Oh Joy: Arrested Again (Pirates End in Budapest)

It’s been over a month and a half since I was last arrested. On that occasion, I was arrested in Amsterdam for sleeping outside and given two choices: pay €390 (between three people), or go to prison. We told the (hugely unpleasant and very threatening) police lady that we (respectfully) would enjoy a couple of nights sleeping in a bed with three meals a day and a roof to keep out of the rain. We were, after all, attempting to cycle from England to Slovakia on very old bicycles and wouldn’t turn down a bit of free comfort. After making this decision, she then instead decided to give us court dates in December that we couldn’t make, so I poured myself a third hot chocolate (courtesy of the Dutch police station where I had been for several hours), then continued on my way.

When we got to Slovakia, I followed through on an outlandish dream: I would build a raft and try to float down the river to Romania. I would be a Pirate of the Danube. That’s quite a long way (about 1,924 km to the sea from were we started). I firmly believe in several ideologies. One of them is that ‘everything will be OK.’ Another is that ‘forgiveness is far easier to obtain than permission.’ While I appreciated my Dad purchasing life-jackets (in contrast to my afore-mentioned ideology), I was very hesitant to contact the river authorities to find out about the legality of our raft. Another member of the crew contacted the authorities and while they described our mission as ‘suicide’ (that is a quote), they said that we were not in fact, breaking a law.

For 15 days, we lived on the river. We sailed through the day, cooked food on open fires, and generally had quite a pleasant experience as we travelled from Gajary (a small village in Slovakia) to Budapest, a straight-line distance (down the river) of 271 km, excluding our zig-zagging across the river. Life was good and I’m sorry I didn’t share more about it (we even had an interview on Slovakian Radio). I will, in the coming days, share more of this adventure, despite it now coming to an end. It has ended. I am sad to admit, but have not yet accepted fully.

In Bratislava we shook of our first police officer as we possessed nothing illegal. In Hungary, we had two early interactions with police on boats. One boat just followed us and checked us out, while another shouted to us in Hungarian. Not sharing a common language, we thank him for what was surely his strong support and then carried on our way. He got tired of this and left us alone. The third boat to accompany us (as we entered northern Budapest) was obviously pointing at the pretty trees on the river banks and suggesting that we take some time to enjoy one of the local pubs. We again thanked him for his kind wishes, but again we would quite like to continue in the direction that we were travelling: downstream. Eventually it became clear (when he attached his boat to ours) that we would have to fulfil his wishes.

We pulled over and were shortly joined by a larger police boat where three officers dismounted. They informed us that it was not OK and very dangerous. We thanked them for their concern, but told them is wasn’t necessary because we were big people now and had our mother’s to do the worrying about our safety. Despite this, we were issued with a(nother) fine and told that we had to take the raft back to Slovakia. We pointed out that even floating downstream was difficult, so going upstream would surely be worse. The raft was too heavy to carry on land.

For several hours, I then showed the officers around our raft (including the life jackets, lights, and oars that they initially claimed we lacked as our offence). They told us that we had to take the raft apart. I asked what our offence was. “This is not boat,” I was told by the officer. I thanked her for her observation and told her that I fully agreed. So what is our offence? “This is not boat.” I once again agreed, but pointed out that not being a boat was not really an offence. I for one, am not a boat, but feel I am not an offence. Nor were the many kayaks on the Danube, strictly defined as not boats (if they were, they’d have to have a fire extinguisher, apparently). After many translations, I found out that our crime was not being a boat. Rafts are not allowed on the Danube according to the police officers. I asked if I could please see the rule that says that and I was given a list of rules for boats. But we aren’t a boat as you so wisely pointed out, I informed her. Despite this, “I will go through these points.” Addressing each point (with the help of a translator), it turned out that we had not committed a single offence.

When I pointed this out, I was referred to a website and the police left us with our fine, telling us again, to dismantle the raft. After spending several pleasant hours with us, they did after all, have a job to do. After checking the website, I cannot find any regulations against rafts on the Danube. Sadly, I feel that we are victims of non-conformity: because we do not conform to regular, accepted behaviour in society, we are seen as offenders. Despite not committing an offence, an offence had been created to prevent us doing what we do. If we re-join the river and attempt to continue our journey, we will (I have been warned) face far more severe punishment. It’s a shame that we are not allowed to express ourselves fully because we choose to do so in an unconventional way. We even made some Hungarian news publications for our ‘exploits’.

So here it is. The raft is done. The Pirates of the Danube need to find a new path in life and a new way to go. I’m thinking hard and I’m resenting authorities more each day. The police who arrested us were very pleasant, but they were ‘just doing their job’ (passing the buck of blame). We should take responsibility of our own actions, but I must stop now. If I don’t, I’ll start lecturing you about the Milgram Experiment (a wonderful psychological study of human behaviour) and that people need to man up and live their own lives, for themselves, and not under the rule of anyone else. Oh no, I’m starting…

…Let me save you. See the final pictures of the raft and it’s resting place. We, sadly, never named it. I choose to name it, ‘The Ship.’ The rest of the crew may disagree, but they aren’t hitting the keyboard here.

Goodbye The Ship, we had a good one.

