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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Action sought against 'irresponsible' sailor
Eric Abbott
Eric Abbott has exasperated the coastguard service
"Exasperated" coastguards are investigating whether they can take action against an amateur sailor who has had to be rescued from the Irish Sea seven times in the past year.

The latest rescue operation in the Rhyl Estuary on Thursday morning came just 48 hours after Eric Abbott had radioed for help for the sixth time.


This man is irresponsible

Coastguard and Marine Safety Agency
The 56-year-old, from Northwich in Cheshire, uses a 1997 copy of the AA Road Atlas to sail across the Irish Sea and has admitted on several occasions that he does not know where he is.

A spokesperson for Holyhead Coastguard said Mr Abbott radioed an SOS call to Holyhead coastguard at 0819 BST on Thursday to say he was having trouble bringing his boat into the estuary.

A Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) boat was sent to his rescue but by the time they arrived Mr Abbott had run aground.

No navigation system

Just 48 hours earlier lifeboat crews had spent nearly an hour trying to locate Mr Abbott's 24ft home-made yacht after he radioed for help during a trip from Howth, near Dublin, to Amlwch in Anglesey.

Mr Abbott, who said he enjoyed going out to sea alone to "find himself", has no official navigation system on his boat - named Plus VAT as a protest against tax.

Eric Abbott
Sea sense: Mr Abbott plans his next trip
The Coastguard and Maritime Agency, who said Mr Abbott had cost lifeboat services an estimated 30,000, have pleaded with him to equip himself with proper sea charts.

A spokesperson for the agency said: "Yet again, Mr Abbott failed to file a traffic report to us before setting sail, which is what any skipper knows he should do.

"You would think after being rescued for another time and after being given a stern talking to he would not go to sea again.

"This man is irresponsible and we are investigating to see if there is anything we can do.

Other lives at risk

"He should think about the cost, because launching a fully manned lifeboat is an expensive operation and, of course, he could be putting the lives of others at risk."

He added: "Coastguard officers all over the UK are having to nanny him from port to port, and he has been given a speech about navigation, but he doesn't seem to take it seriously."

Holyhead coastguard has co-ordinated six rescues but it has emerged that lifeboat crews from Liverpool, Belfast and Milford Haven have also had to come to his aid.

Mr Abbott began building his yacht 18 years ago when he lost his job as a painter.

He first set sail from Rhyl, north Wales, in July last year, blaming Margaret Thatcher and Chancellor Gordon Brown for forcing him out to sea.


When you are out there on your own, the Irish Sea can be quite a big place

Eric Abbott
"I am a novice, but I love sailing - it is a tremendous escape," Mr Abbott said.

"I suppose the lifeboat service in the UK and in Ireland may be a bit fed up with me, but really I never mean to get into trouble.

"Some people may hammer me for not doing this and that.

"When you are out there on your own, the Irish Sea can be quite a big place. I have one map but it isn't that detailed.

"If I had the money, I would donate some to the RNLI, but the only thing I can do as a thank you gesture is include them in my will."

Holyhead watch manager Geoff Lunt said coastguards were increasingly "exasperated" with Mr Abbott but nothing could be done to prevent him from going out to sea.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | Wales
Rugby star in sea rescue
29 Jul 00 | Wales
Jetski boy rescues family
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