NOTE: This article is written from a british perspective.
Living in britain, we constantly hear news of ‘yet another’ small boat crossing the channel illegally. We hear constantly about people smugglers, and the need to disrupt these ‘gangs of highly oranised criminals’ who charge thousands of pounds to get poor, unfortunate, illegal migrants from, let’s face it, pretty rotten countries, where they may or may not have experienced torture, and or persecution.
According to a BBC Article in August 2023, 20,101 ‘illegal migrants’ crossed the channel in 2023 (so far) in small boats.
For small boats, read, big rubber dinghies with little, or no safety equipment, overloaded, likely to sink at any time, and with barely enough fuel to reach the 12 mile limit of ‘british waters’.
All in hope of ‘a better life’.
According to the same article there are approximately 175,000 people awaiting decisions on asylum claims.That is a lot of people.
It costs approximately six million pounds per day to house these people, mainly in hotels – for the mathematically minded, thats’s two billion, one hundred and ninety million pounds a year!
Oh what I could do with two billion pounds a year! As it happens, I am broke, caused in a great part by the same british government leaving the EU, meaning I could no longer operate our sailing project in the EU without lengthy visa applications, and unable to bring the sailing boat back to the UK without a VAT payment of about fifty thousand pounds plus import charges, on a boat I hqd already paid VAT on in the EU, and despite being a british citizen with a british regstered boat!
The end result meant I had to leave the boat in the EU (where she is welcome) and me returning to the UK (where I am welcome)!
Unfortunately, that left me homeless, and penniless; but that’s another story!
I began to think that if I was stateless, as well as homeless, and penniless, I could cross the channel on a small boat, claim asylum, and be placed in a hotel, fully expensed at the cost of the british taxpayer! Perfect!
But I am not like that, I am resilient, and deal with adversity well, as I recognise that I am in control of my life, despite being affected by external forces.
Why are they coming to Britain?
I started to wonder why people would spend all their savings, or their families, and risk their lives to come to britain, a place where at best they will be exploited as low cost workers even if they have their application approved, and at worst be vilified by the british media, and despised by the ‘british’ people.
They had crossed numerous ‘safe’ countries to get to the uk, a cold, old country, which had occupied dozens of other countries during the time of empire, had exploited their peoples, and their resources, and was inherently racist at the highest level. it sure wouldn’t be my first choice, especiallly if I knew I wasn’t welcome.
And still they come.
Maybe the uk is a soft touch. Maybe they feel guilty about all the people who have suffered at their hands over the last few centuries and are trying to make amends by ‘allowing’ people in. I have no idea, and am just guessing.
Maybe it’s just another cynical attempt to recruit low paid workers into industries that the british population have long since given up on working in, like hospitality, cleaning, factory and farm work, etc. Maybe I’m just cynical, and the british government is a compassionate organisation dedicated to helping people in need,
But they didn’t help me when i needed it. Well, that’s not entirely true, I claimed universal credit as I was at my wits end, but because I couldn’t attend my appointments, or update my online journal, due to being homeless,, and being cut off from my phone provider, they cut me off too!
When I sell the boat I think I’ll give them back their thousand pounds or so, it didn’t help me one bit.
I’m sorry, I feel like I have been talking about myself, when I should be talking about these people escaping poverty and war, and persecution, in search of a better life, but like many people in countries overrun with ‘illegal immigrants’ I began to lose sympathy with them. as they were using resources that the people of the country needed, and who had paid for through their taxes.
Then I began to think of the people of ‘my’ country, and realised that the people really in need never get helped, like my mum when she had cancer and dementia, and the takers who undertood how to work the system always benefited,
Then I remembered the purpose, my purpose, of the ariana project, which was to help people become relient, develop compassion, and help them evolve as human beings towards a better, more peacful world for all.
A little empathy?
I began to put myself in the position of an ‘immigrant’ whether they were from Albania,Iraq, Iran, or wherever.
I tried to imagine their thought processes that had led them to make the decision to make the difficult and sometimes extremely dangerous journey’s to countries like the uk, or the EU, and the motivation needed to undertake such a journey.
It could not have been easy.
For some it was escaping persecution, and for others just to earn more money. Whatever the reason, they knew that had to do it.
That encouraged me. They had developed enough resilience to undertake a most difficult journey, which for over 3000 people in 2021, ended in death at sea.
