A Blackpool hotel owner’s daily exercise routine almost sparked a major rescue mission as heavy fog rolled in.
Daniel Verbaan, who has run the Wilton Hotel in Alexandra Road for the last three years, loves nothing more than taking to the water on his paddleboard and traversing the waves between the resort’s South and North Piers.
Yesterday’s early afternoon outing coincided with thickening fog and when he disappeared into the murk close to Manchester Square, a watching member of the public called in the Coastguard.
A search was launched and RNLI volunteers put on standby ready to launch the lifeboats – and Daniel was called to shore as he passed the lifeboat station.
The 45-year-old Dutchman has now apologised for any concern he caused, but claims it was a case of “panic for nothing” as he was firmly in control of the situation – despite the fog being the thickest he had seen in his time in Blackpool.
“I go out every day and really enjoy boarding from North to South and back again – it’s perfect exercise for me,” he said.
“I had already been up as far as North Pier and was working my way back south when I heard a number of people shouting.
“The fog got thicker while I was out there but I always stick close to the shore and I didn’t see a problem.
“I’m sorry to the people I frightened and for the Coastguard and lifeboat people having to be alerted.
“The person who alerted them obviously did it for all the right reasons but it was panic for nothing really.”
Daniel, who took up paddleboarding on arrival in Blackpool after previously being a keen surfer in his native Holland, caused even greater concern by sticking with his regular routine of listening to music while out on the water, although he said he could hear the shouts.
Paul Little, the Coastguard’s station officer for Blackpool and Lytham, said rescuers could barely see the sea from the Prom.
“We didn’t recommend him being out in the water because if he fell off, we would not know where he was,” he said.
“A member of the public was watching him and he disappeared and they never saw him again.
“They did the right thing, but he did not. As soon as the fog came in, he should have come in too.
“The danger is, if you do things regularly, you desensitise yourself to how dangerous it is.
“If you fall off, you could become disorientated and not know if you are paddling back to shore or out to sea.”
The RNLI said it was called at 2.45pm to reports of a paddleboarder “who had set off from Manchester Square and not come back”.
It added: “Our lifeboat was being prepared for launch when one of our volunteers spotted the paddleboarder. Safety advice [was] provided.”
A spokeswoman said the man “stayed close to shore, and he could see the Prom at all times”.
She added: “He had done that deliberately and he was very experienced.”