Mayday in Orkneys^

Places, technique, kayaks, safety, the sea...
Post Reply
User avatar
sanddabber
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 2:43 pm
Location: Sea Level
Contact:

Mayday in Orkneys^

Post by sanddabber » Wed May 13, 2009 1:06 pm

Posted Sunday 10th on MCA website

KAYAKER RECOVERED AFTER QUICK RESPONSE

At around 9.50 this morning Shetland Coastguard heard a spoken word mayday from a group of five kayakers who were within the Orkney Islands at the time. They were undertaking a circumnavigational tour of Shapinsay anti clockwise and stayed last night on the Island, whilst returning to Kirkwall today.

It was reported that one person had gone into the water.

The Kirkwall all weather lifeboat was requested to launch and the Coastguard Rescue helicopter was immediately scrambled.

There were however, very many other responses to Shetland Coastguard from other seafarers, who had also heard the mayday on the emergency VHF channel 16, and who offered to assist, and by three minutes past 10.00 all were reported to be safe and well on board the `Fair Fortune who had immediately responded.

The one individual who had gone into the water was transferred to the care of the lifeboat crew but did not need any additional medical care. All the group were eventually reunited on shore.

Katrine Hampson, Watch Manager at Shetland Coastguard said

We are extremely grateful for the remarkable and prompt assistance of so many other vessels who were in the area at the time and who heard the Mayday signal. The dangers and rigours of sea life can mean that tomorrow it may be your turn to need assistance, and you will be reliant on others turning out for you. It is heartening to see that great community spirit alive and well in the Northern Isles.

User avatar
Jim
Posts: 13497
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2002 2:14 pm
Location: Dumbarton

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by Jim » Wed May 13, 2009 1:52 pm

Wow that's fast!

User avatar
chris-uk
Posts: 961
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:45 pm
Location: South Hams, Devon

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by chris-uk » Wed May 13, 2009 2:04 pm

sanddabber wrote:They were undertaking a circumnavigational tour of Shapinsay anti clockwise...
That'll be where they went wrong then!

Chris

User avatar
orkfay
Posts: 161
Joined: Fri May 22, 2009 7:53 pm
Location: Kirkwall, Orkney
Contact:

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by orkfay » Mon May 25, 2009 8:57 pm

Once we had realised we were making no progress, towing (me +kayak) against a strong tidal eddy, the response to the Mayday was very welcome.

User avatar
Mark R
Posts: 24087
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2002 6:17 pm
Location: Dorset
Contact:

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by Mark R » Sun May 31, 2009 7:25 pm

Glad that your trip ended happily. Heading up that way myself in the summer, I'll be taking extra care thereabouts!

If you don't mind discussing it - what prompted/caused the need for outside assistance?

Best wishes,
Mark Rainsley
FACEBOOK

User avatar
orkfay
Posts: 161
Joined: Fri May 22, 2009 7:53 pm
Location: Kirkwall, Orkney
Contact:

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by orkfay » Sun May 31, 2009 9:19 pm

I was leading the group of 5 on second day of circumnavigation of Shapinsay (anticlockwise).
Coastguard was aware of our route and appropriate tidal planning had been done.
Due to a later than planned start and a northwest headwind stronger than forecast, we got to the Galt Ness later than we should have done.
Galt Ness is a narrow promontary pointing almost due North with skerries around the point
http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=34 ... pp=map.srf
By that time the flood (easterly) spring tide was then into its third hour (ie approaching maximal rate).
We had not committed to going round as we knew the tidal stream would be running at about 4 knots but decided to take a (fateful) "look see". Although the tide was against us, an eddy sucked us into the full tidal race.

We backed off, 2 kayaks colliding in the process. This ended with me over, my roll failed and I exited.
At this point we were no more than 3m from shore.

The 2 relatively inexperienced paddlers made themselves safe on the shore while the other 2 came to my aid.

They considered it was too rough in tidal race (estimated Sea State 6 ) to get me back in the boat without risking a second capsize.
So they opted to tow me back in to the protected water to the east of Galt Ness. However by the time a towline had been attached, my kayak and me had been swept about 100m north away from the shore. A second towline was around my waist. A single tow made no headway against the tidal flow. Although I managed to pass my towline to the second rescuing paddler, it proved impossible to secure it around his waist in those conditions.

Still making no headway, I transferred to hold onto the back of the 2nd kayak allowing the first kayak to tow only my kayak.
At this point, the second kayak and me actually started to move northward (away from coast and sheltered water)
It was around this moment that the Mayday call was sent.

It was the right decision in my opinion as the whole situation was deteriorating.

A prompt response from a local fishing boat ensured I was pulled from the water without any serious harm. I was wearing a 3mm longjohn wesuit with cag and a couple of fleecy layers. I was not cold until out of the water

Lessons learnt
1. The experience group was overall probably not strong enough to attempt that route
2. We should not have been at Galt Ness at that time
3. Another towline could have made all the difference

User avatar
soundoftheseagull
Posts: 1561
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 5:11 pm
Location: Lives in a Pineapple but NOT under the sea, Prestatyn, North Wales
Contact:

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by soundoftheseagull » Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:13 am

Orkfay

Glad all are well thanks for sharing appreciated
Dave

Rockpool GT

User avatar
Jim
Posts: 13497
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2002 2:14 pm
Location: Dumbarton

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by Jim » Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:56 am

orkfay wrote: Lessons learnt
1. The experience group was overall probably not strong enough to attempt that route
2. We should not have been at Galt Ness at that time
3. Another towline could have made all the difference
Thanks for sharing.

