Sailor using road map to navigate is rescued

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The Independent Online

A solo yachtsman who uses an AA road map to navigate was warned yesterday by the coastguard to seek advice before setting out to sea after he was rescued nine times in a year.

A solo yachtsman who uses an AA road map to navigate was warned yesterday by the coastguard to seek advice before setting out to sea after he was rescued nine times in a year.

Eric Abbott, 56, was last rescued in the early hours of Tuesday morning after he radioed for help when he became lost in the Irish Sea. His 25ft home-made yacht, named Plus VAT as a protest against tax, was towed back to Anglesey after the Holyhead coastguard spent nearly an hour trying to find him because he could not give a precise location.

Mr Abbot, an unemployed painter from Northwich, Cheshire, has no navigation system on board. He travels with a £6.99 1997 copy of the AA Road Atlas of Great Britain but last night he denied that was his only chart. The coastguard, which has responded to messages from him such as "I can see mountains" or "I'm near a light", said there was only one Admiralty chart on board.

Yesterday the Coastguard and Maritime Agency said Mr Abbott had cost lifeboat services an estimated £30,000 for six rescues over the past year. Holyhead coastguard has coordinated six rescues but lifeboat crews from Liverpool, Belfast and Milford Haven have also been forced to rescue him.

Mr Abbott began building his yacht 18 years ago when he lost his job as a painter. He set sail from Rhyl, north Wales, in July last year, blaming Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, for forcing him out to sea to "find himself".

"I suppose the lifeboat service in the UK and in Ireland may be a bit fed up with me, but really I never mean to get into trouble. When you are out there on your own, the Irish Sea can be quite a big place.

"If I had the money, I would donate some to the RNLI, but the only thing I can do as a thank-you gesture is include them in my will," he told the Daily Post.

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