The Anatomy of a Sinking Feeling – 21st November 2011

‘The greatest sin of all is the life unlived’. John O Donohue

On Sunday last I treated myself to one of life’s more pleasant

New Quay in County Clare to Galway Docks via Galway Bay is the perfect antidote to a busy week and one pint too many on Saturday night.

I was aware that there was a leak in the boat, but with a south westerly wind behind me and a positive attitude before me, I figured I’d just about make the six mile crossing.

And I was 99% right.

I got within 400 metres of my destination before the electronics got
swamped and the engines cut out.

As the water rose around my feet I was assailed by a sinking feeling.

Instinctively, and without thinking, I roared ‘Help’.

The value and wisdom and futility of that outburst became immediately apparent.

At 5pm on a November evening, and with darkness rapidly descending, there were no other boats in the vicinity and highly unlikely that anyone on shore to witness my dilemma.

Reality struck – cold and wet and foreboding – and with it was unleashed some primordial sixth sense sometimes referred to as the ‘survival instinct’.

Having studied Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ in College and taught it to hundreds of students over the years I never truly understood it until that moment.

Maslow was on the money. Survival is our most base human need. And
it kicks in with aplomb.

I was wearing a life jacket and immediately realised that buoyancy was my most immediate need. I salvaged another buoyancy aid from the fast sinking boat and also managed to secure a floatable life ring. I reasoned that even if the boat did go down I could survive for hours in the water.

That was before I noticed a massive liner in the dock area preparing
to avail of the high water mark and head for the open seas directly in
my line. The chances of it seeing me in the darkness were slim.

Need number two quickly became communication. God rest Steve
Jobs soul. Despite wet and trembling hands the mobile phone worked.

So also did the receivers of those calls. Barry Water’s, my nephew-in-law and an army officer was meeting me in the Docks. To his credit he was coolness and composure personified. Not alone did he alert the RNLI but he also managed to intercept Denis Mc Grath who had a RIB in the area at the time. I also rang Gerry Sweeney, boatman extraordinaire and a great fundraiser for the RNLI. When I

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told him
the boat was going down 400 yards from Nimmo’s pier he burst out laughing.

Denis arrived within minutes and succeeded in strapping his boat to mine. The RNLI arrived shortly after and very soon ‘El Cabron Amirello’ and I were safely on terra firma.

The experience taught me a few lessons about life.

1. Plug the leaks – financially, emotionally and physically.
2. Don’t go so fast that you haven’t time to bail the boat.
3. Get good safety equipment whether that’s insurance,
a burglar alarm or a decent pair of shoes.
4. In matters of survival, communicate with the best.
5. Also, get around people who can laugh, even when
the boat is going down.
6. Continue moving forward despite your fears.
Historically, the survivors of any great challenge
are those who have kept moving forward.
7. As the founder of Aer Arann, Padraig O Ceidigh, said at
Smácht Mór last week ‘Live life on the edge’. ‘When you
live life at the centre of the wheel you’re going around
fast but you’re going around the same ground. When
you’re on the edge you cover a lot more ground. Sail
uncharted waters. ‘Certainty’ is a boring word for
entrepreneurs. They embrace the beauty of uncertainty
in every moment of their existence’.

In conclusion, I cannot commend highly enough the responsiveness
and the professionalism of the RNLI. As a society we owe much to these wonderful people who give of their time voluntarily.

Fair winds.

All you need is Smácht.


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