back to article Russian sailors maroon themselves in Bristol Channel after drunken dinghy ride goes awry

Ah, the sea! The salty spray, the sunlight sparkling off the bay... but three foolhardy Russian sailors anchored near Minehead, southwest England, clearly fancied a change of scenery – to their misfortune. The trio were employed aboard the Dutch-registered cargo vessel Alana Evita moored just over 3km (2 miles) off the coast …

  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    A story which allowed one of yesterday's papers (The Torygraph, I think) to run a headline of "What shall we do with the drunken sailors?".

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Apparently it was two Russian sailors and the Dutch captain, not three Russians. Seems a right friendly captain if he takes his crew along on a booze-up. Also seems to be not the captain I'd want if he manages to get lost in the Bristol Channel. God help him in the Atlantic, or even the North Sea.

      1. }{amis}{

        lost in the Bristol Channel

        The Bristol channel is well known as a right nasty bit of water it has a lot of nasty tides, sandbars and rocks just below the surface.

        All told as long as you have sufficient food and water you are far safer lost in deep water where theirs nothing to hit than something like the Bristol channel.

        1. W.S.Gosset

          Re: lost in the Bristol Channel

          "Port! I said Port!! This is SHERRY!!!"

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge


      Something fishy about the story? They left the ship in the dark just before 4am, were able to find their way across 8km of channel to Barry (not necessarily the place I'd have headed for - what was wrong with the much closer Minehead?) without getting lost, managed to find a boozer still open at that time of the morning (in March in Barry???) and the alarm had been raised by 7am?

      "Inflatable dinghy" implies something small and basic and probably without a motor but three hours to travel all that distance, find an open hostelry, have a few drinks and get back onto Flat Holm sounds not-terribly-long to me even if the dinghy did have an outboard.

      Not that I'd ever doubt the Telegraph, but it would sound more believable to me if they had climbed into the dinghy with booze they'd stashed on the ship (possibly against regulations), drifted (or paddled deliberately) to Flat Holm to party on the beach with the notoriously strong tide in the channel and made up the bit about Barry to hide the regulation-breaking.

      If I've found a sensible tide table, at 4am the tide would have been in full flow and the general direction would have made it possible to get to Either Barry or Flat Holm from Minehead in an underpowered dinghy.

      The tide had turned by 6.15am which would have made it easier to get back to Minehead from Barry, but Flat Holm is in the opposite direction and they'd have been powering against the tide. Surely even an inebriated ship's captain in heavy fog would know the difference between going with and against the tide?

      Completely unqualified to make these kinds of statements of course - the extent of my water-borne experience is limited to Llyn Tegid (Bala, mostly Optimists) and Ponsticill reservoir (GP14) back in the 1980s and 1990s. Prepared for people to point out the flaws in my argument...


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 4am?

        "Inflatable dinghy" implies something small and basic and probably without a motor

        Report from Aunty Beeb said it was a "rigid inflatable" - they can be fairly robust craft, and equipped with decent motors. For example, they can be successfully piloted across short stretches of the North Sea between the mainland and small islands by a heavily inebriated crew of 4 while carrying 6 further cases of beer....apparently....according to a friend....

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: 4am?

          Of course the RIB was invented in South Wales, at Atlantic College in fact, which is not far around the coast from Barry (almost directly opposite Minehead, in fact). Maybe they were trying to take it home?


        2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

          Re: 4am?

          Agree with you, but also with the OP in that the timings in this story don't stack up. Unlike the OP though, I have plenty of experience at sea, and sailing around the UK.

        3. John Jennings

          Re: 4am?

          Absolutely. An acquaintance of mine might have, after a few bevies, accidentally fallen onto the throttle of a rib as it negotiated a set of moorings, late one night...

          The rib accelerated viciously, mounted a small yacht, demasted and literally broke it in half.

          Noone on the rib or yacht was injured seriously - though someone had to pay 6K for being being a knob and replacing the yacht.

          The rib was fine - strengthened bows.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: 4am?

        "what was wrong with the much closer Minehead?"

        Maybe they'd been banned there already?

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: 4am?

          what was wrong with the much closer Minehead?

          According to at least one report they made for Minehead first but found they couldn't land there so then headed to Barry.

          The same report also reckoned that by the time they got to Barry the pubs were shut.

          1. druck Silver badge

            Re: 4am?

            Luckily they didn't rock up at Steep Holm, there's even less there.

            Although not as bad as Rockall - There's fuckall at Rockall. © Rockall Times

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: 4am?

              To be fair, you're hardly likely to run aground on Rockall at 4am in a baloney boat, with or without an outboard motor ... even if you've imbibed Russian levels of alcohol.

      3. jake Silver badge

        An alternate explanation. (was: Re: 4am?)

