A Scots boyfriend has lifted the lid on transforming into a jet-ski Romeo as he completed a terror-filled trip across the Irish Sea ‘for love ‘.
Dale McLaughlan splashed out £5,500 on the watercraft to be reunited to with his girlfriend Jessica Radcliffe, who he had only met just weeks earlier.
Despite having never even sat on a jet-ski before the 28-year-old set off from the southern tip of Scotland to the Isle of Man.
But the 27-mile journey was anything but smooth as the smitten roofer lost his GPs just half an hour in and had no idea where he was going.
After a gruelling four and a half hours he finally saw Jessica, but was jailed for breaking lockdown the next day.
Speaking for the first time since his release, Dale admits what he did was “crazy”.
He tells the Sunday Mirror: “As soon as I hit open water I thought ‘Oh my God’.
“It was like getting a kick in the teeth.
“It was terrible. It wasn’t fun.
“I followed the GPS, but after half an hour a massive wave wiped it away.
“I didn’t have a clue where I was going.”
Dale – who had never even sat on a jet ski before his adventure – also reveals how:
- He was battered by waves for four-and-a-half hours after veering off course. He held on for dear life and felt like “a crappy James Bond”.
- With his fuel light showing empty he finally landed… in the WRONG town and had to trek 15 miles on foot to Jessica’s home.
- Turning around was “never an option”. He was spurred on by listening to love songs including, fittingly, Love Is All Around – by Wet Wet Wet – and Wind Of Change, by Scorpions.
- After a romantic reunion and a trip to the pub police nicked Dale and he spent 10 days in jail.
Dale lives in Irvine, Ayshire, and fell for mum-of-two Jessica, 30, during a stint working on the Isle of Man in September.
He says: “I met Jess at the pub. I saw her walk in the door wearing a black skirt and a top and thought ‘I need to talk to you’!
“I was staring at her. She actually said I was a bit creepy, but she loved my eyes. She said ‘I saw you looking at me’ – and it kicked off from there.”
They had a romantic week together before Dale’s work permit expired and he headed home at the start of October.
He goes on: “The minute I got on that ferry I knew I was making one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
“I had to find a way back.
“I told Jessica within a week of knowing her, ‘I actually think I love you’.
She said, ‘I know, it’s crazy isn’t it’?”
Since Covid, non-residents need permission to visit the island.
Dale applied for a permit – on compassionate grounds – but was refused.
Breaching the rules carries up to three months in jail or a fine of up to £10,000.
Desperate Dale decided to take matters into his own hands.
He considered paying a fisherman to smuggle him over – then a pal said he knew a boy who used to jet ski to the Isle of Man for the TT races.
Dale spotted one online for £5,500 and picked it up in Carlisle on December 10 – after briefly being shown how to use it.
He then bought a marine GPS for £100, a dry bag for £20 and a drysuit for £350.
He also took a Covid test in preparation, which was negative. He then set off for Isle of Man on December 11.
But no one knew of his plan – least of all Jessica.
Dale goes on: “I bought the jetski at 4pm. I drove to the Isle of Whithorn at 5am next day.
“The first time I’d even stood on a jet ski was in that harbour. It was 27 miles from that point to the Isle of Man. I knew the jet ski could do 52mph.
“I thought it’d take 45 minutes.
“I tried checking maps and oceanic currents, which I didn’t have a clue how to read.
“It said on the weather the waves were only going to be 2-3ft.
“When I set off it was raining and the waves were way higher. Then I lost the GPS.
“I remembered the sun rises from the east so I kept it over my left shoulder and went as fast as I could.
“After two hours I thought, ‘Where the bloody hell am I’? I couldn’t see a thing.
“It was foggy, raining, 6ft waves were hitting me. I thought I was lost at sea. I was scared. It was about two degrees but with water and the wind it felt a lot colder.
“My hands were numb, my forearms aching. My shoulders were in pain for days from clinging on.
“The water knocked me all over.
