- Edited by Bev Mortimer
NSRI St Francis Bay, two local boat owners and a man on a kayak were all heroes on Friday this past week (17 June) by rallying to the rescue of a boat after it was hit by a big wave set at the Kromme River Mouth, became airborne and flung its three crew into the sea.
Several people witnessed the incident that Sarah Smith, commander of NSRI St Francis Bay, says happened at 4.44 pm and NSRI was called to assist. Two local boat owners who witnessed the incident, Chris Sparg and James Moore, went to the rescue of the unmanned boat and the unnamed crew in the waves respectively, while the NSRI hastened to tow the casualty boat to safety.
The crew were unharmed and were first assisted by a man on a kayak, who also did not give his name, but who stayed with men while they were in the water until they were rescued.
NSRI launched the Spirit of St Francis and NSRI swimmers and crew were dispatched to the river mouth. On arrival at the Mouth, the NSRI found the crew on shore and unharmed.
It was later established and recounted to the NSRI that Chris Sparg, the local owner of the boat, Plane to Sea, temporarily took the casualty boat under tow behind the breakers with the help of his son Cameron.
NSRI crew were able to use an additional towline on the boat and took over the towing of the boat to shore without incident.
Chris further recounted he, Cameron and his daughter, Courtney, on their boat, saw the casualty boat trying to exit the Kromme river with its crew on board. The boat skipper had dropped off two children before setting out to sea.
The boat headed out to where a large set of six waves were forming – the largest of the day. Chris and people on shore tried to warn the boat with hand signals to stay clear, but the boat ploughed into the waves and on the fourth set of waves became airborne over the peak of the wave.
The boat was jolted sharp left and the men were catapulted into the water. It appears that the kill switch failed to activate.
Chris and his children in life jackets saw the man on a kayak with the crew in the water so Chris decided to put his Cameron on the unmanned boat that was moving around among the crew in the water, narrowly missing them.
Once on board the casualty boat, Cameron put the gear in neutral bringing the casualty boat to a halt. Courtenay took over the helm of the Plane to Sea and Chris secured a towline from his boat to the casualty boat. However, the boat could not be steered owing to a bent steering rod.
Cameron used forward thrust and reverse a number of times to try use the 10 degree angle of the outboard motors to steer the boat out of the back breaking wave line.
During this time local, James Moore, then launched his sons’ small boat, with a 15 horse power motor, and he rescued the three crew and brought them safely to shore.
James told NSRI that he too had witnessed the incident at the Kromme River Mouth and his wife contacted NSRI. James donned a life jacket and successfully rescued the three men. NSRI commend everyone involved particularly:
- The ski-boat Plane to Sea skipper, Chris Sparg, and his crew Cameron and Courtney, for their remarkable efforts that averted a disaster at sea.
- The man on the sea-kayak who checked on the crew and stayed near to them for safety while they were drifting.
- James Moore for successfully rescuing the crew from the water.
- The casualties, two aged 41, and one aged 40, for their attention to safety, wearing properly fitting and properly fastened life-jackets.
- The skipper was commended for keeping the boat on the chosen line approach to the incoming wave set rather than trying to turn the boat in the set of waves.
- Smith says NSRI St Francis Bay volunteer crew members were also commended for their swift response.
- Eye-witnesses were also commended for raising the alarm.
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