Kayak double bill for Ilfracombe lifeboats

Both Ilfracombe lifeboats were called out on Saturday. Both Ilfracombe lifeboats were called out on Saturday.

Sunday, May 18, 2014
5:07 PM

Lifeboat crews called out twice on Saturday to kayakers in difficulty.

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The kayak belonging to the man rescued from Sillery Sands is returned to the harbour at Lynmouth on Saturday night by Ilfracombe's all weather lifeboat crew. Picture: RNLI/Ilfracombe.The kayak belonging to the man rescued from Sillery Sands is returned to the harbour at Lynmouth on Saturday night by Ilfracombe's all weather lifeboat crew. Picture: RNLI/Ilfracombe.

ILFRACOMBE’S RNLI lifeboats were called out twice yesterday (Saturday) to kayakers in difficulty.

The first incident saw the inshore lifeboat called to a man and a woman in inflatable kayaks off Rillage Point near the town.

The man was not in trouble but the woman’s boat had become caught in the strong flooding tide and swept out to sea.

The lifeboat picked both up and towed their kayaks back to Hele Bay, where they had launched from. Helmsman Ben Langham said the pair were not complete strangers to the water, having river kayaked before and at sea on solid craft, but added:

“They had prepared for their time on the water, both were wearing buoyancy aids and had plenty of drinking water, but inflatables, whether they are shaped as kayaks or not, are very light and easily taken by the strong currents of the sea.

“With the large spring tides we have, the water may look very calm on the surface, but underneath the surface there can be a great deal of fast moving tide which very quickly can get a hold and sweep people out to sea.”

The lifeboat crew had been back at the station for barely two hours when both lifeboats launched again at 9pm.

The yacht Broadblue had reported a man swimming while dragging a small craft with him, and kept an eye on him as he managed to swim ashore at Sillery Sands near Lynmouth.

A second report came from the coastguard that a kayaker was long overdue, and when lifeboat crew member Matt Simpson was put ashore, he confirmed it was the missing man. Matt found the casualty, wet, cold and tired, but otherwise unharmed.

He and his kayak were transferred to the all weather lifeboat and returned to the harbour at Lynmouth where his anxious wife was waiting to collect him.

“The gentleman we picked up tonight was very lucky,” said Carl Perrin, second coxswain on the all-weather lifeboat.

“With night falling and the light fading, if the people aboard the yacht had not spotted him and called the situation in to the coastguard, he would not have been found so easily.

“When his wife contacted the coastguard to alert them he was overdue, she gave them his intended location, which, as it turned out, was several miles to the west of his actual location.

“Had we begun our search where she was expecting him to be, we would certainly have been searching for several hours before finding him, if at all. The tide was on its way out, so the beach he was on would have become uncovered, but being wet and cold, he would have been in for a very uncomfortable wait.

“The people on board Broadblue certainly aided in saving this gentleman’s life tonight.”

The RNLI advises anyone going to sea in a boat or kayak to ensure they check the tide heights and times, as well as wear buoyancy aids and carry a VHF radio in case they get into difficulties. For more information, go to www.rnli.org/safetyandeducation.

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