Smugglers left all at sea as Mother Nature joins the war against drugs
SEVENTEEN months ago the accidental filling of a petrol outboard motor with diesel delivered a €440m cocaine coup for the Irish authorities.
It was, as a Circuit Criminal Court judge later heard, "an idiotic mistake" that delivered the biggest cocaine seizure in Irish history.
On Wednesday, it was Mother Nature who delivered another favour in the ongoing war against drug smuggling.
A huge storm in the mid-Atlantic caused serious damage to the 60ft-sloop Dances With Waves as it sailed from the Caribbean to Europe with 75 bales of high-grade cocaine.
The hull, sails and engines suffered major damage as the vessel was repeatedly pounded by raging seas and high winds.
In fact, so bad was the damage sustained by the sloop that it almost capsized an hour before a heavily armed Naval Service boarding party stormed onto its deck.
The combination of mountainous seas and obvious damage to the sloop prompted the Irish authorities to order the boarding of the Dances With Waves when it was still 170 miles from the west Cork coast.
And but for the skill of the navy squadron, who were forced had to work hard to keep the battered ship seaworthy while they repaired the damage to her engines to allow her to make it safely to Castletownbere port, the vessel may not have survived for much longer in the force-seven storm.
Despite the similarities, there is a major difference between the €440m Dunlough Bay seizure in July 2007 and this week's record cocaine haul.
This time, the Irish authorities knew the drug smugglers were coming -- and they were ready and waiting.
Yesterday, as the sloop bobbed gently at anchor beside the Customs & Excise cutter, the damage to her hull and sails was visible for all to see.
Once again, a quirk of fate had delivered a major boost for the Irish authorities in their escalating crackdown on cocaine smuggling.