Kayaker causes major callout

By: Dave Tilley

In the column last month, I noted that the number of callouts for the unit had been increasing and over the past few weeks that has not let up – this will only increase as the Christmas and New Year holiday approaches.

One callout in particular is worth noting, with some lessons to be learned for anyone who enjoys getting out on the water, in any type of watercraft. On a recent Monday morning when the weather was not at its best, with wind blowing up to 25 knots and raining, the pagers went off with an urgent callout to Hibiscus Rescue 2. This is our Sealegs rescue Vessel, located at Stanmore Bay. The call out was in response to a member of the public reporting sighting a kayak on rocks around Waiau Bay on the northern side of the peninsula with no sign of the occupant.

Within 10 minutes of launching the crew had located the kayak and identified that it was kitted out for fishing but with no other clear identifying marks on board and no occupant in sight. A basic description and photos of the kayak and equipment on board were passed on to the police and Coastguard Operations to work on trying to identify the owner. Further resources had been tasked to aid in the search for the missing owner with Kawau Rescue, the Police vessel Deodar III, a further Police RIB and Coastguard Air Patrol all joining the search, which went on for several hours in testing conditions for the crews.

While the search was conducted, both Police and Coastguard Operations worked on trying to locate an owner for the kayak. By contacting a local kayak fishing club and posting details of the kayak online they identified someone who had sold a similar model to someone in Waiwera and were then able to make contact with the owner, who was safely at home. The kayak had been lost the previous day in the Waiwera area and, crucially, had not been reported as lost.

Reporting the kayak as lost to Coastguard or Police, or having a clear identifying mark – mobile phone number or a VHF call sign – on the kayak could have prevented all of those resources being tasked to the search.

Finally, when out on the water this summer please remember these key safety tips: Wearing a life jacket increases your survival time in the water; the skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone on board; carry two forms of waterproof communications so you can call for assistance; check the local marine weather before you go out and be prepared for any changes; safe boating and alcohol do not mix, things can change quickly on the water and you need to stay alert and aware.

The Coastguard Operations Centre can be contacted by phone by calling *500.

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