Portland: Warning From Coastguards

4 May 2014, 08:57

Portland Coastguard is warning recreational boaters to check the weatherconditions before they set out and to ensure that they have a way to raise help such as VHF radio, distress flares, mini flares or as a back-up, mobile phone.

This follows an incident in which twelve canoeists were rescued by 2 local boats and the 2 Swanage RNLI lifeboats after they ran into difficulty off Old Harry Rocks.

Portland Coastguard received a mayday message from the dive boat 'Skua' today (Saturday, 03 May 2014) reporting that a group of canoeists in 3 lightweight boats were having problems in difficult weather conditions and needed immediate assistance.

The Coastguard broadcast a mayday relay requesting help from other vessels and also requested the launch of the 2 Swanage RNLI lifeboats. Nine of the 12 canoeists were rescued by a combination of Skua and another boat 'Playtime' along with the 2 lifeboats. The other 3 people were escorted back to shore. All 12 were taken back to Knoll Beach, Studland. There were no injuries. It transpired that 6 of the people had been pitched into the water when the 6-man canoe capsized.

Ros Evans, Portland Coastguard Watch Manager said:

"The 12 canoeists were out in difficult weather conditions, in easterly winds off Old Harry Rocks which has a notorious race and with the
sea temperature still at winter levels. They were dressed only in shorts and t-shirts. They were wearing buoyancy aids but appeared to have
no other safety gear, no rescue equipment and most worryingly, no way of raising the alarm. They were fortunate that the Skua
happened to be in the vicinity and was able to offer assistance, despite having divers in the water.

"We would recommend that all boaters wear a personal flotation device, appropriate to their sport, such as a lifejacket or buoyancy aid. It's
imperative that the weather, sea conditions and tides are checked and that people ensure that they have the experience and training to be able to cope before setting out.

"A way of calling for help should the worst happen is also essential. A VHF radio is ideal, but other methods could include marine distress flares or mini flares and a mobile phone as a back-up (although do not rely upon this as coverage off the coast is patchy)."