The End of the Pirates of the Danube (We Get Arrested)

The End of the Pirates of the Danube (We Get Arrested)

The End of the Pirates of the Danube (We Get Arrested)

The End of the Pirates of the Danube (We Get Arrested)

The End of the Pirates of the Danube (We Get Arrested)

The End of the Pirates of the Danube (We Get Arrested)

By | 2013-12-09T22:19:34+00:00 September 16th, 2013|Pirates of the Danube|22 Comments


  1. Antoine 03/10/2013 at 06:19 - Reply

    Hey Jamie! I can’t believe you are still on the road since that one time you came in Vitry! So much time has passed by. I have been following your story here and there… I’m very sad the pirate thing is off, I’m sure if you cut one of your leg, burst an eye and got a parrot they would not have given you shit!!!

    Next step, living in a igloo?!

    Take care 😉

    • Jamie 09/10/2013 at 08:11 - Reply

      That seems like a long time ago doesn’t it? Sadly I stopped in Istanbul for too long on the way, but I love the road much more. We were in the process of getting a parrot… sadly it didn’t happen. An igloo? Sounds cold! I’m thinking something with four legs.

  2. Mark the landlubber 25/09/2013 at 16:11 - Reply

    Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggģhhhhhhhse! That The Ship be dismantled! I am aghaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhst!

    You can still be a pirate without a ship! It’s in your blood.

    • Jamie 29/09/2013 at 16:47 - Reply

      Arggghhhhh sums up exactly how I felt. I hope for more water adventures (just not on the Danube in Hungary again).

  3. Maria Alexandra 20/09/2013 at 21:02 - Reply

    you know what?! I would have kept going!

    I would have seen if I would have ended up in court, then, after the judge would have gone over the laws and see that I didn’t commit ANY offense, AT ALL, see what would have happened.

    But hey, I can be a little extreme sometimes haha 😉

    So sad to see The Ship dismantled… 🙁

    • Jamie 22/09/2013 at 08:24 - Reply

      I was tempted, but it seemed more trouble than it was worth. We had a fun adventure and now we have time for another one. In the next few days I should be heading into Ukraine, a place I have never been before. I was VERY sad to see the ship dismantled.

  4. Gianella 19/09/2013 at 00:59 - Reply

    Society has been brainwashed from the beginning to think that this is the way you are supposed to live your life, this is the way you are supposed to do things, conform conform! we must erase this boundary that society has built and live life at our own terms. Even if you guys didn’t make it to your final destination, having that experience of making a dream come true and living it for at least a little while is a remarkable thing that you should be proud of. On the bright side, now you have another interesting anecdote to tell when you are old. Keep going pirates! arr arr

    • Jamie 22/09/2013 at 08:21 - Reply

      Gianella, thanks for your support. We’ll take the amusing story (I didn’t initially find it very funny) and carry on in a different way. The only sad thing is that certain people seem hell bent on changing the actions of other people and getting them to behave in a way that they deem to be acceptable.

  5. Gerald 16/09/2013 at 15:21 - Reply

    This is not a boat

  6. denever 16/09/2013 at 15:07 - Reply

    sorry guyz and girlz for our moron officers… but our politicans even worse. br from hungary, budapest

    • Jamie 22/09/2013 at 08:03 - Reply

      Police and politicians are two people who have the power to misbehave because they are the people who make the rules.

  7. Alex 16/09/2013 at 14:55 - Reply

    Dear Jamie! I’m ashamed of myself as Hungarian, that the Hungarian police so simple as a water cube. To ask someone to row back to Slovakia from Budapest is epic! 🙂 Did you know, that beautiful natural section of that riverbank where your pirate adventure down, the local government wants to destroy because of a dam? Maybe that trees are so irregular as your journey! The facebook group against the dam shared your story and we cross our fingers! Stay pirate, go further! May be you can find some barrels and woods in South side of Budapest for a new raft 🙂

    • Jamie 22/09/2013 at 07:56 - Reply

      It was an unfortunate event, but I don’t feel any animosity towards Hungary (I like it here a lot). I feel sad that the police felt issuing a fine and stamping out a small degree of individual freedom was more important than allowing us to continue on our journey. Thank-you for sharing our story, we had some nice people come and say hi to us while we were on the river bank because of this.

  8. Nichola 16/09/2013 at 13:46 - Reply

    I love your adventures! You guys rock! So sorry this happened. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next, heads up guys 🙂

  9. Tarryn 16/09/2013 at 12:58 - Reply

    Reading your posts makes my boring days in the lab manageable 🙂 Pirates of the Danube hahaha classic

    • Jamie 22/09/2013 at 07:46 - Reply

      If you don’t like being in the lab, build a pirate ship. 😉 Works for me.

  10. Kika 16/09/2013 at 11:37 - Reply

    Won’t you sail from Hungary/Romania borders? Maybe their police would be less strict.

    • Jamie 22/09/2013 at 07:45 - Reply

      The problem was that we had a 300 kg raft that needed to be moved. And to reach Romania, we would first have to travel along the Serbian / Croatian border, across Serbia, and then travel along the Bulgarian / Romanian border. We expected Serbia (not Hungary) to be our big problem.

  11. Marc Alcover 16/09/2013 at 11:25 - Reply

    Well… even if you couldn’t make it until Romania… you should be really proud of yourselves. I guess your mothers now love Hungarian police, hehe! Hope next time I´ll be able to join you!!! Best of luck from Mallorca!!!

    • Jamie 22/09/2013 at 07:42 - Reply

      I think that she must be a little bit pleased by the recent turn of events! You’re always welcome on my pirate ship Marc.

  12. Sally 16/09/2013 at 11:14 - Reply

    You’re crazy and it’s awesome. Keep on doin’ what you’re doin’.

    • Jamie 22/09/2013 at 07:41 - Reply

      I loved it when Alice asked her father (in the 2010 movie), “Have i gone mad?” Her father simply replied, “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

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