that sinking feeling

Posted: June 8, 2011 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , ,

Today the web was abuzz with a story oozing with irony. Last Saturday Titanic II set out on its maiden voyage from Dorset, England. Its course was not as ambitious as the one charted in 1912 for its famous namesake. Titanic II didn’t first head to Ireland before hitting the North Atlantic where it would sail south of Greenland, down past Nova Scotia and gloriously into New York Harbor. It wasn’t even going on the ocean. It was simply dipping a toe into Lyme Bay for a spot of fishing.

Apparently a chap named Mark Wilkinson recently bought a used 16 foot cabin cruiser which he rechristened Titanic II. He intended to use it for fishing and other pleasure cruising activities. Personally, I’ve never found fishing to be all that pleasurable, but I don’t live on an island with a long and illustrious love affair with the sea. To me fishing always seemed completely out of balance. Far too much time is spent waiting for the fish than actually catching the fish. I don’t even like waiting for the bus and I would’ve never waited for Godot, so you can appreciate why this very inactive activity doesn’t, pardon the pun, float my boat. Not only can it take hours to lure the fish, when you do they can be persnickety, stubborn and difficult to actually reel in. I’m outsmarted far too often in life. I don’t need an aquatic vertebrate with the brain the size of a LeSueur pea to join the party. Trust me, go fishing once and you’ll quickly understand why a cooler full of beer is on every fisherman’s “must have” supply list.

However Wilkerson, being British and probably far more patient about the reluctant nature of sea creatures than me, entertained no such prejudices about setting sail with a rod, a reel and a dream of a good halibut. He cleaned his new used boat and motored into calm waters of Lyme Bay. Evidentially he enjoyed moderate success on this briny sea. Whether that means he caught a lot of fish or simply enjoyed the Fuller’s Vintage Ale stored in his cooler is unclear. What is clear is that as Titanic II headed back into West Bay Harbour it experienced a breach in its hull and began taking on water at a rapid rate. As dramatic as that sounds it wasn’t the stuff of Hollywood. There were no musicians playing mournful music, no star-crossed lovers clinging desperately to each other, no smarmy man concerned more with an impossibly huge jewel than his fellow passengers, no women weeping nor immigrants fighting. Instead there was one intrepid sailor clinging desperately to his floundering and ultimately doomed craft.

Wilkerson’s fate was better than most of the men on the original Titanic. He survived. He was fished (There’s your irony!) out of the drink by the harbor master and escaped unharmed, save the loss of his boat and, perhaps, his dignity. He later said (a bit too cleverly, I imagine), “If it wasn’t for the harbour master I would have gone down with the Titanic.”

I suppose there’s a lesson in all of this and it has nothing to do with adopting the name of a famous failure. Mark Wilkerson isn’t the only person in the last 99 years to name his boat after the biggest box office hit of the 20th century. No, there’s something more practical to take from this tale of a man who bought a used boat and ended up grasping onto it for dear life as it sunk in the cold waters off the coast of England: If you’re going to sail alone in an old, beat-up cabin cruiser on a body of water where your feet can’t touch bottom without your head being fully submerged, bring a life vest.

Someone cue Celine Dion

  1. Serves him right for naming the boat “Titanic!” That name is obviously DOOMED! LOL!


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