Bill Mills' room

Bill Mills

Shark bait

by  Bill Mills

Sailing single-handed out in Prestwick Bay in a newly purchased GP14 dinghy I was a fair way out, as usual being drawn to any horizon there was, when I was hit by a squall I hadn’t noticed coming and capsized.  I ended up under the dinghy with a foot caught in the trailing sheets.

          Knew all about air pockets but it still took a bit of courage to actually try it out and suck a tentative breath.  Don’t know what I expected to happen but I was so pleased that it actually worked.  Of course there was no problem about stale air- the slot in centreboard casing was allowing fresh air to enter all the time.

          I was quite comfortable.  My buoyancy aid was keeping me afloat without effort and I was protected from the elements.  I leisurely started to disentangle myself from the ropes that were still wrapped quite tightly round my right ankle and leg.

          I heard the muffled sound of an engine getting closer and shouting.  Then I called out that I was under the boat and the profanity that replied to me was not what I had expected at all.  I cleared the sheets and pulled myself down and out from the hull..

          There was the Rescue boat alongside and an anxious crew staring at me.  I called to them “ I got stuck under the boat –and you know -that air-pocket theory really works”.  I was told in no uncertain terms what they thought of me and my air- pocket.

  They had seen me capsize from a distance and had headed to assist at full throttle.  On arrival there had been nothing to be seen of me.  As it had taken them some time to reach the upside down dinghy- they had naturally presumed the worst, and here was this clown shouting about ‘air-pockets’.

          With the help of the rescue crew my dinghy was righted and I was reinstalled on board.  Once I was sailing and the boat had cleared of water they shouted over to me  “ Did you see the sharks?” .I laughed- thought they were kidding but they pointed to two large half submerged, glistening monsters, a hundred yards away. It really was true.  While I had been under the dinghy and  quite happy, two basking sharks well over 20 feet long had been circling my wee boat until the arrival of the rescue boat when they moved away a bit.

You are told that basking-sharks wont harm you. That they only feed on microscopic marine life.  But, to them, in my oilskins I might have looked just like a big piece of juicy, yellow, plankton.