COASTGUARDS had to laugh when flashing red and white lights in the sea caused panic – but turned out to be a birthday message in the shape of a model boat.
An off-duty police officer reported he could see three of the strange lights off the beach at Staffin Bay in the north of Skye.
But the rescue team arrived at the scene around 7pm on Wednesday evening, the lights were still visible, but no vessel could be found.
And members of the Duntulm Coastguard were in for a shock when they discovered it was an eight-inch long model boat – with “Happy 42nd Birthday Ollie. XXX” written on the yellow sail.
Martin Collins, Coastguard Watch Manager, said: “This one had everyone baffled as to what these lights were attached too.
“It could have been anything from lifejacket lights from a vessel that had sunk or a liferaft, to marker lights for fishing gear. No one expected to find a model boat that seems to have been launched as part of a birthday celebration.
“I’m sure that Duntulm Coastguard and the Portree Lifeboat crew would join us in wishing Ollie a Happy Birthday and we hope that it was an enjoyable one.”
The off-duty cop, and a member of the public who had also spotted the strange lights, contacted Stornoway Coastguard around 6.30pm on Wednesday.
Both feared a vessel could be in trouble and a coastguard team and a lifeboat crew immediately rushed to the scene.
Fortunately, the rescue team could see the humorous side of the incident, but warned of any similar incidents in the future.
Martin Collins said: “If anyone is thinking about using a similar method for any celebration then please think about what it may look like from a distance, especially at night. This also includes the likes of Chinese Lanterns and, especially at this time of year, fireworks.
“If you are planning any celebration close to the sea then call your local Coastguard station and let them know what you are planning. It may save us having to send Lifeboats and Coastguard teams out to investigate.”