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Yacht captain who had 'God-given right' to be on Liffey found guilty of being drunk while sailing erratically

His co-accused stripped off when he made landfall on the city quays and was arrested naked, a court heard.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/hxdbzxy

A YACHT CAPTAIN has been found guilty of being drunk while erratically sailing a pleasure boat in a Dublin Port shipping lane.

Dublin Fire Brigade and RNLI lifeboats were called out to deal with the incident on the River Liffey that commenced at about 6am on 1 June 2017.

The sailors on a small 26-foot quarter-tonne pleasure craft named the Peja refused to get out of the shipping lane and delayed the approach of the 90-metre Corinthian, a 4,000 tonne cruise liner, Dublin District Court heard today.

During the trial evidence was given that gardaí were also brought out on the water to deal with the situation but were allegedly told to ‘f*** off’. The yacht skipper had insisted it was his “God-given right” to sail his vessel on the Liffey while his co-accused stripped off when he made landfall on the city quays and was arrested naked.

It started after the small yacht left its mooring at a south Dublin bank sailing club. After a couple of hours the sailing boat which had an outboard engine was brought to a halt at Sir John Rogerson Quay while its owner was taken to Poolbeg marina at about 8.20am.

Boat owner and yacht club member Brian Stacey (46), of Derry Drive, Crumlin, and co-defendant Ronan Stephens (42,) a former motorbike racer from Captain’s Road in Crumlin, face charges under the Maritime Safety Act.

They deny careless sailing, operating a vessel while intoxicated and engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour at the shipping lane on the River Liffey.

After a four-day non-jury trial, and a five week adjournment to find a date to resume the case and to consider the verdict, Judge John Hughes found them guilty. They will be sentenced next week.

Giving evidence, yacht captain Stacey had told the court he and friends had gone for a sail early that morning. There was no alcohol on board and he could not remember the last time he had an alcoholic drink, he claimed.

Denied drinking or swearing 

Questioned about CCTV showing him drinking from bottles, he denied garda evidence that they contained beer and claimed they were foreign brand glass water bottles

He accused the rescue boats and a harbour-master pilot’s boat of trapping his boat and said he asked “What do you want?”, but added, “none of them would give me an answer”. He did not have a clue what was going on, he said.

The court heard he dropped off two passengers and went back onto the water. He later transferred to the pilot’s vessel and instructed Stephens to moor his boat.

He said that when he went onto the pilot’s boat someone in a yellow jacket was yelling at him and trying to push him into the water.

He claimed he was grabbed but pushed the man away because he had no right to do so. The court heard he said to a garda on board: “I am a martial artist, if he has a go again, I will protect myself.”

He agreed he was fuming but said this was because the other boats were trying to destroy his pleasure craft.

He said he had been sailing for 10 years and agreed best practice would have been to make radio contact with the harbour master earlier that morning. However, they did not answer the designated radio channel, he said.

He denied claims he used profanities and told the court: “I told them it was my God-given right to sail down the Liffey if I feel like it.”

He said he was not the sort of person who cursed. “I don’t believe what goes into my mouth defiles the body, it’s what comes out the mouth that defiles the body, that is why I look after the hygiene in my mouth,” he said.

“It was our God-given right to operate on the water,” he said.

Asked why he was seen removing a number of bottles when at one point when he moored, he said he was cleaning out rubbish from his boat. He said he was not breathalysed.

His boat was going at walking pace and he denied that it was sailed erratically, he said.

Stephens, the co-accused, said he had to dock the boat when his friend switched over to the harbour master’s vessel. Stephens said he had never operated a motor boat before and was obeying his co-accused’s instruction because he was the captain.

The pleasure boat headed to John Rogerson Quay. CCTV evidence showed him being helped onto the quays where he removed all his clothing.

Stephens said he did that because there were armed gardaí waiting and he was anxious and did not want to be shot.

He had to be helped because he suffered from arthritis and problems with his legs, he said. He also said his friend, Stacey, was very Christian and did not use bad language.

He said that there was any alcohol on boat and also claimed there was just bottled water. He also said he did not drink during the day.

The pleasure boat was seized and destroyed and the defence submitted it was missing evidence.

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Tom Tuite

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