Massive sea rescue operation finds two kayakers alive

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Massive sea rescue operation finds two kayakers alive

Postby NorthSIKer » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:39 pm

TWO young kayakers spent 11 hours in crocodile and shark-infested waters after their vessel was swamped between Lucinda and Pelorus Island.

Water filled the vessel manned by 19-year-old Grace Thong and 20-year-old Brock Hawke about 1pm on Saturday when they were well short of Pelorus Island.

They abandoned the kayak and Ms Thong wore the only lifejacket on board as the couple trod water, trying to make land.

Battling through a strong current and winds, they made for the jetty at Lucinda but missed it by 200m, and were carried further out to sea.

They went on to endure another 11 hours in the water until about midnight when, by chance, they washed up on rocks at Hinchinbrook Island.

Meanwhile, the alert was raised about 5.30pm on Saturday that the two kayakers were overdue.

Senior Constable Nick Swan, from Townsville Water Police, said that sparked a massive air and sea search operation.

The search was hampered by difficult weather conditions which included 45km/h winds and 3m seas. It was called off at 1am, to start again at first light.

The duo were eventually found thanks to a methodical search method by the crew of Townsville Volunteer Coast Guard.

Coxswain Michael Dunkley led the expedition and began searching the stretch between Lucinda and Pelorus Island, working north because of the southerly wind.

A fortuitous encounter with Mr Hawke’s brother, who was also searching for the couple, provided information about the duo.

Water Police then advised the Coast Guard to check the coast of Hinchinbrook Island and the crew searched near George Point.

“We had to launch our zodiac vessel because of the shallow water,” Coxswain Dunkley said.

Two of the crew volunteered to brave the rough water. Within 20 minutes they sighted the missing couple but were unable to land because of the weather.

The Coast Guard radioed the Water Police and the Queensland Government Air Rescue Helicopter was dispatched to the island at 9.30am. By 10am they were at Ingham Hospital where they were treated for minor abrasions and dehydration. Hospital staff confirmed yesterday they were in a stable condition.

Queensland Government Air Rescue Helicopter senior aircrew officer Dan Hoare said it was a positive outcome after the helicopter conducted two unsuccessful search sorties the night before.

The Bulletin understands the couple were advised not to attempt the expedition because of the bad weather.

Sen-Constable Swan said the duo had a lucky escape.

“At the end of the day this is a good outcome that we’ve located them but it could have quite easily ended up in death or serious injury,” he said.

He said the rescue highlighted the need for people to check weather conditions and carry emergency equipment during voyages.

“They probably should not have gone out in those weather conditions, especially without an emergency beacon like an EPIRB,” he said. “It’s not a legal requirement on a kayak but it is your responsibility to make sure you travel safely.”

Ms Thong and Mr Hawke declined to comment.
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Re: Massive sea rescue operation finds two kayakers alive

Postby NorthSIKer » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:48 pm

I'm glad it worked out ok.

I know those waters and I would definitely not want to be floating through there at any time, let alone at night in 20-30kts. It is actually impressive they got as far as they did (past the end of the jetty) as there are some sandbanks just before the end of the jetty where the waves stand up out of nowhere on a good southerly.

I have had the scariest experience of my 10 years sea kayaking on the exact same route in a 15-20 knot afternoon.

A few lessons in this as always. Below is the nearest AIMS weather buoy reading (about 100km to the south) with the readings circled in red for the period they were out.

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Re: Massive sea rescue operation finds two kayakers alive

Postby Ads22 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:00 pm

Thanks for sharing. That's such an intense experience for them! I'm not surprised they were advised not to go. It has been pretty windy down here, I imagine it has been similar there!

My son had an Outdoor Rec trip last week and was supposed to paddle for 3 days, including some stops on some islands and camping overnight for a couple of nights. The winds were forecast at 30 knots at Yeppoon, so they gave in and took the ferry to Keppel and kayaked in the sheltered bays instead of paddling across. He said they launched at one spot and paddled against the swell for about 10 minutes and managed to get about 1-200m in a tandem sea kayak. Riding back with the swell they were flying he says. I'm surprised they took them at all!
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