Flares were used as a point of reference as rescue services conducted a three-hour search to find a kayaker in trouble off the Cornish coast.
The multi-agency search to rescue the loan kayaker took place at Crackington Haven, near Bude.
The search began one morning in October. Falmouth Coastguard asked Bude lifeboat crew to help in strong winds and poor weather.
Bude’s inshore lifeboat (ILB), George Bird had four volunteer crew members on board. They included Rhys Burton, who was on his first shout.
Bude’s Coastguard Rescue Team searched the immediate coastline and scoured the sea with binoculars.
The kayaker was liaising with Falmouth Coastguard Operations Centre through his partner and believed they were one mile from shore, but the volunteer lifeboat crew could not find them, so Padstow Lifeboat and Rescue 924, the coastguard rescue helicopter, was scrambled.
The Bude lifeboat crew was asked to continue searching up to 2.5 nautical miles from shore. Crew member Richie Heard suggested lighting a flare to give the kayaker a point of reference to aid the search.
Once the flare went up it became clear that the kayaker was much further out to sea than first thought. Rescue 924 pinpointed him and hovered overhead. Due to the conditions, Bude’s lifeboat crew was asked to rescue the kayaker who was around five nautical miles offshore.
The uninjured kayaker was taken on board the ILB, leaving the kayak behind as it wasn’t safe to take it. With sea conditions now extremely poor the ILB made its way back to shore. Rescue 924 shadowed the boat to within three nautical miles of land.
The Padstow all-weather lifeboat (ALB) crew collected the empty kayak. Once back to shore, the Coastguard Team took care of the casualty.
Padstow’s all-weather lifeboat escorted Bude ILB back to Summerleaze beach. The RNLI lifeguards helped the lifeboat crew recover the boat and kayak.
Bude Lifeboat Helm and Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM), Liam Sharpe, says, “This shout shows how quickly things can escalate from routine rescues to life-threatening situations and how quickly the weather and sea conditions can change and become dangerous. Thankfully the kayaker had a means to call for help and was also wearing a buoyancy aid. Without being able to raise the alarm this would have had a very different outcome.
“The volunteer crew onboard the lifeboat did extremely well in very difficult conditions and over a much longer time than was first anticipated. A special mention has to go out to Rhys Burton who was on his first shout today, everyone’s first shout is memorable but this one was epic! Our crew give up their time not only to respond to shouts but also to undertake extensive training and this dedication is what makes it possible to save lives.
“A massive thanks also goes out to Bude Coastguard Rescue Team, Rescue 924, Falmouth coastguard operations centre, RNLI lifeguards on Summerleaze beach and Padstow lifeboat who ensured we made it back to Summerleaze safely after the conditions got worse.”
The image by Robin Bale shows the Padstow all-weather lifeboat escorting Bude inshore lifeboat back to Summerleaze beach.
Read about another WestCountry search and rescue.