Sea Kayaks & Lifeboats: Lessons
During our last Sea Safety Week, we were hugely fortunate to get the local inshore Tignabruaich lifeboat, The James & Helen Mason to come and join one of our exercises.
Interestingly, whilst the lifeboat crew had attended quite a few kayak incidents, all of them had been searching for a missing kayaker who had made it to the shore. The highly skilled crew had never actually encountered professional sea kayakers who were attempting to self rescue.
The exercise involved our intrepid group of five Sea Safety Students operating as a team, with a plant in the group in the form of Duncan Greene of Greene Adventures (and now self-certified Equity Card holder), who on a signal from me suddenly suffered an acute and severe angina attack, causing an inevitable (and dramatic) capsize. Being at the end of the training week, the team were excellent, quickly controlling the group, effecting an injured paddler rescue, setting up a rafted tow and making for the nearest sensible landing point.
The medic on the raft provided excellent medical care (the course includes a Rescue Emergency Care Outdoor Emergency Care 1st Aid Course) including monitoring the airway, talking a pulse, checking for and administering appropriate medications and keeping the casualty warm and fed.
The student group leader made a rapid MAYDAY call to Belfast Coastguard (actually our shore based contact on channel 8) and requested medical evacuation. Little known to him was that the local RNLI Lifeboat crew were now actually en route.
The crew initially struggled to find us, despite having our approximate location and there being nine multi-colour kayaks in a F3 chop. Their first sighting was of a luminous peaked cap worn by one of the observers - reminding us all of the importance of being seen at sea. The second issue was the huge wake caused by the Atlantic 85 rib, even at slow speeds. The crew held back whilst they worked out how fast to approach. Our group of experienced kayakers managed well, but less experienced folk might be overwhelmed by the wake, even at slow speeds.