        You can go surprisingly fast in a 13 foot Avon or Zodiac with a 35hp motor on it. We put a 120hp Chrysler onto an 18 foot Avon once. Squirrely doesn't even begin to describe it at full throttle, but with a little self control it was quite manageable. With the right prop it topped out at just a tick over 75 knots. (Don't try this at home. Trained professionals[0] on a closed course (South SF Bay), on glass water at slack tide.)

        The inflatables have very little drag, so when under power tides and currents don't affect them as much as you might think ... I have been blown by the wind back into SF Bay against an outgoing tide in a small Zodiac when the small outboard quit on me. (Tidal flow under the Golden Gate is horrendous.)

        Which brings up my alternate explanation. Our heroes, finding nothing much of interest in Barry (let's face it ...), decided to head for the bright lights of Weston-super-Mare and set a course directly for it. In the dark and fog, they didn't see the island in front of them, and ran aground. This is easy to do in the dark, especially when the island is essentially a flat rock on a mud-flat.

        [0] Or fucking idiots with too much time on their hands, if you prefer. Hold my beer and watch this!

        1. Down not across

          Re: An alternate explanation. (was: 4am?)

          You can go surprisingly fast in a 13 foot Avon or Zodiac with a 35hp motor on it. We put a 120hp Chrysler onto an 18 foot Avon once. Squirrely doesn't even begin to describe it at full throttle, but with a little self control it was quite manageable. With the right prop it topped out at just a tick over 75 knots. (Don't try this at home. Trained professionals[0] on a closed course (South SF Bay), on glass water at slack tide.)

          Zodiacs (they're Avon now too aren't they) do plane quickly so yes should be plenty fast with 35hp outboard. Popping on a 120hp and trying it flat out sounds brave (I'd be inclined to say foolish, but given the opportunity would probably feel compelled to give it a go). Not sure how comfortable I'd be feeling about doing 75 knots in a RIB though.

      4. W.S.Gosset

        Re: 4am?

        > managed to find a boozer still open at that time of the morning

        This had me too flailing backwards, mouth agape and eyes out on stalks, arms windmilling for balance even as I reached for the strictly-for-medicininal-purposes as I struggled to cope with the shock.

        Something open? At 3:45am? In BRITAIN????

        Good luck finding something open even in the middle of London at that time.

        I... I... *glug*

        I salute the heretofore unwitted magnificence of the Russian merchant sailor.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: 4am?

          "Good luck finding something open even in the middle of London at that time."

          London never sleeps - it just takes a wee nap between 1 and 4am, that's all

      5. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: 4am?

        My next door neighbor is a scuba diver. He has a dinghy to get to where he's diving, its a medium sized Zodiac 'rigid inflatable' which he called "E-Ticket" because its got two very large outboard motors. It goes about at 30-40 knots, car speed, so it would cover 8Km in next to no time.

        I'd guess the problem with the return journey was a combination of tidal geography and drink. Where I live drinking and boating is regarded by the law as exactly the same as drinking and driving (and the penalties are the same) because drink is often associated with serious accidents, both on land and on the water.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      "What shall we do with the drunken sailors?"

      Let 'em spend the night on Flat Holm Island

      Let 'em spend the night on Flat Holm Island

      Let 'em spend the night on Flat Holm Island

      Early in the morning!

      Now we know how sea shanties end up with so many verses.

    4. perlcat

      It all depends. Was it early in the morning? In that case, I believe you put them in the scuppers with a hosepipe on them.

    5. Citizen99

      ... walked into a bar

      According to the Friday Torygraph it was the Dutch Captain, the Russian 1st Mate, and the Philippino crewman. Somewhere else I saw a suggestion Estonian/Russian.

      Well done chaps and rescuers anyway.

  2. Valerion

    Mate of mine

    Once did something similar. Was living on Haling Island at the time, went to Portsmouth for a rather boozy night out, and for some reason decided the best way to get home was to steal a rowing boat and row back across.

    He got well and truly nicked when it sunk and he had to be rescued. I don't think he made it more than about 50 feet from shore.

    1. Snarky Puppy

      Re: Mate of mine

      A true story from the Darwin Awards - a group of four men were drinking in a bar on the banks of the Nile. To avoid paying the bill, all four ran out of the bar, jumped into the Nile and began swimming to the opposite shore. Three drowned. The fourth made it across only to find the Egyptian police waiting patiently for him.

      1. Christoph

        Re: Mate of mine

        Were all the crocodiles asleep?

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Mate of mine

          I figured "drowning" was just a euphemism...

          Although it raises a question what do you actually die of if you get taken by a croc? Since they barrel roll you until you run out of air, I guess technically you do drown before you get eaten. So I guess drowning could be correct after all...

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Mate of mine

            Technically, you die of heart failure. Unless they manage to accidentally bash your head in on a rock, of course. The barrel roll isn't to drown you, per se, rather it's to stop you struggling. A live victim with a busted neck is just as useful to a croc as a dead, drowned one.

