Incidents of piracy on Britain's waterways have increased dramatically in recent years and operators offering boating holidays are increasingly resorting to placing bounties on the heads of the most prolific offenders. One area that has suffered particularly badly is the Norfolk Broads and many families enjoying the quiet tranquillity of the region have had their peaceful water breaks shattered by violent raids.
"We were puttering along quite happily," said one innocent victim, "enjoying the sunshine, watching the wildlife, when this pirate ship heaves alongside and we found ourselves being boarded by a filthy gang of sweaty buccaneers. In minutes they'd stripped the boat of all our pop and crisps, plucked the kids' ice creams from their hands and then they were gone."
In a joint statement the mayors of Great Yarmouth and Norwich have warned people not to offer any resistance if they find themselves under attack. However, some holidaymakers have taken matters into their own hands, scuttling their vessels in order to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.
Meanwhile, beleaguered river police in Norfolk have come in for heavy criticism for not taking similar measures to their colleagues in the Lake District who have all but eradicated piracy on Lake Windermere. As a result of a number of successful raids on pirate strongholds in Ambleside and Staveley-in-Cartmel, they have effectively cut off the privateers' rum supply, resulting in mass desertions from their ranks. The few that remain to harass sailors are dispirited, depressed and disappointingly sober, and in recent encounters have shown that they are up to little more than swiping the occasional bag of chips from landlubbers who venture too close to the water.
Despite these gains for the forces of law and order, it might be a little premature to begin the celebrations yet. There is growing evidence to suggest that displaced pirates may be regrouping in less heavily policed stretches of water, such as minor rivers, reservoirs and canals. Sightings have been scarce but witness statements have been remarkably consistent. However, the claim that a pirate submarine recently surfaced in a municipal swimming pool in Lincolnshire is still being hotly contested.