Sea Rescue – False Bay – 16 April, 2011: yacht towed and Paddler rescued:
At 14h42 NSRI Simon’s Town volunteers were called out for a paddler on a surf-ski in difficulty near Whittle Rock, 8 nautical miles South of Simon’s Town.
GPS coordinates were provided to NSRI Simon’s Town by the paddler. Soon after receiving these coordinates communications between the paddler and NSRI were lost due to a cell signal shadow in the area.
NSRI then found out that 10 paddlers had launched from Hangklip on a “downwind paddle” from Hangklip to Fish Hoek earlier in the day. With rough sea conditions of 5 to 6 meter breaking swells and a South Easter gusting up to 40 knots we suspected that all 10 paddlers may be in difficulty.
NSRI Simon’s Town volunteers launched their sea rescue craft Spirit of Safmarine III and the Metro EMS Red Cross AMS helicopter was called to assist in the search.
It then became apparent that a group of experienced paddlers had contacted NSRI Gordon’s Bay on Thursday last week telling them of their intended paddle. They had declined the NSRI’s offer to dispatch a safety boat to trail them on their paddle.
Then at 14h54, as NSRI Simon’s Town Spirit of Safmarine III was exiting Simon’s Town Harbor, a Mayday radio call was received from the 7.6 meter British yacht Harrier of Down. She had been hit by a wave and was taking water in the vicinity of Roman Rock off Simon’s Town.
The decision for NSRI Simonstown’s rescue craft to first go to the yachts aid was made while we now also activated NSRI Gordon’s Bay to proceed in the direction of the paddlers GPS position. We were under the impression that all 10 paddlers were in distress and a shore based contact person for the paddlers couldn’t tell us if the paddlers were in one group or in separate groups so our feeling was that NSRI Gordon’s Bay could begin a search for additional paddlers as they responded.
We then requested the Red Cross AMS helicopter to fly directly to the GPS coordinates and also to cover a search of the shoreline between Fish Hoek and Whittle Rock to look for any of the other paddlers.
On NSRI Simonstown’s arrival at the yacht, it was found that it had been broadsided by a wave and had toppled over, causing some cabin flooding. The yacht had subsequently taking a hammering from the 5 to 6 meter breaking swells.
A towline was rigged and the yacht was safely towed into Simonstown Harbor. The rescue boat could then continue on the original call-out for the paddlers.
In the meantime NSRI Gordon’s Bay were making headway for Whittle Rock aboard the rescue craft Jack Riley. They had not come across any of the paddlers en-route. The Red Cross AMS helicopter had located two paddlers at Whittle Rock and the rescue helicopter hovered above them, marking their position for the approaching sea rescue boat.
They were taken aboard Jack Riley and one of the paddlers was treated for hypothermia. They were both transported to NSRI Gordon’s Bay’s rescue base.
In the meantime NSRI Simonstown, believing that the remaining paddlers were also in distress, had begun a search and rescue operation for the remaining paddlers.
Simonstown NSRI’s rescue vehicle searched the shoreline between Millers Point and Fish Hoek Beach and found that 4 paddlers were ashore at Millers Point and the other 4 paddlers were at Fish Hoek Beach.
The paddlers told us that they had made the passage across False Bay in pairs using a “buddy” system and that they were well prepared for the trip, carrying sufficient safety equipment.
Four of the paddlers had overshot Fish Hoek and had decided to make a run for Millers Point. Two of the paddlers in the vicinity of Whittle Rock decided to request the help of NSRI Simonstown since they still had quite a way to go before reaching Millers Point and one was hypothermic.
All of the paddlers confirmed to NSRI that the rough sea conditions were ideal for their extreme paddling experience and that while they had been prepared to be separated from each other along the way they were committed to and were able to remain in pairs.
Although six of the paddlers had overshot Fish Hoek Beach they had been prepared for that possibility and of those six paddlers who overshot the mark, 4 had simply continued on to Millers Point and the remaining two had reached Whittle Rock where they had decided to call NSRI for assistance.
These ten paddlers were instrumental in the recent donation of the sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski made to NSRI Gordon’s Bay.