Pensioner’s trip by raft is both daft and dangerous

AN 84-year-old British man who can only walk with the aid of a stick has concocted a homemade raft from plastic gas pipes. Together with three of his pals, he has stocked this novel vessel up with rum and whisky, and is about to sail it 2,800 miles from the Canaries to the Bahamas. It’s all for charity, of course.

Anthony Smith, a retired journalist, is most excited about his impending jolly and boozy jape. “The whole point is to prove that elderly people can do something interesting. Well, I am 84 and disabled, so I’m well qualified on that score,” he tells his former employer, the Daily Telegraph.

It’s a free country, as they say. And far be it from me to put a downer on anything that results in a few old ‘uns having a bit of fun and raising a bit of cash for the third world poor. But can I politely put it to Mr Smith and his accomplices that they might more constructively amuse themselves with a spot of gentle gardening or charitable work?

Perhaps they could even get together for the occasional evening of contract bridge, or some other more age-appropriate entertainment. What’s so wrong with golf or ballroom dancing, anyway? In short, let them try anything other than steering a makeshift contraption across the Atlantic while knocking back the hard stuff.

The dangers of such a foolhardy venture have naturally been pointed out to Mr Smith. Here is his retort: “People ask me ‘am I frightened?’ But I say I don’t know enough to be frightened.” The sheer levity on display here will make many professional seafarer’s toes curl. If he really does not know enough to be frightened, he should bloody well find out.

I presume he will be savvy enough to avoid the hurricane season — although perhaps even that cannot be taken for granted — he might care to ponder that freak waves of over 90 feet high have sometimes been recorded in the Atlantic, on occasion leading to the disappearance of substantial merchant vessels without trace. Oh, and with the loss of all hands.

Any rescue operation would cost tens of thousands of pounds at the very minimum, although if the raft got into serious trouble, it seems doubtful that a search and rescue helicopter would reach him in time. Never mind, that’s what taxpayer money is for, right?

Nor does any consideration seem to have been given to the danger this foolhardy stunt might bring about to merchant shipping going about their legitimate and economically useful business.

My understanding is that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has the power to nix Mr Smith’s stupidity. For his sake as much as everyone else’s, I sincerely plead with it to do so.

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