Tuesday, 12 February 2008


Making the most of the offshore wind to sail parallel to the coast I saw what I thought was a fishing boat that had run ashore. However, closer inspection revealed a 40 foot RIB with four 250hp Yamaha engines on the back.
I landed beside it and peered in. Blankets, discount outdoor-shop waterproofs, a damp cardboard box of high calorie, low quality food, a large box filled with litre containers of 2-stroke oil, some new but poor quality tools already rusting, a plastic bag filled with NGK sparkplugs in boxes of 10 and upwards of 15 four packs of AA alkaline batteries and two unused bilge pumps in a soggy box were scattered around the interior. Through an open hatch under the seat I could see several 12 volt batteries. The boat and engines looked brand new but the tubes had been punctured and one of the engines was hanging at a tortured angle off the back, damaged presumable sustained when the boat arrived at the beach.
This boat arrived on the night of the 31st of January and since then I’ve been attempting to piece together the story but, although there have been accounts in the papers and on the Internet, I still can’t satisfactorily explain how this boat found it’s way to this shore. Or why the Guardia Civil took three days to take it away.

Operation ‘Gringo’ had been afoot for sometime attempting to score a significant coup over organised gangs running drugs up from the north African coast to the shores of Tarragona.

The Guardia Civil received a tip-off and managed to intercept a lorry loaded with 3000 kilos of hashish leaving the vicinity of Salou. (15nm south of OB’s beach) Soon afterwards they discovered a boat in a small cove. But apparently a second boat drifted away from the beach and into the night. The Guardia Civil caught up with this boat and, finding it empty of drugs, drove it onto the shore—I don’t quite understand why they didn’t simply drive or tow it back to their home port a mile away. Another report in the paper said the boat had drifted to the beach, which I don’t understand either—an offshore wind blew all night.

However the boat arrived, it made an impressive sight. Given that the Guardia Civil had searched the boat before I arrived I found it strange that there were still items of value, like the brand new, boxed bilge pumps, the quantities of two stroke oil and the 12 volt Optima batteries onboard.

I find it hard to believe that even the most hard bitten drug runners would put to sea with no ground tackle or rode, no life jackets or other flotation devices, no flares, no navigation lights. But the boat as I saw it displayed a total absence of anything that might lead one to suppose there had been any sort of plan B, or indeed any provision for mishaps more serious than sparkplug failure.

These boats can travel at forty knots but all the same it’s a long journey up from the north African coast 320nm south of here. Eight hours at the very least, bumping over the sea in the dark with only poor quality waterproofs and blankets as protection from the weather. Not knowing what awaits on the approaching shore and with total dependence on the reliability of the craft…But then I suppose safety at sea isn’t high on their list of priorities.

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