Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

This angler bought a lifejacket because of what we’ve been doing, he got into serious trouble in Cornwall last Sunday, and he is alive because he was wearing his lifejacket

This is copied from a Facebook post that Neal Dews put up on Monday to describe what happened to him on the north coast of Cornwall last Sunday: “Yesterday morning this saved my life no questions asked I wouldn’t be here without it ! (there was a photo of an inflated lifejacket on this post). After passing through a cave from one beach to the next And coming out the other side put my head torch on and the sea was about 100 yards away , I took about a dozen steps and noticed a small swell coming in around kneehigh so I stood side on and brace myself only to see three waves coming over the top head high next thing im upside down under the water slammed into the rocks like jacket goes off and Surfaces me , winded , shiting myself with waders full of water. T/P (spinning reel) and tailwalk (rod) nowhere to be seen , then I noticed my lure snagged on a rock and the tip of my road sticking out of the water 20 yards away luckily managed to retrieve this , not so lucky what’s the double sided lure box that floated out to sea , don’t care though ! After the last 24 hours thinking this over and pulling sand from places I never even knew existed the facts of the matter are £70 saved my life , Don’t think about buying one do it boys ! Battered and bruised just walking but still here.”

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So I messaged Neal through Facebook and said firstly that I was bloody glad he got out of this alive, and secondly if he would mind me calling him to ask about what happened and also ask why he was wearing a lifejacket. You need to know that not for one single second am I doing any of this lifejacket and angler safety work with the RNLI for any kind of glorification - and the RNLI know all about how long it takes to get messages and indeed culture changes like this through to enthusiasts as stubborn as we collectively are - but when I heard that Neal was wearing a lifejacket because of what we have been doing I cannot tell you how pleased I was for so many reasons. A very experienced angler got into serious trouble on a mark he has been fishing for twenty one years up on the north coast of Cornwall and he got to come home to his wife and two kids because he was wearing a roughly £70 auto inflate Crewsaver lifejacket that his family had given him for his recent 50th birthday - this one here that I reviewed a while back in fact and was wearing myself on Monday afternoon in some surprisingly bouncy south coast conditions. It’s such an easy bit of kit to wear.

Amendment: Apologies, I think Neal and I got our wires slightly crossed as regards the make of the lifejacket he had on when the proverbial hit the fan last Sunday. I am pretty sure it was actually a “Kru Sport 170”, and not the Crewsaver - but it makes no difference. Good lifejackets like these need not cost much and it’s a lot of essential gear for not much money.

Neal and I spoke for a fair while on Monday evening, and the way he described what happened to him sent a chill down my spine. It was very interesting to hear him use the word panic almost straight away. Bear in mind he’s been fishing the north coast for twenty one years, so he knows all about swell and the unpredictability of it - yet he got caught out big time, and it all went wrong horribly quickly. Some of what he said tied in almost uncannily to a talk I did at the fishing show on on Sunday, when somebody was asking me about how we might be able to take our chest waders off if we end up in the water, and somebody else asked me how you use a sling-bag when you’ve got a lifejacket on. You ain’t getting your waders off and I would ask if a certain way of carrying lures (and there are other ways of doing so) is more important than giving yourself the best possible chance of not dying when the shit hits the fan as it did with Neal.

Panic, and how fast things happened, that is what really struck me from talking with Neal. What happened to Neal hasn’t happened to me, but with the testing we have done and what I am learning as I go along, it has been my growing suspicion that if things go so badly wrong so damn quickly and unexpectedly - as it did with Neal on Sunday - I don’t care how experienced you are. You are going to panic, end of, and Neal said that as he very suddenly ended up in what sounds like a horrendous washing machine kind of situation, he was upended, his waders very quickly filled up with water and also sand (I never even thought about heavy sand getting into your waders), his sling-bag that he had left open filled up with water, the hood on his jacket filled up with water, and all this combined to give all that turbulent water lots more traction as such, and increase the sense of panic and helplessness. I am not trying to scare-monger at all here, but I asked Neal again and again: “would you have survived without your lifejacket?” You know the answer. He was amazed at how quickly his lifejacket auto-inflated and helped to right him and float after he had been literally upended, and then keep him afloat and his airways clear until the water receded and he could self-rescue.

I have not met Neal before but I am so bloody glad he survived this incident and got to go home to his wife and kids. Too many anglers over the years have not got to go home to their families. We need to be honest about all this and acknowledge how stupid and/or ignorant far too many of us are about our own safety when we are out fishing, and wearing a lifejacket for a lot of your shore based lure fishing is going to give you a far greater chance at getting out of a bad situation alive. The Art of Fishing are listing three different Crewsaver lifejackets on their website at the moment - check here - and yes, they are the full RRP and you could most likely search around the internet and find them a few quid cheaper. Firstly here I would ask you to please get your arse in gear and buy a lifejacket and then actually bloody wear it, and secondly to buy it from the Art of Fishing because any of the profits derived from the Crewsaver lifejacket sales are going to the RNLI.

If you ever end up in a situation like this, you seriously want to be wearing a lifejacket - this is a photo I shot while we were working with the RNLI this summer

If you ever end up in a situation like this, you seriously want to be wearing a lifejacket - this is a photo I shot while we were working with the RNLI this summer

All I am trying to do with this safety related stuff is use my voice as such to try and get the messages and information out there to try and help save anglers’ lives - there is nothing more to it than that. Haters will always hate, doubters will always doubt and say really helpful things like you shouldn’t be out fishing if you need to wear a lifejacket, and keyboard warriors/experts always know it all anyway, but I firmly believe that together with the RNLI we can get to the right people and do a lot of good here. Everything I have been doing with the RNLI feels so incredibly worth it because Neal survived due to the fact he was wearing a lifejacket because of what we have been doing. Some of you here kindly buy some of your fishing tackle via my affiliate links on this blog and website, but you need to know that there will never be an affiliate link associated with anything safety related. I don’t do this safety stuff for money and in some respects I am probably not really a very good businessman for getting involved like this, but some things to me are far more important than dosh. So glad you’re safe Neal and thanks for kindly being okay with me writing this blog post.