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Sailor’s Troubles Irk Brit Rescuers

August 10, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Eric Abbott often finds the sea bewildering. The coast guard often finds him _ and is getting fed up.

Abbott, 56, called for help Thursday after running aground in the Rhyl estuary on the north coast of Wales. On Tuesday, he called for help in the same area after getting lost in the dark.

``I’m not giving up,″ Abbott told reporters Thursday. ``Bring out the champagne.″

The Coastguard and Maritime Agency, which has gone to Abbott’s rescue half a dozen times at an estimated cost of $50,000, was not inclined to toast his persistence.

``We are exasperated with him but there is nothing we can do to stop him going out to sea,″ said Geoff Lunt, a coast guard watch manager at Holyhead, Wales.

Abbott’s sailing career aboard the 24-foot ``Plus VAT″ _ his protest against value-added tax _ began in Liverpool on July 23, 1999. The next day, Abbott sent a distress call and was towed to land. The same thing happened the day after that.

Abbott, who is from Northwich, Cheshire, in western England, didn’t call for further help until April 23 when he had to be towed to shore, and then ran aground later in the day.

On June 18, Abbott radioed Belfast, Northern Ireland, to say he was lost but thought he could see mountains. ``When we got to him he had a road map and he said he didn’t know how to use his compass,″ the coast guard noted.

``I suppose the lifeboat service in the U.K. and in Ireland may be a bit fed up with me, but really I never mean to get into trouble,″ Abbott said after his rescue Tuesday. ``When you are out there on your own, the Irish Sea can be quite a big place. I have one map but it isn’t that detailed.″

The Royal Yacht Association may have a solution: the coast guard said Thursday that Abbott has accepted the association’s offer of a free place on its 10-day skipper’s course.

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