Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rescue

I was just in the middle of boiling the kettle for another cuppa tea, when Sunday morning's relative tranquility was interrupted by a big commotion, lots of screaming and shouting from what sounded like the other side of the river.

After wandering out on deck for a look, I saw a rowing boat upturned in the middle of the river with two very distressed people clinging on and shouting for help.

There was no sign of any safety boat, or anybody else for that matter.

This was nothing like the overturning event of the previous day.

No time for pictures, no time for shoes even.

I grabbed the rib keys, climbed off Lady Jane, ran to the rib, unchained it, turned on the battery isolator, lowered the engine, turned on the fuel, put in the kill chord, set the start lever, got the key in, pushed in the choke and eventually started the engine.

This all seemed to take forever, with the screams growing louder. The rib was out of sight of the people by the upturned boat, so they had no idea help was to hand.

A quick dash across the river, probably above the 6 knot speed limit, put me alongside them in no time.

I recall from my RYA powerboat training that I should leave the rib engine off and drift alongside people in the water, the execution of which I felt quite pleased with given the circumstances.

The two distressed people turned out to be young girls, who were looking somewhat less than their best by then.

What the RYA powerboat training did not cover was just how hard it is to pull a body out of the water, even a willing participant, and into the rib.

After getting the first lass aboard, their safety boat had come alongside me so I had help heaving the second girl on board.

The girls then both lay shivering on the rib's deck, looking distinctly blue and shocked. At about 7C (44 F), although not immediately life threatening, that water is pretty cold. I expect it was even colder for them once they were out of the water and in that wind.

The experience of being summarily dunked in the river, with no sign of imminent rescue, must have been pretty frightening for the two girls. They had no life jackets, or any sort of protective clothing.

There was not much that could be done, other than putting the two soggy girls back into their righted rowing boat and sending them on down the river to wherever they came from, with their safety boat in close attendance.

I'm guessing there were questions asked back in the clubhouse as to how the safety boat got separated from the girls, but it's not that unusual to see lone rowing boats on the river so I suppose their accident is somewhat of an unusual event.

Still, I find myself pleased the Peary, or some other similar sized vessel did not happen along at the time, as we were drifting right in the middle of the channel there.