Thursday, May 19, 2011

A near miss on the Solway

 On the 30th of April, I was enjoying a holiday on Fleet Bay in the Solway Firth. Despite the sun a strong offshore wind meant my kayak stayed firmly on the beach. Actually it didn't! It got blown about 10m from where I left it!

The wind was blowing straight out the bay towards distant Burrow Head.

My anemometer was averaging 28knots on the beach. I watched enviously as Richard was enjoying a good blast on his windsurfer. Due to increasing problems with my knees, the last time I got out windsurfing was in October 2008. I do miss it.

Anyway, I have a nice pair of 7x50 binoculars and was enjoying watching the fun when I suddenly noticed a double sit on top being blown out to sea at a very rapid rate. There was no sign of any paddlers, so I was just about to phone Liverpool coastguard when I noticed a 20 foot day sailing boat heading for the kayak. Her experienced crew had decided to motor out (she has an inboard outboard well if you know what that is!) despite being competent sailors. I scanned the surface of the sea but I couldn't see anyone in the water.

The day boat very sensibly motored straight up wind covering the area over which the kayak had been blown. Then I saw an arm held straight up. Fortunately the day boat crew saw it. They had a hell of a job trying lift the lone kayaker into the cockpit as the day boat has a relatively high freeboard. The lucky kayaker was clearly barely able to help and collapsed into the cockpit. He was not wearing a buoyancy aid and, despite the water being only 6.5 degrees centigrade was wearing shorts. It turned out he had gone out on his own in the back seat of the sit on top. He couldn't turn it round into the wind to paddle back to the shore in the strong wind. He then fell in and the wind blew the sit on top away.

It was an ebb spring tide so if he had been swept out past the islands he would probably not have been found alive. He was extremely lucky he was spotted and that help was at hand. This sort of near miss and rescue will never make national statistics but it must be happening all round the coast. A combination of hot sun, cold water and an offshore wind can be lethal. I have witnessed 4 fatal boating accidents in Fleet Bay since 1968 and lost count of innumerable near misses. Thank goodness this one had a happy ending. I was glad I had decided to stay on the beach.

This is the Hawk 20 lying at her mooring on a calm day. It is a nice boat.


  1. Lucky kayaker!
    Have followed your site and blogs for a long time now and keep seeing references to Fleet Bay as we have been at Sandgreen for 27 yrs and have water skied sailed and in latter years sea kayaked in this great area.
    39 sea kayakers from Cumbria Canoeists were out for two days from Brighouse Bay a week or two back in fastastic warm calm conditions and we lunched on Ardwall on the Sunday (quite a sight!)Hawk is based at Sangreen -are you based at Cardoness?
    Plan a tripalong past Auchinlarie next time we are up and if you see a yellow and a blue Atlantic on the water it will be us.
    Keep up the good work and love your site.Summer Isles next!

  2. Greetings Guy and Rose! Yes I am based on the other side and have been so since '68! There is a great bit of rockhopping at high tide west of Auchenlarie ending up at a nice arch.

    Enjoy the Summer Isles :o)