“One minute I was staring at the sky going up a 6ft wave and the next I was staring down into the abyss.
“The water was black and was getting in my eyes and mouth.
“But the thought of Jessica kept me driving on.
“I’d planned to do 50mph but I was lucky if I was getting to 25mph.
“Every time I tried to accelerate a massive wave knocked me back.”
Dale literally had a sinking feeling when his petrol light pinged “empty” – meaning he would run out within 10 minutes.
But despair was swept away by euphoria as the Isle of Man came into view.
“I felt such bloody relief. The closer I got the sunnier it got. It was like a beacon of hope,” Dale says. He landed at 12.30pm – unaware he was photographed as he sailed into Ramsey harbour.
Dale continues: “I had my bag with Jessica’s Christmas presents. I got her a watch, a coat and a couple of girly smelly things.
“I took the dry suit off, leaving my tracksuit on underneath and marched to Jess’s house in Douglas. It was about 15 miles. I just stuck my headphones on and off I went.
“I was listening to power ballads. It sounds so cheesy but I love a good ballad.”
He arrived at Jess’s at 4pm. “She peeked her head out of the window and let out a bit of a scream,” says Dale.
“She opened the door, jumped around my waist and gave me a big kiss.
“I said, ‘Hi, babe!’ I was still a bit smelly from the water.”
Jessica says: “He gave me the biggest hug ever.
“He was so nervous he couldn’t talk. I said ‘calm down’! I was just so glad I’d got to see him again.”
The next night they were stopped by police as they went to a pub.
Officers let the couple go on their way.
But a knock on Jessica’s door came the next evening.
Dale says: “They stuck handcuffs on me for breaching Covid rules. I didn’t deny it – I was caught red-handed.
“The police had pictures of me arriving on the island and wanted to know how I got there.
“When I told them, one said ‘You’re bloody lucky to be alive! I know people that wouldn’t try that in the summer on a boat’.”
Incredibly, it was the first Jessica knew of the jet ski.
She says: “I was in disbelief. I was arrested too and people are saying I got away with it.
“I hadn’t done anything wrong, but was handcuffed in front of my daughter and had to self-isolate with my kids for 14 days. I think it’s a joke Dale was put in jail.”
Dale was jailed for four weeks on December 14 for arriving on the island unlawfully. But he was released in time to get home for Christmas.
Dale apologises to islanders for the trouble he caused and says he can’t wait to join their community.
He says: “I can’t thank the judge enough. Something in him understood. He could have thrown the book at me, but he didn’t. I was locked up 24/7 isolation because of Covid.
“My meals were passed through the door. The guard said I’d made the papers around the world.
“The New York Times were trying to call me! I was like, ‘What? I’m just a guy from Scotland!’ People are saying I’m a legend.
“I think I’ve lifted a lot of spirits.
“A lot of people say I’ve made a good end to a terrible year.
“That made me feel better.
“Others think I’ve done a terrible thing. My car tyres got slashed on the Isle of Whithorn.
“I can understand both points of view. I broke the law. But I did it for love.
“I feel like there is one rule for people in power, and another rule for people like me.
“I wouldn’t say I regret it, but I’m sorry for whatever stress I’ve caused.
“I should never have done it. It could be called a crime of passion.”
Dale now wants to marry Jessica, who raised his spirits after the death of his dad Billy Banaghan, 68, from cancer.
Dale – diagnosed with depression after Billy passed away last January – adds: “It felt like I was in limbo. Going to work, coming home, staring at a TV. That was my life until I met Jessica.
“I would do anything for her. I can’t explain it. Well, I can… it’s love. The sooner I can start a life with Jessica the better. I’d move there tomorrow if it wasn’t for Covid. The Isle of Man is now famous for the TT and one crazy jet ski guy!”
Jessica has two daughters, aged eight and four, while Dale’s kids are aged three and six months.
The pair hope to have more children.
Jessica says: “I love Dale. How could I not after what he did? I would like to marry him, but not this year.
“He’s got to get over here first – legally this time!”