I can see how having a group with mixed experience contributed to this incident, but I can conceivably see that it would be possible for a similar thing to occur with an experienced group that had chosen to hit a tide race at peak flow for reasons of their own, and it is the reason for the capsize that particularly interests me because I haven't come across it on the sea before.

Do you feel that you were too close together on the 'look see', i.e. even if you hadn't been trying to back off and return to the eddy would there still have been the possibility of collision, or would there have been plenty of space if you had decided to actually go for it? As the kind of person who will generally nose out and have a bit of a look before making a decision, I am really wondering if there is anything new I should consider with regards to spacing boats out if there is a possibility that people are going to start paddling furiously backwards whilst others may still be concentrating on paddling forward?

Like I say, I don't think I've ever seen a case on the sea where a collision has occurred, never mind a capsize followed, but I have seen it on rivers a few times as eddies start to get crowded - there tends to be a whole lot less space in those situations and a lot less thinking time leading up to it.

User avatar
orkfay
Posts: 161
Joined: Fri May 22, 2009 7:53 pm
Location: Kirkwall, Orkney
Contact:

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by orkfay » Mon Jun 01, 2009 8:26 am

Jim wrote:
orkfay wrote: Do you feel that you were too close together on the 'look see', i.e. even if you hadn't been trying to back off and return to the eddy would there still have been the possibility of collision, or would there have been plenty of space if you had decided to actually go for it? As the kind of person who will generally nose out and have a bit of a look before making a decision, I am really wondering if there is anything new I should consider with regards to spacing boats out if there is a possibility that people are going to start paddling furiously backwards whilst others may still be concentrating on paddling forward?
The collision did occur between two boats paddling backwards
One paddling backwards collided at right angles with my boat (beam on), presumably when I was already in an unstable position (paddling backwards in confused overflows).
If we had just gone for it, we would have been more stable and more spaced out, so yes, less likely to capsize.
However I was very conscious of the fact that some of the group were less experienced, so could not power through and wait for them to follow. With hindsight, best policy might have been for rest of group to tackle this short section first, individually or in well spaced pairs and for me to follow through. That being said, I would not again lead a group of that experience through that water at that time. 30-60 minutes earlier could have made a lot of difference.

User avatar
chris-uk
Posts: 961
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:45 pm
Location: South Hams, Devon

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by chris-uk » Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:32 am

Thanks for sharing, I know some people don't like to after such an incident. Just goes to show that the right equipment makes a huge difference once it has all gone pear-shaped though (I'm assuming it was you guys who put out the mayday on a handheld VHF?).

Chris

User avatar
Jim
Posts: 13497
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2002 2:14 pm
Location: Dumbarton

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by Jim » Mon Jun 01, 2009 10:55 am

Thanks for clarifying, it is certainly something new to think about - if there is a chance of not going for something (and this could apply equally well to timing a gap in the rocks with a wave) and having to back paddle as an evasive manouevre, then it will be worth spreading the boats out more than usual.

I have actually come close to a collision on the NW tip of Jura trying to cut between a rock and the shore (also rock) in fairly tricky sea conditions (strong wind against tide), the person in front of me needed a second attempt to line up on the gap but a wave had picked me up and was trying to push me towards her so I had to back paddle frantically to miss her. I then backed away until she was safely in the gap and then needed a couple of attempts to line myself up (at one point I was almost dashed up the shore side rocks). We had paired off from a bigger group and each pair was paddling close because conditions were quite interesting and swift action would have been needed if there had been an incident, but at that particular point, being close together was not the right thing. In fact if you had ended up swimming in the gap, the last thing you would actually need is another kayak to crush you against the rocks....

The real question is will remember that in advance of a situation developing in the future?

Jim

User avatar
orkfay
Posts: 161
Joined: Fri May 22, 2009 7:53 pm
Location: Kirkwall, Orkney
Contact:

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by orkfay » Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:31 pm

chris-uk wrote:Just goes to show that the right equipment makes a huge difference once it has all gone pear-shaped though (I'm assuming it was you guys who put out the mayday on a handheld VHF?).

Chris
Yes we had 2 handheld VHFs. A mobile phone would have been very difficult to operate under those conditions.
Although we also carried flares (under a deck hatch), in that situation they proved inaccessible.
I now keep them in back of my buoyancy aid

User avatar
chris-uk
Posts: 961
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:45 pm
Location: South Hams, Devon

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by chris-uk » Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:49 pm

Would you have been able to get to the flares if they were stored in the cockpit? I'm well aware of the benefits of having your emergency devices on your person, but equally aware that there is only so much you can practically carry.

Chris

User avatar
orkfay
Posts: 161
Joined: Fri May 22, 2009 7:53 pm
Location: Kirkwall, Orkney
Contact:

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by orkfay » Mon Jun 01, 2009 1:17 pm

chris-uk wrote:Would you have been able to get to the flares if they were stored in the cockpit? I'm well aware of the benefits of having your emergency devices on your person, but equally aware that there is only so much you can practically carry.

Chris
Initially they would have been accessible in this situation, but not once I'd switched boats (and potentially needed them)
Having flares in the cockpit does mean that spraydeck has to be released to access them - not always advisable

User avatar
chris-uk
Posts: 961
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:45 pm
Location: South Hams, Devon

Re: Mayday in Orkneys

Post by chris-uk » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:20 pm

Cool, thanks dude. It's just that I've read stories of flares not being seen when fired and I guessed that if you had spares in the cockpit, as well as one or two on your person, then you have all bases covered.

Glad it all turned out well :-)

Chris

Post Reply