Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Dad, why have you ignored the whole lifejacket thing for so many years?

After jumping in the pool a bunch of times this time last week with the RNLI and then drying off and grabbing a bit of late lunch, each of us four had to go into a quiet room where the film crew had set up their camera gear with a bunch of lights. We were then asked a bunch of questions which I guess will be used in the various videos that will be released in due course…………

And if there was one thing I was always going to do throughout last Monday with the RNLI was be completely honest and upfront about the whole fishing safety thing. If I was asked any difficult questions I was not going to shirk away from them because I can see no point in me doing what I am trying to do here if I can’t be honest with myself in the first place. I am guessing that the RNLI and the film crew got together beforehand to plan the shoot and also think about the sort of questions they were going to ask us, and you must bear in mind here that I don’t know what Mark, Ben and Richard were asked when they went in for their interviews and I won’t know what they spoke about until I get to see the videos.


Now I am a regular bloke who happens to thrive on being outdoors and around the sea especially. I have never functioned well when people tell me what to do and I guess I was one of those kids who needed to do it and find out rather than say yes and never question the actions and the consequences. I know my own mind, I am pretty black and white, I accept completely that the sort of fishing I live for doing comes with an inherent level of risk, but then so does a lot of fun stuff in life. As a father I passionately believe in the whole kids needing to fall over, bloody their knees and then pick themselves up instead of us rushing in to do so way of living because they need to find so much out for themselves without their parents endlessly fussing over their well being and suffocating their spirit of adventure and discovery and excitement.

And as an angler I am as guilty as most of us here of burying my head in the sand for far too many years and doing exactly what I try and teach my girls not to do. For sure my wife and I encourage them to go for it in life, but if for example they were massively keen on fishing from rocky ledges while the sea raged around them and they had no means of calling for help or floating the right way up for as long as possible if something went badly wrong, would I be a good parent if I wasn’t insisting that they carry and wear the correct safety equipment?


They love their sailing for example, and they belong to a local sailing club. When they head out sailing they must wear buoyancy aids and sailing helmets, and of course the club has safety boats out with them. They would not be allowed out on the water without this simple safety gear. Both girls have been hit in the head with the boom and knocked off the boat or capsized multiple times and so on, but never once have those experiences put them off going sailing. We have never worried for one second about them being out there and I love how they so love doing this sort of fun stuff that of course comes with a degree of risk - but then what doesn’t?

Their dad (me!) heads out there many, many times each year to do what he so loves doing, and for most of his fishing life he has successfully ignored how simple it is to give himself the best possible chance at surviving if something were to go wrong. There are of course many things that an angler can do to stay that bit safer, but I would suggest that above all our supposed knowledge and experience is the simple and unavoidable fact that a simple and not very expensive auto-inflate lifejacket is such a frigging no-brainer for what so many of us love to do I very much expecting the day when my two bright and awesome girls turn the tables on me at supper and ask me the question “Dad, why have you ignored the whole lifejacket thing for so many years?”. They are now asking me if I will be wearing a lifejacket when I head out fishing, but it’s the why wasn’t I for so long that’s coming for sure.

I will be completely honest with them and talk them through my burying my head in the sand for far too long for any number of reasons and the fact that I would not expect them to behave as stupidly as their dad has done for so long. As for the whole boyfriend thing though, well let’s just say that’s not up for discussion! I have a big chainsaw and I know how to use it……………….