Student takes family yacht for a spin, jailed for 8 months

Sloley and his friend are taken into tow by the RNLI
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In an extraordinary case in Britain, a university student who took his family’s 30ft yacht for a sail without permission- and knew little about how to sail it - has been jailed for theft after being reported to police by his mother.

Oliver Sloley was a student of geology at Plymouth University when he and a friend took the boat. It was not long before they had to be rescued by a lifeboat after getting into difficulties off the coast of Cornwall.

The 22-year-old non-sailor issued a mayday call but was so inexperienced that he could not give his correct bearings to emergency services and was found only after firing a flare.

Sloley, who was in his second year of university studies, was towed to shore – where his furious mother promptly reported him for theft.

Newlyn Harbour where the yacht was towed after being rescued
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He has now been jailed for nine months at Truro Crown Court after admitting taking the yacht without consent and a string of other charges.

Yesterday, his mother Annabel Sloley, revealed she felt duty-bound to report her son, but that taking the decision was ‘absolute hell’.

‘It’s not what you want as a parent but you have to do what you feel is right,’ she said. ‘Every parent makes their own decision in how they are going to raise their child but I believed that what they did was wrong, and they had to know that.

‘It’s not even the fact it was my boat, it was the fact the lifeboat crew got involved and spent three hours searching for them when they should be saving people’s lives who have got in difficulty through no fault of their own.’

Despite neither Sloley nor his friend having any navigational experience, they managed to spend several hours sailing along the coast, including navigating around the treacherous Lizard peninsula, before running into trouble.

The pair – who were not wearing life jackets – called for help but were unable to use their satellite navigation system to give their position. After a 30-minute search, during which Sloley fired a distress flare, the yacht was towed into Newlyn harbour by the lifeboat.

Mrs Sloley, 47, of Penzance, Cornwall, said: ‘The Lizard is not a place to play. Had someone fallen in it could have been very different. I know the sun was shining and the wind may have died down but there is no excuse.

‘Taking Oliver to court was very difficult. It was horrible, but I am of the mind that once my mind is made up then that’s it.’

Philip Lee, prosecuting, told the court: ‘The last thing Mrs Sloley wanted to do was to see her son prosecuted, but as a sensible mother she felt it right to make a complaint.’

So beware all you sons and daughters of families with boats, you had better make sure you have permission to take the family yacht for a sail or you just could end up in jail!