After the event Graham tried to identify lessons to be learned. Here’s his ‘non-exhaustive’ list:
Maintain a good lookout Always investigate anything that looks abnormal: without the fisherman’s warning I think Trina might have drowned. Alone and in a small rowing boat he could have done little to help and could easily have ended up in the water himself had he allowed the frightened casualty to grab his gunwale.
Know how to make the call Make sure everyone on board your boat can make a Mayday call and use GPS to accurately locate your boat’s position. I’d not done so adequately so my wife was unable to perform either of these tasks. I could have done both but only at the risk of losing contact with Trina. It was fortunate someone else was able to do it for me.
Safety gear Had Trina not been wearing a buoyancy jacket she would certainly have drowned. Buoyancy aids, and better still lifejackets, should always incorporate a harness with a strong attachment point. Had Trina’s had one I could have looped a line through it and attached her more securely to my boat. Think beforehand how you might get a casualty out of the water and into your boat. Remember that casualties may not be able to help themselves.
I thought that I’d done so and had a boarding ladder on board as well as permanent footholds bolted to my transom. In the event, neither were of any help with a severely-injured casualty.
Hindsight In retrospect I should have towed Trina very slowly back to the slipway and walked her ashore exactly as the lifeboat eventually did. Had I done so she could have been out of the water much more quickly. In the heat of the crisis this solution did not occur to me.
It was very fortunate that the water was relatively warm and the sea was like a millpond. Had it been early or late in the season or the sea even normally choppy the outcome could have been tragic.