At 10.40am yesterday morning (Monday 19 October) Bude lifeboat crew were paged by Falmouth Coastguard to respond to reports of a lone kayaker in trouble approximately half a mile off shore at Crackington Haven.
With a strong south- easterly wind and worsening conditions Bude’s inshore lifeboat (ILB), George Bird, with four volunteer crew members onboard, including Rhys Burton (well done, Rhys) who was on his first shout, reached the area approximately thirty minutes later.
Bude’s Coastguard Rescue Team were already at the scene and searched the immediate coastline and, from a position on the cliffs with a good vantage point, scoured the sea with binoculars.
The kayaker was liaising with Falmouth Coastguard Operations Centre (CGOC) through his partner and believed they were now 1 mile from shore. The volunteer lifeboat crew began searching this position but nothing could be found. It became clear very quickly that the seriousness of the rescue was escalating so a shout went out to Padstow Lifeboat and Rescue 924, the coastguard rescue helicopter was scrambled.
As neither the coastguard or the lifeboat crew could find any trace of the kayaker the coastguard asked the Bude lifeboat crew to continue searching up to 2.5 nautical miles from shore. Lifeboat crew member, Richie Heard, suggested lighting a flare to give the kayaker a point of reference to help the rescue teams search.
Once the flare had gone up it became clear that the kayaker was much further out to sea than he first thought and was now losing sight of the land. Luckily Rescue 924 arrived on scene they were able to pinpoint him and hover over the him but requested that, due to the conditions, Bude’s lifeboat crew collect the kayaker from his position approximately 5 nautical miles offshore.
Upon reaching the casualty, it was clear he didn’t require emergency first aid and the crew were able to get him on board the ILB (inshore lifeboat) leaving the kayak behind as it wasn’t safe to take it in the conditions. With the sea conditions now extremely poor, the ILB started making its way back to shore and Rescue 924 shadowed the boat to within 3 nautical miles of land. With such a choppy sea it took 45 minutes to make the short journey to Crackington Haven.
The Padstow all-weather lifeboat (ALB) was now also on scene and the crew collected the empty kayak to prevent any concern or false alarms if it washed up on shore in the coming days.
Once back to shore the casualty was handed over to the waiting Coastguard Team. Bude ILB was refuelled giving the volunteer crew a chance to stretch their legs after being at sea for so long in very testing conditions.
After an epic shout with a successful outcome, Padstow’s all-weather lifeboat escorted Bude ILB back to Summerleaze beach due to the still worsening sea and weather conditions. Once back at Summerleaze, the RNLI lifeguards helped the lifeboat crew recover the boat and kayak.
Bude Lifeboat Helm and Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM), Liam Sharpe, said: ‘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.’