From the RYA's point of view, we support the UKBA’s work in providing a national surveillance and interception capability to protect the UK from terrorism and criminality, but the RYA believes that the recreational boating public should not routinely be regarded as suspects.
As they approached we were told to hold our course and speed, and before we knew it, three of these guys STORMED over the guard rails, pushed past me in the cockpit and dived straight down below with the third member remaining in the cockpit.
Protestations and questions about had they any rights to do this were greeted with a barked response that absolutely they could do it. All in the demeanour of keep out our road or pay the consequences.
This was a very aggressive, and, if we had been bad guys, I’ll admit, a professional and effective boarding. But we weren’t bad guys. We were one mid 50’s couple and one mid 60’s cruising to our summer marina in Oban and I don’t think we look like drug runners.
A large rib came alongside, all black, and four individuals jumped on board without a word... I was very surprised because our new toy, the AIS, had not shown any contacts and we had seen no lights, so was the mother ship transmitting its AIS identity?
My belief is that it was hiding behind the Needles or not transmitting... They started aggressively with "Why did you slow up in the narrows? Where are your passports?" My No. 2 who does not like this sort of thing said, " We didn't know Devon had seceded from England so what are you on about?”
Yes, they are riot police with life jackets, but once aboard and in the cockpit they got on with their job in a pleasant manner, apart from being a little surprised by finding a lone yachtswoman. …
All I can say to these poor old chaps is, get a perpective on things. With our freedom to sail the seas of Britain comes a responsibility to look out for things that are illegal. These guys can't be expected to know who's aboard, or if you are up to no good or not.
Give'em a break, they are working for you, to keep our nation free of the scum that bring in drugs.
As sailors we have enjoyed freedom of movement without harrassment from officialdom for a long time. Unfortunately the criminal mentality has caught on to this freedom and not unexpectedly taken advantage of it as is evidenced by several recent court cases involving drug runners and illegal immigrants.
If the UK Border Agency are going to adopt a heavy handed attitude due their enormous powers and adopt a bully boy attitude they are going to lose all support from a section that could well provide them with valuable information. Leisure sailors are unlikely to report suspicious activity if they have recently been harassed by that same agency.