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Sailor who 'jumped ship' as his boat took on water in the early hours of the morning on Loch Eriboll, gives huge thank you to local residents

By Staff Reporter

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Grateful sailor Darragh Carroll.
Grateful sailor Darragh Carroll.

A LONE sailor whose boat overturned on Loch Eriboll at the weekend, forcing him to swim to shore in the dark, has thanked the local community for its help.

Darragh Carroll (25), wet and exhausted, found shelter in an unoccupied holiday home on the shores of the loch and was later given food and clothing by residents, who also helped to recover his boat.

He said: “I couldn’t think of a better team working together”.

Mr Carroll, from Dublin, was sailing the boat back to Ireland from Norway, having bought the 30ft traditional wooden vessel there.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, as he was hoping to reach Kinlochbervie, a bad storm in the area forced him to take shelter in Loch Eriboll.

Mr Carroll, a chef, told the Northern Times: “I left Stromness on Friday and the weather was beautiful coming across.

“My original plan was to sail to Kinlochbervie, but my timing was off when I arrived at Cape Wrath and I spent quite a lot of time and fuel trying to go out and around the strong currents.

“I finally decided to try and shelter in Loch Eriboll before the weather got bad, but as I arrived I was met with heavy, southerly winds. My fuel was very low, so I spent a lot of time entering the loch by sail.”

Mr Carroll attempted to anchor at the southern end of the loch at around 3am.

He continued: “I anchored there for a few hours before the winds got really bad – to be honest, I had never experienced such force in the wind.

“It brought the anchors out of the water and I had to battle the wind for a few hours trying to find shelter, as the anchors would not grip in the wind. With fuel just about empty, I decided I would bank the boat in the sand, and hopefully keep it upright with the anchors.

“But that didn’t work – my mind was not working as I had not slept for 24 hours at this point.

“I then spent the night trying to keep the boat upright but the high tide lifted the boat up and the wind eventually put it on its side, and it began to fill with water.

“I started to do everything I could to keep the water out but it just was filling too fast.

“I decided to abandon it, so I put on a survival suit, jumped into the water and swam the 20m to shore.”

He managed to find an unoccupied holiday cottage (Foulain), rented out by local landowners Wildland Ltd, where he was able to take shelter, gaining access without causing damage.

In the morning a passer by noticed activity in the cottage and contacted the police who alerted Wildland estate manager Andrew Adamson.

Mr Adamson told us: “Our first concern was for the wellbeing of this intrepid sailor, and we are pleased that our little cottage was able to offer him shelter during what must have been a terrifying ordeal.

“Loch Eriboll has a storied history of sailors who have fallen foul of its wild waters, and we would always urge caution to anyone heading out to sea.”

The boat becomes more visible at low tide.
The boat becomes more visible at low tide.

Mr Carroll continued: “The police arrived with two members of the cottage ground staff, and they were all amazing and brought beautiful food for me to eat. We then all had a look at the boat and figured it was time to call coastguard.

“They came in a matter of an hour and many members of the local community were also down to help. I truly could not believe how helpful the local community was – it was incredibly inspiring to see such helpful, hard-working locals willing to stand in the rain from morning to night to help me.

“I couldn’t of dreamed of a better team of people working together. It is a day I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Mr Adamson said: “We helped him get back on his sea-legs, and we have been touched to see the community rally round to offer food, mechanical expertise, and a helping hand with the boat. It speaks to the generous, open-hearted spirit of this place and its people.”

For the next 14 hours, the police, coastguard, local fisherman, construction staff and Wildland staff all assisted in getting the boat upright, which allowed the damage to be assessed properly.

A Wildland spokesman said this week: “As the young chap hadn’t slept in three days (and not much of the three weeks previously, coming from Norway only with a hand compass and admiralty charts), and with all of his equipment, food, clothing and sleeping bag soaked, we have allowed him to stay in Foulain Cottage for a few nights to rest, get nourished and give him a chance to get the boat in a condition that will allow him to move back into it and get the heating running.”

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