Resilience is powerful force, but not as powerful as the sea
Since 2019, Ariana has been sailing safely to the canary islands and beyond, carrying dozens of crew, teaching them skills, seamanship, and helping them overcome their fears; so when Iheard over the VHF radio en route to the canaries from madeira that there was an inflatable boat missing with 45 people on board, presumed dead, I was shocked.
Here was I a relatively inexperienced offshore sailor, skipperig my own boat safely through the atlantic waters, assured of a safe arrival due to having learned good seamanship, and navigation, versus those who were simply in seek of a better life, prepared to risk everything despite the odds of a successful arrival firmly stacked against them.
We arrived safely, and headed to the pub, whereas they (as we found out subsequently) had drowned off the coast.
How could it be? Was it that I was better than them? Of course not. It was tha due to a twist of fate, I was born in a stable country, given opportunities by my parents, and had access to good training, and had the money to buy a safe boat. They on other hand, had none of that, even if they weren’t being persecuted or in fear for their lives.
Sailing – A rich man’s sport?
I started offshore sailing as I believed it would teach me skills I was lacking in life, and believed that once I had those skills, I could share them with others. I also believed that being in internatonal waters would give me ‘freedom’ away from the violence that had been going on for thousands of years on the land,
How wrong I was.
I quickly discovered that far from being an experience in freedom, I was firmly tied to the land, through regulations, taxes, berthing fees, maintenance fees, and crew that were constantly moaning about one thing and another.
Ariana is a beautiful boat, a sparkman and stephens, swan 55, launched in 1972, and she turned heads wherever we went, but I didn’t buy her to get attention. I bought her because of her pedigree. A boat to safely cross oceans whatever the weather.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself in a group I never wanted to be a part of – rich white men showing off !
This isn’t right I thought, I have nothing in common with these people, but everyone else just thought I was one of them – a middle aged white man with money. And maybe I was.
But I bought the boat with the little money I had to teach people resilience, and help develop a higher purpose, to develop and share skills, to create a different way of life for myself and those who chose to come on board.
Unfortunately, no one thought like me, including the crew, and I was left frustrated and ultimately penniless, while they were just in search of a good time, fuelled by adrenaline at sea, and alcohol when they arrived in port.
Ariana became no more than a taxi service for the white middle classes in search of adventure, and that saddened me (again!)
I realised that my purpose, and that of Ariana Sailing Team were at odds with everyone who came on board. I wanted to develop a low impact, low energy lifestyle with vegan cusine, and solar ovens the norm on board, but the people couldnt care less, ´
An offshore sailing trip on Ariana was just something to add to the list of ´have done’s’, something to tell their friends.
Fast forward four years and I am now preparing Ariana for sale to bring in much needed revenue to the project, and I am now reflecting on the skills I have learnt over the last 5 years which I shall list!
- sail trimming
- engine maintenance
- conflict resolution
- crew management
- wind awareness
- lights, and sounds of other ships
- collision avoidance techniques
- victualling (ships stores)
- energy and battery management
- emergency procedures
- boat maintenance
- wood working and varnishing
- first aid
- tides and tidal currents
- passage planning
- cooking at sea
- painting and polishing
- sail maintenance
- Ships communications
I could go on!
Needless to say I have learnt a great deal of transferable skills, and when I was thinking about it, i started wondering about all these skills I have learnt and how I could help these poor unfortunates, setting out in these unseaworthy dinghies!
What if, I asked myself, what if could take some of these people and instead of letting them become statistics in the english channel, the ed, or the canaries, become great seamen (or women), and give them a purpose better than merely being an ‘illegal immigrant’?
How would they be viewed then?
Certainly not as illegal immigrants relying on the british (or other) state. Not victims. Not boat people. But people! Human Beings.
People who had developed a purpose better than seeking ‘a better life’ at the expense of others.
People who despite adversity, poverty, or persecution , or even just a desire for more money, had discovered a world that was unknown to them, but gave them a purpose, rather than being a bleed on the country they ended up in, became an asset.
Imagine if I could take one ‘illegal immigrant’ turn him into an accomplished ocean sailor, give him charge of a ship, and he becomes the captain of one of our sail trader schooners, delivering goods, emission free from the world to the UK AND BEYOND..
Illegal Immigrant or hero?
Well, you make up your own mind…
we have a man, or woman, desperate, now empowered….
A benefit to all.
THIS PROJECT IS COMING SOON!
If you are interested in this concept contact us now to see how we can make this work (governments are most welcome to apply)