A 20-foot shipping container, which washed away at sea in Storm Eleanor's Force 10 gales, has returned to its location after a good wash, just in time for the start of the summer season - and the owner says he'll be doing things differently this time to avoid future stormy sweep-outs.
Used by the Gorey Watersports Centre to store equipment, the blue box luckily didn't suffer any damage during its unexpected journey at sea, which ended with a rescue mission 1.5miles north of Bouley Bay involving an anchored ship, members of the public and the Marine Section Crew.
Stored away from the beach near Fort William since its maritime excursion, the container returned to its home on Wednesday afternoon. After being lifted by a truck, it was delivered to the slip near Longbeach and transported by a crane to its original location. Aaron Bentley (27), the owner of the Gorey Watersports Centre was glad to see things go back to normal, although he admitted the incident looked worse than it actually was.
Pictured: The container floated away in the early hours of 3 January. (The Hungry Whale/Gary Burwood)
He told Express: "We only used it to store equipment. It was only inflatables, banana boats, surfers, wet suits, everything that is designed to get wet. At the end of the day, nothing is damaged, we got it back. It's been cleaned, it goes back in. For now it will stay like that and then with the summer, as we get busier, it will get painted again."
As it is not cost effective to move the container during the winter months, it is usually only tied down to a wall anchor to save it from being washed away with the tide, but the strong gusts of Storm Eleanor proved too much for the rope and anchor. So this time Aaron is doing things differently, as he explained: "The only thing that happened last time is the rope looked like it was cut, but again it could have snapped quite neatly, even though we used thicker ropes last time. We are using thinner ropes this time but it's non-snappable rope, there is no elasticity in it like in the bigger mooring ropes. Our main anchor broke, it just snapped off the sea wall."
Pictured: The sea rescue mission to save the container after it ended up 1.5 miles north of Bouley Bay.
Having worked in water sports since his Trident work experience stint with the Jersey Seasports Centre, Aaron has seen quite a few containers suffer the same fate. "It's just one of those. It is not the first time it happened and it won't be - well, I'm hoping it will be the last. It wasn't mine, but it has happened down here before. I managed the site with the previous owner and that happened twice to him. You try and predict the weather, you try and predict the tide. You will go, 'What do we do? Is it going to be cost effective to move it?' and then go, 'You know what, the wind direction is safe.'
"For example, when this went, I thought it was going to go the night before so I was down here making sure everything was tied down. I thought, 'The morning is no concern', and unfortunately it was. One stressful day! My other half wakes up every morning at 05:30, I never wake up when she goes to work. That's the only morning I woke up and I went, 'Something is going to happen.' And she said, 'No go back to sleep, you're paranoid.' I didn't wake up to phone calls, but I got an email. My phone dinged, I woke up, I read, 'Your container has moved. Please attend.' Fantastic! And it's one of those, you have to get on with it. If you stress about it, you get nothing done."
Pictured: The container was crane to its original location on Wednesday, after three months away from the beach.
Now with the container back on site, Aaron is ready for the summer season to start this Saturday at 10:00. His neighbour Gary Burwood, of the Hungry Whale Café, whose container "thankfully" survived the storm will soon be opening too. This year will be Aaron's third as owner of the site. He took over from the previous owners, with whom he worked for 10 years, and has since made quite a few changes to the business. Last year was the first time the watersports centre opened for the full season from April to the end of September. Aaron explained: "The site has always been July and August. It's never been seen as viable to open it earlier but then June was our busiest month last year, so for a month that has never been open before, that was good.
"As a sole trader, I come here and spend all my time down here. Instead of the site being open when it's good weather, there is always someone to speak to. If someone is walking their dog and have a birthday party to plan for a kid, we can organise it here and then. Online bookings have gone up, the name is getting around, that's the main thing. Don't get me wrong - I also get a few days where I go, 'Not a chance!' It's tough. It's not a lot of money to be made, you just have to make the most of it. It's more of a lifestyle than a career choice. It's not nice in the bank account, but if you love what you do, why not? You make it work."
Video: The Gorey Watersports Centre making a splash last summer.
As the years get busier and busier, Aaron was glad to hear from previous instructors who wished to come back to give a hand during the summer. He commented: "This year we will have the biggest and most qualified team we have ever had. It's all instructors who have previously worked with us. For the past two years, it was my other half and I. I was the qualified one, and she was on the beach with a stand up paddle in case I broke down. That's how we operated.
"Now I have powerboat instructors, all sorts. We have four main guys, two for the beginning and two for the summer, and then two little helpers. It's a team of six and a few others who need a day here or there."
Pictured: One of the activities on offer at the watersports attraction.
"We are ready for another season and to carry on what we do," Aaron said.
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