Learning from experience
A Sunday cruise turned into a test of strength for Graham Deavin as he struggled to lift an injured and waterlogged MOB into his boat
A boater comes to the rescue of a seriously injured jet skier in Ryde but he struggles to lift her aboard
Sometimes emergencies occur when you least expect them! Some years ago my wife and I were preparing to enter Ryde Harbour on the Isle of Wight on a warm, calm Sunday afternoon. My wife was planning a short stop for a swim and ice cream before returning to Portsmouth in our 18ft motor launch Dabblelyn.
About a quarter of a mile off the hovercraft terminal, and close to the buoyed harbour entrance channel, I noticed a large personal watercraft inshore of me. Everything appeared to be normal so I paid it no further attention. Some moments later I must have heard something and when I looked again at the PWC it was slowing rapidly but its rider was flying through the air only to fall awkwardly into the sea.
I expected the rider to swim back, recover the craft and zoom away but this did not happen. As I waited, unsure as to whether all was well, a fisherman in a rowing boat anchored close to the incident shouted and waved at me making it clear I did indeed need to become involved.
As I approached I saw that the person in the water was a woman and she was pleading for me to help her. She was wearing a buoyancy aid but seemed to be having difficulty keeping her head above
water. I came alongside of her and immediately realised that she was seriously injured. One leg was clearly broken in at least one place and her opposite knee badly swollen and probably dislocated. She was screaming with pain and begging me to help her!
With some assistance she was able to grab the gunwale of my boat and I tried to support her by holding on to her other arm. Unfortunately I had previously just applied suntan cream and when wet, my hands proved to be very slippery. It was obvious that given her injuries the casualty could not help herself out of the water using our boarding ladder.
My wife had her arm in plaster and it became apparent the pair of us would be quite incapable of lifting a soaking wet, injured adult aboard.
Suddenly the two foot high gunwale of our boat became a barrier we could not overcome and I could do little more than try to reassure the lady that I’d not let go of her. The casualty appeared to be aged in her 40’s and was wearing a shortie wetsuit and a buoyancy aid that had seen better days.
Good Samaritan collision
At about this time another boat appeared, a small trimaran equipped with an outboard motor. The skipper tried to bring his rather unmanoeuvrable craft alongside Dabblelyn but misjudged his approach and collided with us – not enough to do us any harm but the resultant movement caused the casualty to scream again in pain.
I was kneeling with my head and shoulders over the gunwale hanging on to the lady I now knew was called Trina, so I asked the trimaran skipper to broadcast a Mayday. I was very relieved when he told me that he’d already done so.
By this time I was becoming very stiff, suffering from cramp and increasingly worried that I might not be able to hold on to the casualty for much longer so I tried to pass a rope under her arms and around her shoulders. Unfortunately I couldn’t reach far enough to do so properly and had to compromise by passing my line through the shoulder strap of her buoyancy aid.
Meanwhile my wife drew my attention to the fact that we were drifting towards the seaward side of the harbour wall.
As this would have worsened the situation and not wanting to start the engine with a casualty in the water I asked my wife to drop our anchor. While this stopped our drift it also increased the relative movement of water past our boat and caused Trina’s injured legs to move. Her screams grew worse but I was unable to do much to help apart from talking to her and ensuring she did not ingest more water.
‘One leg was clearly broken. She was screaming, begging me to help her’
Despite my efforts and probably because Trina was also becoming tired she seemed to be having more difficulty keeping her head above water. Happily another rowing boat had appeared and
the youthful occupants started to recover the PWC. I shouted to them that the jet-ski was not a priority and asked the larger of the two lads, who seemed to be aged about 14, to board Dabblelyn and help me support Trina’s head above the water.
As he did so I heard the very welcome news that lifeboats from the independent Ryde Inshore Rescue service were approaching so I was able to reassure Trina that help was coming. When it did it was a large RIB accompanied by a smaller inflatable boat.
They closed up and asked my wife for an appraisal of the situation. When they heard of Trina’s injuries they quickly realised that this was no ordinary rescue.
One of the lifeboat men jumped into the water wearing a large lifejacket and was able to swim with Trina to the side of the smaller lifeboat. At this point our direct involvement in the rescue ceased but we stayed at anchor in case we could help further. The lifeboat crew decided to partially deflate the smaller boat in order to make it easier to pull Trina aboard. Unfortunately despite the relatively low lift now required the lifeboat crew were unable to recover Trina from the water.
By this time the coastguard, the police and an ambulance had arrived at the top of Ryde Harbour slipway. The crew of the larger lifeboat ferried out a paramedic but eventually it was decided not to attempt to lift the casualty out of the water so she was towed very slowly into shallow water and eventually put onto a stretcher at the end of the slipway.
I would guess that she had been in the water for about 45 minutes and was clearly suffering from shock and cold as well as her more obvious physical injuries. Despite this the coastguard later assured me during the debriefing that she was no longer in any danger.
The jet ski was quickly carried away by the tide but was eventually recovered onto Ryde beach.
Ryde Inshore Rescue
The independent lifeboat station, based on the Isle of Wight, survives solely on public generosity to fund annual running costs of around £40,000.
*Send us your boating experience story and if it’s published you’ll receive the original Dick Everitt-signed watercolour which is printed with the article. You’ll find PBO’s contact details on page 5.
‘Had Trina not been wearing a buoyancy jacket she would have drowned’
Ryde Harbour, Isle of Wight
The height of Dabblelyn’s freeboard made it difficult for Graham to lift the casualty
above Graham Deavin’s 18ft motor launch Dabblelyn in Portsmouth LeFT Ryde Inshore Rescue lifeboat crew