Paddlers pulled from perilous seas

Ilfracombe RNLI averts kayak hire calamities after helping 11 people in the space of a few hours.

ILFRACOMBE lifeboat crews spent a hectic afternoon yesterday (Thursday) ‘collecting kayakers’ with 11 people and their boats plucked from rough seas.

Four groups, all aboard hired kayaks, were safely gathered in by the all weather and inshore lifeboats after strong winds built up large swells along the coast.

Just after 2pm an angling boat reported two adults and two children with kayaks that appeared to be in trouble on a beach under Hangman Cliffs near Combe Martin.

The four were stranded, with two metre-plus surf preventing them from getting off the beach and the inshore lifeboat was unable to get close enough.

So the small inflatable X boat was used to rig a ‘breeches buoy’ and the casualties were pulled out to the lifeboat onboard the little inflatable two at a time, with a lifeboat crew member the last off the beach.

They said another two of their party had been swept further up the coast and the lifeboats immediately set off to search. Fortunately, they were found a mile away and taken onboard.

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Then the coastguard called to say two more kayakers were overdue – the RNLI soon found them trapped by surf on Wild Pear Beach near Combe Martin. They had managed to refloat their kayaks when the lifeboats arrived and were escorted back to the harbour.

RNLI volunteers were called out again as yet more kayakers were reported missing to the west of Combe Martin. They were found off Watermouth Harbour and were fine, but paddling in a large swell so the crew decided to escort them back.

Ilfracombe lifeboat coxswain Andrew Bengey paid tribute to the hard work of the crews and said it was vital people checked the forecast and local conditions before going out on the water.

“These incidents prove just how easy it is to get caught out by bad weather and big surf,” he said.

“Always check weather and tides before setting off, and ask for local information. This is especially important if you hire a kayak while on holiday as you won’t necessarily be aware of the local conditions and how they can change. You can get this from the harbour office, coastguards, RNLI lifeguards and indeed the lifeboat station.

“We recommend people wear a lifejacket when going on the water, carry a means of calling for help and if possible, get proper training before going out to sea.”

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