18 July 2008
From above a certain height landing on water is like landing on concrete. Suicide is a constant issue for our unit. One person leapt to his death from the M2 Motorway Bridge over the Medway. He survived for three days. The Medway is a treacherous river: on the surface the tide may ebb or flow but a fathom below there could be a cross current doing different things. You could fall in the river and the body would end up where nobody would expect to find it
We got a “man overboard” message that was so garbled that Lifeboat and Coastguard Crews all over the north Kent and south Essex coasts were scrambled. Driving on lights and sirens is a great feeling but there is always some idiot who will not get out of the way.
On Sunday I had barely returned from a patrol when the alarm sounded. The punter in a state of intoxication fell overboard from a houseboat. I played a hunch and lost, going to the wrong side of the river. By the time I arrived at the right place the ambulance was there. Cheeky trollop of an ambulance driver pointed to my hard hat and asked if I was going potholing. I had the satisfaction of being able to be very patronising when the ambulance crew needed my help with the stretcher.
On Monday I was 15 minutes from the end of my watch when we were summoned to deal with a potential suicide on Rochester Bridge. I cursed his lousy timing because 45 minutes earlier I had been there to collect the Memsahib from work. The jumper was placed not over water but over the concrete supports. He would not have drowned if he had jumped, but he would have seriously injured himself.
Fun with the family
The Memsahib is being wonderfully supportive but she has threatened to murder me if I ever again test my alarm pager without warning her.
I told the Coastguard to get by without me because the grandchildren were visiting. We returned from an outing when my pager sounded for all hands. A punter was reportedly stuck in the mud. When I got back, my grandchildren wanted to know what had happened. I told them that it had turned out to be a false alarm. My granddaughter thought this was hilarious.
Please observe the signs!
There was a shout on Tuesday evening. I drove round there. A jet ski was in difficulties on the river. The tide was ebbing and a strong tide took the jet ski downstream and stranded it on the other side of the river. I noticed a sign on the shore that stated that this stretch was unsuitable for jet skis. The inshore lifeboat went for the stranded jet ski, hauled the punter aboard and towed the jet ski to our rendezvous.
22 August 2008
At a recent Coastguard meeting I was intrigued to hear about Coastguard groupies; charming ladies who, when they see the coastguard in action, will appear with trays of hot drinks and biscuits.
Wrong St Mary’s
The pager sounded just before four bells in the first watch. Ops room staff were on strike and a scratch crew was doing the work. Somebody had seen a flare at St Mary’s Dock. First we went to St Mary’s dock, then St Mary’s island. It was obvious that we were barking at the moon. We looked at the maps and deduced that the informant must have meant St Mary’s Bay which was miles away.
We asked the Ops Room for the telephone number of the informant and, guess what: he had seen the flare at St Mary’s Bay. We got there about an hour after the alarm had sounded. A disco was in full swing at the St Mary’s Bay yacht club. They knew nothing of a flare.
Visibility was fairly good. It was cloudy and trying to rain. A rising moon below the cloud base gave enough light to allow us a good view of the estuary. The Ops Room ordered the Gravesend lifeboat to launch. The crew searched but drew a blank.
So what was it all about? There were several fireworks parties along the coast. Perhaps somebody mistook a firework for a distress flare. Another possibility was that somebody had seen the Coryton gas works to the west of Canvey Island. They flare off surplus gas and at least once a year somebody mistakes that for a distress flare. It is better to be safe than sorry.
If in doubt, dial triple-nine
If in doubt, call 999. If it turns out to be a false alarm, that is no matter. A moment’s embarrassment is far better than a lifetime of regret if somebody died because you had failed to call 999.