totally forgot to pack my wet suit, flippers and airtanks when I left home this morning.”
“Awwww, John-boy,” he exclaimed, “you’ve completely missed my point!”
“Well, unless they’ve been after teaching yez how to walk on water down at the Church of the Holy Virgin, I’d be thinking that MY point still stands.”
“John, John, John,” said Stevie in that faintly patronising tone he employs sometimes, “you’re not hearing me properly. Y’see those things on top of the shimmery stuff?”
“The very same. And do y’see that particular wee boat over there?”
He pointed to a sturdy looking vessel with the words ‘Le Bon Mawr’ painted on the prow.
“Do you know what that says?” he asked.
“It looks kind of French,” I replied.
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong, Johnny! I happen to know that it’s Welsh. It means ‘Boat For Hire’ ”
“And since when were you the expert in Welsh, Stevie Brennan?” I probed, suspiciously.
He tapped his nose again, slyly. “I have my sources.”
“Be that as it may, Stevie – and might I just say how completely lost in admiration I am at your hitherto unexpected polyglottism? – there remains a minor fly in the ointment of your scheme.”
“And that would be?”
“And that would be the fact that you have just handed over possibly the very last of our remaining funds by way of restitution for the cooling delights of two pints of Guinness. The words “For Hire” imply a necessary exchange of funds with the owner of the boat, and I’m thinking he’ll not be of a mind to accept two third-full glasses of the black nectar in their stead.”
“That would be a problem,” said Stevie, “were I actually proposing to hire the boat in the traditional sense of the phrase. However, if you consider the arrangement to be more along the lines of a temporary loan, then I think you’ll find that your well-reasoned argument begins to crumble.”
“You think the owner will simply loan us the boat?” I clarified.
“I think, on balance, if the owner were apprised of the details of the arrangement, that, no, he would not simply loan us the boat…”
I nodded gravely. One-nil at last to the voice of reason.
“…which is why it would be better if he were acquainted with the bare facts of the matter at some later point.”
“You are suggesting, perhaps, that we purloin the craft and send him some sort of message to inform him of the fait accompli?”
“None too shady on the polyglottism yourself there, John.”
“You’re welcome. And yes, I think you have now grasped the main thrust of my proposal.
“One last thing…”
“Fire away, old son!”
“Have you ever, in fact, in all your long, and no doubt eventful, career, actually driven a boat? Incidentally, I am not thinking here of pedaloes, such as one might find in Torremolinos.”
“I think the correct word is sailed,” Stevie amended, “but there, I must confess, my acquaintance with all things nautical ends.”
I paused and allowed the last trickles of cold Guinness to coat my needy tonsils.
“So let me summarise: you are suggesting that we, two palpably drunken Irishmen, who have never so much as put a finger on whatever the steering device of a boat might be – the wheel, perhaps? – that we, as I say, walk out of this fine hostelry, where we could potentially impose upon the landlord’s hospitality and beg a bed for the night, and, instead, steal, from under the very nose of its proud owner, a prized boat. Furthermore, it is your intention to navigate the said craft back to the Emerald Isle, despite your self-confessed lack of even the barest rudiments of seamanship, a level of ability so hopelessly inadequate for the task ahead that it is only matched in its paucity by my own. Have I understood you correctly?”
“You’ve got it in one,” said Stevie.
“Sounds like a plan!” I said. “Let’s go!”