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There's an old saying, "All's well that ends well." And that is why the crew of a lifeboat service just can't bring themselves to be angry over the emergency call early last week that sent them into the chilly North Sea off Rosehearty, Scotland. But for naught. A retiree reported an ultralight aircraft struggling to stay aloft over an area of rugged cliffs. And, worse, he said, moments later a sheen came into view out on the water, so the machine must have crashed. The mobilization was immediate. Coxswain Victor Sutherland and his three partners launched their boat and rowed to the site. A Coast Guard craft and a Royal Air Force helicopter also took up the search, crisscrossing an area of sea where a shivering pilot could have been waiting to be rescued. And, indeed, they did spot something. Which, on close inspection, turned out to be ... a couple of three-foot-long inflatable penguins.
In other words: novelty balloons. They were plucked from the water so they wouldn't end up as unsightly litter on one of the local beaches. "I can see why [the retiree] mistook the balloons," a Coast Guard spokesman said. Sutherland, on the other hand, was a bit more dubious. "I've never been involved in something like this," he said, conceding that it could have been "a costly exercise." On the other hand, the coxswain said, "It's better to be safe than sorry." Besides, the caller's intentions had been the best and he "did the right thing." As for the retiree, he has apologized for causing all the commotion. Meanwhile, somewhere, there may or may not be an ultralight pilot who considers himself fortunate that no rescue was necessary.