Walking along a canal path the other day, I came across this:

Leaving aside the missing ‘e’ – I’m not sure if that’s a proofreading or branding issue (it’s too new to have been rubbed off) – I was puzzled. I couldn’t see how this post could in any way help with a water rescue.

For those of you who don’t know, I do have an interest in this kind of thing. As a keen sailor, I’ve spent a lot of time on the water and, for my sins, am safety boat qualified. It was, then, almost inevitable that this would attract my attention.

As I drew level with it, I was able to see the more relevant information:

To save you squinting, I’ll summarise what all this means. Essentially, this is giving you instructions for accessing the contents of this post in the event of someone being stuck on – or in – the water. Your first step, it seems, is to get your phone out – though not so you can film the victim flailing about as they try to stay afloat. No, unusually these days, you use it to make a phone call. This one is to the emergency services. When you get through, you can quote the location (RB10 in this case) and that’ll prompt them to give you a code to use so you can unlock the post and, from within, retrieve a throw-rope to help with your rescue. Assuming the poor sod hasn’t drowned while they waited.

Perhaps understandably, I was annoyed. Because the priority in that situation has to be to get to the person who needs rescuing as soon as possible. At the lake where I normally sail, there are several rescue buoys dotted around the shoreline. You’ll have seen similar things on your own travels, I’m sure. They look like this.


Shape aside, the purpose is the same as the one in the first two pictures. The only real difference is that you don’t have to hang around to access this one. And those vital seconds, possibly minutes, can save lives. So, of course I was annoyed. At the increased risk of drowning, and at the Canal and River Trust for introducing this ridiculous need to delay the rescue.

But then I realised my annoyance was aimed at the wrong people. Because, after decades of using rescue gear that’s ready to use, there could be only one reason why an organisation like this would need to restrict the access. There have clearly been enough instances of boneheads vandalising, stealing or simply playing with these essential items to pose an even greater risk to someone who’s ended up in the water. If the equipment isn’t there, or has been damaged, it’ll be useless for rescue purposes. Better to have the delay in getting to something that works, than running the risk of having nothing suitable at all. Without anything, the rescuers have to resort to jumping in themselves, and that only puts more lives at risk.

I am an optimist when it comes to people and their nature. In the main, I feel most of us want to put out good things in the world. It’s just a shame that there are dickheads out there who undermine that. My guess, though, is that it’s rarely done from malice or spite, but from ignorance and thoughtlessness. Let’s hope none of them are ever faced with the prospect of having to help a friend who’s fallen in the water – especially if they’ve dropped their mobile phones in as well.