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He goes sailing, and they go rescuing

Envelope-pushing ‘Capt. Calamity’ is an all-too-familiar face to the British rescue authorities

Envelope-pushing ‘Capt. Calamity’ is an all-too-familiar face to the British rescue authorities

The name Glenn Crawley has become too familiar to British rescue organizations, although lately he’s been given a new moniker: Capt. Calamity.

“We don’t actually keep a record of the number of calls we’ve gotten about Mr. Crawley, but I would say over the last 18 months we’ve rescued him half a dozen times,” says Gareth Horner, Royal National Lifeboat

Institution operations manager at Newquay, Cornwall, the British sailor’s hometown.

In fact, authorities are so fed up with Crawley that in early April, after yet another rescue, Newquay harbormaster Derek Aunger banned him from sailing his Dart 18 catamaran without a crewmember on board until he passes a sailing test.

“I complied with the request,” says Crawley, 51. “I talked to [Aunger], and we’re willing to put the past behind us and start with a clean sheet. I hope to be forgiven, eventually.”

Crawley admits he likes to “push the envelope” when he’s sailing, taking his cat into the surf along the windy coast of Newquay. At press time, he was taking lessons with Brian Phipps, author of “The Catamaran Book” and winner of several national and international competitions with his own Dart 18.

“I can’t get my boat up out of the water after I capsize quick enough,” says Crawley. “If it takes more than two minutes, some well-intentioned person calls the officials, and the whole process starts all over again.”

That’s what happened last August, when the RNLI came to Crawley’s aid after people saw his catamaran capsize several times and called to report it. “Chances are it’s a situation that can be resolved, but you’ve got unqualified people phoning up the Coastguard that don’t know what they are talking about,” he says. “I’m about the only one here with a catamaran, so I’m singled out.”

Established in 1824, the RNLI has branches around the United Kingdom, and it assists the British Coastguard, the government agency that oversees and coordinates rescues. As a volunteer charity organization, the RNLI is run solely through donations. Crawley has been rescued so often that the question inevitably comes up: Should a person reimburse the RNLI after being rescued a certain number of times?

“I don’t want them there; they are asked by the public to do so,” says Crawley. “They are throwing away their time on me. I would rather they leave me be.”

Horner says the RNLI doesn’t judge Crawley for how he spends his time, but it has to honor calls for assistance when they come in. “When someone calls 999, which is the American equivalent to 911, it is put through to the Coastguard,” says Horner. “They then call us to launch a lifeboat in whatever area the call was made.”

Crawley is a surfer who started sailing around four years ago to try something new, and he’s been getting a lot of unwanted attention ever since. “Things do happen when you’re on a [catamaran], and you capsize every now and then,” says Crawley. “But we’ve all grown up with the notion that if you see someone who looks like they’re in trouble, you call.”

At press time, Crawley was preparing for a sailing test monitored by Aunger. He says he loves sailing and hopes to get back out there soon. “He’ll judge me on my performance and see where I’m at,” says Crawley. “Then we’ll just take it from there.”