A man who was rescued in Palliser Bay yesterday morning after rough seas caused his kayak to overturn says he owes his life to everyone involved in the operation.
A spokesperson for police said they received the call for help at 7.30am yesterday via a dodgy phone line that was cutting out.
The person taking the call could only make out that the man was struggling and couldn’t get back to shore.
The adventurer had paddled out from the beach south of Lake Ferry at about 6 am, where a strong offshore breeze had seen him whisked out to sea further than he had expected.
The choppy sea caused his kayak to capsize, forcing the man to lie on its underside.
At that point, he estimated he was 500 metres offshore and being moved further out by the wind and one-metre-high waves.
When he tried to call the police, his conversation was cut short by bad reception.
Resorting to plan B, he reached for his Personal Locator Beacon [PLB], which soon caught the attention of the Rescue Coordination Centre [RCCNZ] in Maritime New Zealand.
The PLB signal pinpointed the man’s location and subsequently the RCCNZ tasked the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to find him and winch him to safety.
However, the 80-90 knot gale force winds meant the chopper could not drop a line so the maritime police were called to assist.
Wellington Maritime Radio also issued a mayday call requesting help from
any vessels in the area.
A commercial fishing boat responded but it was 90 minutes away.
Shortly after 8am, the Police Maritime Unit deployed the vessel Lady Elizabeth IV from Wellington Harbour, with an estimated travel time of 40 minutes to Palliser Bay.
The helicopter remained overhead to monitor the situation until Lady Elizabeth IV arrived.
At about 8.45am, the police vessel found the kayaker and pulled him aboard.
He was assessed for injuries, and his kayak recovered.
The man was taken closer to shore where he boarded his kayak and paddled himself to the beach under his own steam, accompanied by police in a rigid inflatable boat.
Police Maritime Unit staff noted that the man was well-prepared for kayaking; he was dressed in a full-length wetsuit and wetsuit boots and wearing a lifejacket.
His paddle was tethered to his kayak, and he was carrying a waterproof mobile phone and a PLB.
Even considering his preparedness, police said the incident showed how quickly the environment can change.
“Even well-prepared boaties can find themselves in difficulty,” police said.
“Awareness of the weather should always play a big part in planning any venture onto the water.”
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, expressed his gratitude to all involved in the rescue.
“I owe my life to them,” he said.
“The bay is huge, and I didn’t know where or when I would be washed ashore.
“At one stage, I thought I might end up in Ngawi, or it
might be the South Island.”
He said he was a frequent surfer and kayaker but, when the conditions became too much for him yesterday, “I thought this could be it.”
“The key for me was keeping calm and that was helped by the reassurance that help was on the way,” he said.
“I had my phone in a waterproof pouch, and I got much reassurance from the person on the other end of the line, who gave me updates on when the boat would arrive.
“I encourage everyone going out on the water to get a locator beacon – it saved my life.”