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For the last 6 months my commute to and from work has involved a 4.5 km kayak crossing between Stony Point and my home on French Island in Westernport Bay, Victoria, Australia. Last Thursday night I set off for home in slightly stronger conditions than I had attempted previously (20-28 knots). I had the option of waiting for the ferry, but it was a tailwind, there was still plenty of light, the tide was offering a slight assistance. It looked like fun! If I did capsize I was confident in my ability to roll myself back up, or failing that to re-enter and pump out. I was about to learn that this confidence was ill-founded.
Swell was quite messy, but I was flying along until about 2 kms from home when a wave tipped me over. I had practiced my roll regularly, but with the pressure on and in rough conditions I couldn’t get myself back up, so had to do a wet exit. Then I found that the re-entry techniques I had practiced in calmer weather were too difficult. I couldn’t get enough water out of the cockpit to make it stable enough to re-enter. The radio that I usually carried had for some reason not charged overnight, so I had not brought it. I got my phone out to call for help, and found that its waterproof pouch was flooded. Holding the boat, I started kicking for shore.
After about 30 minutes I was starting to feel the cold so I activated my PLB while I still had the dexterity to do so. My memory is pretty patchy after that. I remember my feet touching the bottom, and I have an image of the helicopter circling around. Initially I had tried to keep the PLB above the water, but by the end I had let it go (tethered to me), which may have been why they couldn’t pin-point my location. On shore my partner had initiated a response, and quite a few of my neighbours had come down to help search. One of them found me kneeling in the shallows clutching my boat. I was helped into the heli and flown to Frankston hospital with moderate hypothermia. I had been in the 13 degree (55 F) water from 1.5 hours and my temperature was 30.5 (87 F) degrees. I will need to improve my self-rescue skills, and be more conservative with regards to conditions before I next head offshore alone.
Thank you ACR!
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