            1. W.S.Gosset

              Re: Mate of mine

              Technically, ALL deaths are of heart failure...


              ;) copyright Robert Heinlein about 1960, IIRC

              1. AndrueC Silver badge

                Re: Mate of mine

                Between Planets, 1951, when his Uncle fails to return from being interrogated by Terran authorities.

                Quite a good read. Second only to Podkayne of Mars in my opinion. With an honourable mention for the slightly silly Have Spacesuit, will travel.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Mate of mine

                "Technically, ALL deaths are of heart failure..."

                Really? I thought it was lack of oxygen to the brain?

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Mate of mine

              Crocs drown their prey. The barrel roll is to rip flesh off the carcass because crocs only have incisors so can only bite, not chew or cut flesh.

        2. OssianScotland

          Re: Mate of mine

          No, they were at the conference

  3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    The sheep were there...

    ...but these were *smart* sheep. They stayed well away from drunken sailors, knowing the possible consequences.

    // no sheep icon?

  4. chivo243 Silver badge

    Berlitz advert

    What were you sinking while you were drinking?

  5. JJKing

    Rushin'; but were they?

    If they were Russian then surely they would have beaten the fog before it became too thick for navigation?

    Mine's the one with the compass in the pocket.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flat Holm used to have its own pub, the Gull and Leek, don't know if it's still there though. Probably wouldn't have been open anyway.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the sea! The salty spray

    of Russian seamen...

  8. Gnoitall

    Wait. Flat Holm has a lighthouse. And sailors know that a lighthouse means "don't come here, you'll run aground".

    And they ran aground there??

    What kind of sailors were these? I hope "Russian" isn't a sufficient explanation for such incompetent basic seamanship.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      What kind of sailors were these?

      Pissed. These were pissed sailors

    2. ciaran

      Many uses for a lighthouse

      You'd think so, but actually lighthouses are just general navigation beacons.

      You get big powerful ones that you can spot from far away as you approach the coast from the sea, these tell you basically which part of the coast you're approaching. Then you might get a smaller lighthouse to signal the clear water channel to approach a port. Any dangers they warn about are basically irrelevant to a boat of less than a ton.

      Also many lighthouses don't illuminate 360 degrees. If only because then the local villagers can't sleep, but also to only cover a particular danger or channel. So even if it was working its feasible that it wasn't identifiable in the fog.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Many uses for a lighthouse

        Another possibility was that, being lost in the fog in the middle of the channel, they saw the lighthouse and decided it was safer to moor there and wait for the fog to clear

      2. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: Many uses for a lighthouse

        The Flatholm light is a 360 deg flashing light visible for 15 nautical miles [1], i.e. almost 28 km. In good visibility it would have been visible from their anchorage off Minehead, and clearly visible from Barry. There are also foghorns for when it's too murky for the light. I suspect that they did not so much 'run aground' as take the smart option and get themselves onto dry land until daybreak.

        [1] Trinity House - Flatholm Lighthouse

  9. Mike Moyle

    "'Very cold'? The sheep were right there. Amateurs."

    They didn't have one set of knitting needles between the three of them? Absolutely; amateurs.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: "'Very cold'? The sheep were right there. Amateurs."

      That wasn't the real problem ... They also forgot their wellies.

  10. knarf

    They were told by friends that Barry has a Cathedral they should visit

    and the best time was before 5 am to miss the crowds

    and if its raining they don't have to go

  11. Matthew Glubb


    Correction: Ilfracombe All Weather Lifeboat was also tasked. I know because my pager went off whilst I was doing the school run.

  12. Paul Johnson 1

    The sheep were right there...

    What are you suggesting they should have done with the sheep?

    * Knitted themselves some woollies?

    * Set them on fire and gathered round to keep warm, just like Grandma did in the Great Patriotic War?

    * Eviscerated them and curled up inside the nice warm bodies, like Han Solo and Luke Skywalker (hint: sheep are smaller than taun-tauns).

    * Something NSFW to keep their extremities warm?

  13. Christoph

    Were their names by any chance the Russian equivalents of Murray, Phillips and Pertwee?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      See icon!!!

  14. the Jim bloke


    Why was the Islets area given in non-canon units?

    I would have expected something in double decker buses, or badgers, or even milli-Wales - I mean the reference unit is RIGHT THERE !

    1. W.S.Gosset

      Re: Disappointed


      That's a deci-dauphin, isn't it?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Disappointed

      Cannon? On those itty, bitty flat rocks? Sounds like overkill to me. I would think the Russians could take over with nothing more than a slingshot (catapult to you Brits) and a couple pointy sticks ...

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Disappointed

        Pointy sticks, pah, luxury, I could do it with nothing more than a couple of blunt rocks.

        But why would I want to?

  15. Skribblez

    Why were the lifeboat crews assessing the helicopter?

  16. Stephen 24

    Any chance of a Playmobil recreation of this thrilling escapade?

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