Thursday, 9 October 2014


In the early hours of the morn, four skiffs had run aground together. Become stranded on the shore like a pilot whale or a pod of dolphins, where they would be noticed by joggers and dog walkers, who thought it possible that these skiffs too were seeking human intervention, whereas the local fishermen paid them next to no attention.
The coastguard was bemused, but stayed relaxed. In a statement he gave to the local news, he said there was no reason to raise a rescue mission, since they were in such good condition that he believed their sailors would, in time, come back. Members of the public however had united and wanted to drag them further inland to protect them from the wind and the eventual high tide. This notion the coastguard said was preposterous and even the RNLI agreed, but it's often impossible to dissuade well-meaning humans if they're convinced action should be taken and quickly. The stranded skiffs to them were no different from a disoriented whale, except that in their case a reverse course of action was called for: instead of being helped back into the sea, they should be removed farther from it.
Much to the coastguard's dismay, a team of volunteers borrowed ropes, winches and tarpaulin sheets with which to somehow drag and pull the four skiffs to safety. The public not involved stood around, took photographs and tweeted these until they caught the eye of the world's media, and seconds later BBC, Sky and ITN news crews arrived on scene.
The plight of the skiffs escalated into a huge operation similar to the scale of a search and rescue and involved most, if not all, of the emergency services. Overhead, helicopters maintained a circling vigil, whilst on the ground TV reporters kept up a constant stream of melodramatic live bulletins. The crowd too had swelled from a handful to hundreds like a tablespoon of soaked linseeds, most of whom were recording the unfolding scenes on their mobile phones and uploading these to Facebook or YouTube. Some even fought to see how quickly they could claim their five minutes of fame. Other less competitive and boisterous bystanders hopefully lingered in the background and pulled distraught faces at the cameras as they panned round.
The skiffs didn't seem in the least bit distressed by all this commotion and laid placidly, letting the current low tide give them a repetitive goodbye kiss. Goodbye, Hello, Goodbye, Hello again, like a lover who can't walk away to start his day or finish his night. Tabloid and local journalists were in their element, blessed finally with the opportunity to weave a strange tale dosed heavily with their own poetic licence. This was their lucky break to have their creative side recognised – they weren't just a talented hack! In their heads, they waxed lyrical about the absent sailors, presumed leisure boaters or fishermen, and the missing triangular sails and how the bare rigs now curved towards the horizon as single horns, surely pointing out the direction they would again set sail in. A media frenzy of more fevered speculations would certainly follow in their story's wake...
All those there had been drawn by that pervading human instinct to bear witness to disaster. The instinct to be there. The desire to know. Like a scene out of a J G Ballard or Daphne du Maurier novel, it had a heady scent of intrigue and plenty of overzealous people. The four skiffs were hostages, extras to the side show, surrounded by the raised voices of authoritative figures, who in turn were spurned by public jeers. Nothing would ever be decided here. They would be no affirmative action, no acquittal. By tomorrow, their sudden and mysterious appearance would be forgot, and the assumptive explanations of which used as fish and chip paper.
The skiffs would remain forever as they arrived, abandoned on the shore, yet tethered by wild rumours of revenge and sour friendship.