Five friends from Cumbria have undertaken a 12-hour sailing to the island in three inflatable motor boats from St Bees on the English coast.
This is thought to be the first time that the crossing has been successfully completed in such a craft, a soft-hulled inflatable boat (SIB).
These are different to the sturdier rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) – the type of small vessel used by the island’s RNLI crews.
The group, who describe themselves as adventure filmmakers, said that they had been planning the journey (which also included a return sailing after an overnight stay) for over a year.
Construction worker Sam Middleton explained: ‘We just wanted something ruthless to try and achieve, and the Irish Sea is world-renowned for being rough and deadly.
‘It was kind of like our Everest, something we’d have to test every facet of our being to achieve.’
They had practised by circumnavigating the Isle of Arran.
Sam explained that the Irish Sea’s reputation for treacherous conditions was such that when they radioed the harbour master for permission to land in Laxey, he was shocked that they had attempted the crossing in three metre inflatable boats.
Asked if they had heard of the Scottish man who rode here on a jet ski from the Isle of Whithorn during lockdown, Sam said: ‘He was a bit of an inspiration to us to be fair, we thought if he’s done it on a jet ski, we can surely do it on inflatable sibs’.
The group will be approaching Guinness World Records to see if it would be interested in certifying their feat of taking ‘the smallest inflatable boat’ to cross the Irish Sea.
The crossing cost the five £150 in fuel across the three boats.
Comparatively, a Steam Packet ferry ticket to Heysham for the next day cost (at the time of going to press) between £34 and £60.
Alex Brannan, an accountancy software consultant, talked about the crossing.
‘We’d kept a good close eye on the weather, and were expecting the conditions to be pretty good but when we first got out onto the water around St Bees Head, the waves must have been about two to three metres tall, we were flying and ramping over them,’ he said.
‘And after a couple of hours we realised that we’d been pulled by the currents towards Whithorn, so we ended up north of the island, not really any closer than we started.
‘By that time Rob’s engine had actually broken, so we had to put in our spare engine – he went from using a 24 horsepower engine to four horsepower, while we still had 30 miles to cover.’
Rob’s boat ended up being towed by one of the others for this stretch, during a tense period where they feared the current was dragging them into choppier waters of the North Channel.
‘So it took us from that point another nine hours to get here,’ Alex added. They had been expecting the trip to take around five hours.
The group run a YouTube channel ‘Outside your zone’, which documents their outdoor challenges to encourage people to get out and enjoy an active lifestyle.