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Home / News / Rescue Incident Thank You

Rescue Incident Thank You

Published 20:22 on 10 Sep 2020

It is with immense gratitude and thanks that I am writing to CAYC in the wake of their speedy actions and observations on the evening of Wednesday the 12th of August 2020.

My family, my son (9 years old and new to sailing), my husband and myself took our trusty old Wayfarer out for a sail on the Lough for an evening of what was meant to be a quick relaxing light sailing. No sooner had we launched and headed up the channel nearing the fuel pipeline, when the weather took a quick turn for the worst and upon a jibe to round the pipeline our boat capsized. We managed to right our boat which at that point was half filled with water and decided our best action would be to head back. With the weather against us, a boat half filled with water and a son who was on his fourth sailing trip, we capsized again. My son went into shock at this point and was getting very cold after being in the water for approximately 15 minutes. With the wind picking up and an outgoing tide we had drifted to just in line with the Whitehead harbour and were quickly being washed out the lough with the tide. We managed to right the boat a second time but the boat was near full to the gunnels and we quickly realised we could at best limp back to shore if we did not go over again.

Little did we know that two members of the Whitehead voluntary rescue team were watching us while preparing to go out sailing themselves. It is due to their quick thinking and actions that we were able to avert a dire outcome to our ordeal. I believe it was on our second capsize that they realised that our situation was taking a turn for the worst. They sprang into action and launched their rescue craft and headed out towards us in what had turned into some very choppy waters.

After righting the boat the second time we got everyone back onboard and made a little headway back towards Whitehead, unfortunately with a boat filled with water, waves crashing over us and weather getting worse we went over a third time. My son was starting the mumble incoherently and looked deathly pale with lips turning blue. Working in health care and having done numerous First Aid courses as part of our own rescue training I recognised the symptoms of hypothermia. At this point we had been in the water approximately 20 minutes. Thankfully we always wear lifejackets or I'm not sure my son would still be with us. After the third capsize I had told my husband that this was now a life preserving mission and no longer a salvage one. My husband and son got back up on the upturned boat as I drifted alongside while we all conserved our depleting energy. Struggling to right the boat twice had severely depleted our energy which for myself is particularly dangerous as I have Type 1 diabetes. I could feel my energy waning and thankfully always keep a reserve of energy drink in my lifejacket. Our backpack with reserve chocolate had washed off the boat in capsize two.

My husband and son sitting on our upturned boat and me drifting alongside while all being battered by wind and waves I shared my drink with my son who was very incoherent, while my husband sat and made the universal sign for "danger in need of rescue". While I tried as best to calm my son my husband was keeping a lookout and saw and heard the rescue craft. We had been in the water for approximately 20 minutes. The relief in me at hearing their approach was indescribable. I thought for sure had my son been in those conditions another 10 minutes we would have lost him. We got my son aboard the rescue craft first and then followed my husband and myself. With six of us on the craft it was a tight squeeze. The skipper did a wonderful job of steering us for home while navigating some tricky wind and waves. The other two people on the boat could see that my son was in a bad way and sprang into action and put him in a survival bag, he was still conscious but it was a struggle to keep him alert. The young lady on the boat handed me some energy gel which was onboard to help to bring up my sugar level.

By the time we got to shore someone had the sense to get the CAYC clubhouse unlocked to let us inside. Everyone involved onshore sprang into action and went above and beyond to help in any way they could while we waited on the ambulance service to arrive. We were able to take shelter from the weather and get my son into a warm shower to bring up his body temperature gradually and then redress him in dry clothing. By the time the ambulance service arrived and took our temperature we were all still hypothermic, with my son's body temperature at only 31 degrees, mine 32 and my husbands 33.

It is without a doubt, due to the quick actions and training of the voluntary rescue crew of the CAYC on that night that my son is still with us. After many years of being part of a voluntary rescue crew as a couple ourselves it felt humbling and a little surreal that we found ourselves at the other end of the spyglass. We are immensely grateful to all on that night who worked together to turn a potentially fatal situation into one of survival, however it has to be acknowledged that without the watchful eye and quick thinking of the voluntary rescue crew from CAYC things could have turned out very differently. It is at times like these that I feel proud to be part of a worldwide sailing community who I have found to be uniquely helpful and willing to come to the aid of those who venture into the realm of the sea and find themselves in need. Thank you to the sea farers in our local community who give selflessly of their time and resources in aid of safety of friends and strangers alike.

We will likely be out sailing again in the future, however a word of caution is warranted. When at sea you are at the mercy of the elements. Always wear appropriate safety equipment and clothing when venturing out on the water, let others know when you are venturing out and preferably never venture out on the sea alone. After many years of sailing in different places around the world we to our error had become complacent and did not check the weather forecast that evening, had we done so we may have realised that it was to take a turn for the worse. Always make sure your boat is safe and appropriately kitted out and be familiar with local weather and tides.

With deepest thanks and gratitude to CAYC and all who assisted us on that evening.

Last updated 14:22 on 15 August 2022

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