Whistling sound saves two paddlers in stormy seas at Betty’s Bay

Also an NSRI Safety Message to boaters and paddlers.

A whistling sound last night led to the rescue by Gordon’s Bay NSRI of two men in kayaks in bad and stormy conditions off Betty’s Bay.

An alert couple on holiday investigated the sound and found the men in trouble, bobbing up and down in rough giant swells while precariously holding onto their sea kayaks.

Jan and Belinda Reuders, from Plattekloof, Cape Town, on a weekend break at their Betty’s Bay holiday home at first ignored a whistling sound they heard while watching TV.  A bit  later they turned the TV off and while walking down the passage to the bedroom they heard the whistling sound again. It was a definite strong and decent whistle (Jan described it as the kind of whistle a person makes when they put two fingers in their mouth).

Through the dark they peered out of the window seaward and saw a faint light bobbing around in the rough sea about 100 meters off the rocks and just out of reach of the breaking 4-meter waves in gusting up to 40 knot winds. Being sailors and owners of the Quantum Sails yacht sail manufacturing company, they immediately realised that whoever was out there was in need of help.

They first thought it could be fishermen in a small boat and so dialed the NSRI to raise the alarm.  Jan then went down to the rocks where he managed to shout to two men to hang on as the NSRI were on their way. Jan and Belinda were dismayed that the two sea-kayakers were in trouble late at night in very rough sea conditions.

Stuart Burgess, NSRI Gordon’s Bay duty coxswain, said: “Our NSRI Gordon’s Bay volunteer duty crew launched our sea rescue craft Jack Riley and Spirit of Surfski and our NSRI 4×4 rescue vehicle was dispatched. The SAP and the Overberg Metro EMS ambulance and a Metro EMS rescue squad were dispatched.

“On arrival on-scene 2 Gordon’s Bay men were rescued from their sea-kayaks and taken onto our sea rescue craft. We brought them back to our base while treating them for hypothermia. Once safely at our sea rescue base in Gordon’s Bay they were checked by paramedics but found to be in no need of any further help.”

The two men later related how they had launched at Hangklip in good sea conditions to paddle. Not planning to go far they soon realised the wind had picked up considerably and they tried desperately until last light to find a safe area to run ashore.

But they were unable to reach the shore in rough seas as they were at risk of being battered onto rocks. Sea conditions steadily worsened and as night fell they decided to anchor in Betty’s Bay. However, they were pummelled by 4-meter breaking waves and a gusting up to 40-knot wind.

They shouted and whistled hoping someone along the coast at one of the houses on the shore would hear them but their cries for help were lost in the wind. They had no red distress flares, no cell-phone (though this would not have helped as there was no signal in that area, no referee’s whistle, plus no one was watching for their safe return. Eventually at about 10 pm last night they saw the lights go out at a nearby house and they whistled and screamed frantically in a last bid attempt. Fortunately that’s when Jan and Belinda heard them.

This morning, Sunday, 23 October, one sea-kayak remains at anchor 100 meters off-shore and one sea-kayak had broken loose during the night and was found neatly parked on the only stretch of beach about a 1 km from the Reuders house. The beach is only about 10 meters wide. The men returned to the Reuders this morning to thank the Reuders.

In the light of this incident the NSRI has put out a safety message:

NSRI Safety Message: Boaters and Paddlers:

“Launching your craft in fine weather could see you fighting through a major stormonly hours later. We urge everyone to take the following precautions before going out on the sea and on inland waters:

* Check weather forecasts before launching and take all the necessary safety precautions into account so as to be prepared for the worst if weather conditions change adversely or if you land up unexpectedly in a dire emergency situation.

* Prepare yourself and your crew for any emergency beforehand. Safety and ensuring your survival when the odds, or the weather, unexpectedly turn against you begins before you leave home. We have gone so far as to recommending to boaters and paddlers to practice by jumping into a swimming pool with all their gear and practice using their safety equipment. It is no good familiarising yourself with your safety equipment for the first time in a real emergency.

*Anyone launching any kind of craft to go to sea or on inland waters should keep safety top of mind alway.:

* Always let a responsible person know your time of departure, the route you plan to travel and your estimated return time and stick to your route and plans. Ensure the responsible person has an action plan well versed to contact the NSRI if you do not return as scheduled.

” Check that your craft and equipment are in good working order and carry the correct safety approvals and certifications. Ensure your craft has your name and a land based contact number and your details stencilled on the craft.

* Have your nearest NSRI emergency phone number stored in your phone (You can obtain your nearest NSRI emergency phone number from NSRI’s Head Office during office hours at 021 4344011 or at http://www.nsri.org.za). Other vital national emergency phone numbers are 10177 (from any phone) and 112 (from a cellphone).

* Plan for an emergency before launching onto water so that if you land up in a life threatening situation the steps you take to ensure your survival are well rehearsed.

* Life-Jackets are the safety belts when you are on water and should be worn at all times.

* Have your communications devices, a cell-phone or VHF radio, with fully charged batteries stored in watertight plastic sleeves.

* Carry red distress flares, a signalling mirror or CD disc, a referees whistle, a waterproof torch and wear the correct brightly coloured gear, a hat and sunscreen and keep yourselves well hydrated.”

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