Henry Gilbey
Cape Cod - 1010.jpg


Henry Gilbey blog

So sad to hear about another angler who died over the weekend whilst fishing the north coast of Cornwall

I have been away on the Isle of Wight for a few days with my family, but I saw the sad news of another angler who was out fishing on the north coast of Cornwall over the weekend at night, somehow ended up in the sea, and sadly died. Another angler who went out night fishing like so many of us do or have done, never for one second expecting anything to go so tragically wrong, and another family torn to pieces with grief.

From the Port Isaac RNLI Facebook page: “Port Isaac RNLI were paged at 12.43am today (Sunday 18th February) to reports of a fisherman in the water to the eastern side of Castle Beach at Tintagel. The casualty had been reported by members of the group he was fishing with. The inshore lifeboat launched at 12.55am and, with sea and weather conditions being fair, arrived on scene at 1.11am along with Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopter Rescue 924. By this time the casualty had been in the water for approximately 40 minutes. The lifeboat and helicopter both began a search of the area with the helicopter using its searchlight. On the first sweep of the search pattern, volunteer lifeboat crew member Mark Grills spotted the casualty in the water about 80 feet from the base of the cliff. The casualty was brought on board the boat and volunteer crew administered first aid. The decision was quickly taken to transfer to Rescue 924 which airlifted the casualty to hospital. Owing to poor weather conditions at Newquay, they made their way to Derriford hospital. Sadly the casualty was pronounced dead on arrival. Our thoughts are with their family and friends at this time.”

I thought that a calm and peaceful photo was most relevant today

I thought that a calm and peaceful photo was most relevant today

I know no more than the above, but I do know for a fact that the angler who died was not wearing a lifejacket. Considering that I have successfully spent at least 99.9% of my fishing life studiously avoiding the whole lifejacket thing, I sure as shit am not about to hand out any blame here - fishing on the rocks at any time of day or night is what it is. You spend time by the sea and things can so easily go wrong, and whilst I am not out there bait fishing so much at night like I used to, you know and I know that the angler who so sadly died at the weekend could just as easily have been you or I. Anybody who fishes and believes that it will never happen to them is both deluded and a bloody liar, end of.

I can’t sit here writing this and tell you that if the angler who died had been wearing a lifejacket then they would still be alive this morning, but then I can’t get away from what I have been learning about lifejackets. The angler who went in “with sea and weather conditions being fair” (albeit pretty damn cold) was in the water for “approximately 40 minutes”, and whilst I dread to think how terrifying that was, correctly wearing an auto-inflate lifejacket is going to help buy you more time until you hopefully get rescued. There are never any guarantees and I am assuming that an angler out on the rocks at night in the middle of February knows what they are doing, but it’s the sea and as well as we think we know her, she is mightily unpredictable.

When they are ready I will be able to show you the short films from that tank test day we did with the RNLI, and by no means am I even remotely trying to compare jumping into a not that cold tank with safety divers all around us to that poor angler who ended up in the sea at night in the middle of February and died - but even from our very safe experiences in that tank I can tell you how nasty it is when you’re trying to stay afloat and choppy water keeps trying to flood your airways. I am going to quote from my RNLI day blog post I wrote: “let me tell you how bloody horrible it is when you are in the water and now you’ve got water breaking into your face and in no time at all you start spluttering and gagging and spitting and you can’t get enough air in your lungs before getting water in your face again and then as safe as you are in the tank you’re already getting tired trying to stop water getting in your face and down your throat and in no time at all you’re not thinking straight and you want the hell out of there and I went for one of the ropes at the side of the pool because it was so bloody horrible.”

Can you imagine how horrendously scary it was for that poor angler over the weekend, when it’s for real and you are fighting for your life? I try to but I can’t, and to be honest it breaks my bloody heart that another angler has died doing what they love, and another family is broken. I can’t tell you what to do here, but I can say this because it’s my blog and I have done a complete turnaround with regards to my ignoring the bleeding obvious - stop being a macho idiot who reckons it’s never going to happen to them (this was me not long ago at all) and start wearing a lifejacket when you are out on the rocks especially. They don’t cost much but they could end up saving your life. I will be doing some reviews of a few that I have been trying out in due course. They are not expensive and they are so damn easy to wear.

And as I said earlier, this is absolutely nothing to do with me blaming anybody or anything here. I spent many, many years fishing all manner of rocks marks in the middle of the night and in all kinds of conditions, not even knowing anything at all about lifejackets and how they might work for me. I can tell you a bit about lifejackets now because I have been learning plenty about them from some very knowledgeable people, but I wonder how many anglers out there know the first thing about modern, easy to wear lifejackets and how they could save your life? It’s not enough to simply say wear a lifejacket - anglers need to know about them and how much good they can do.

And please, please, please do not for one second rely on a floatation suit. You will see my mate Mark’s experience of wearing one in that RNLI tank in due course, and I can’t believe I used to wear a floatation suit for some of my winter fishing especially, feeling kinda safe in the very mistaken belief that if I ended up in the sea it would save my life. Sure they are nice and warm, but they are categorically not a lifejacket, indeed my understanding is that they are actually meant to be worn together with a lifejacket - but how many floatation suit companies do you see telling you this? I will be writing more about this when the short films are finished from our testing day, but I am mentioning this here because I was alerted to the fact that a ‘fishing expert’ from the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers said that a floatation suit is as good as a lifejacket on Radio Cornwall I believe, of course referencing back to the tragic events from the weekend.

Yet again I take my hat off to those brave people from the RNLI. Think about that crew who got that angler out of the sea at the weekend in the middle of the night. Think about how it must affect them to deal with death like that. So damn sad for too many people……….