HotRIBS - The online RIB Magazine
 
 
[ article ]
  # 016
Over And Out
by Mike Deacon. A RIBster tells us how NOT to drive your boat!
 

Darkness was not far away as I shot backwards and forwards across the bay, some years ago, revelling in the moderate seas which were slowly increasing as the light was fading. I don’t really know what caused it ... momentary inattention, probably over-enthusiasm and inexperience but I was aware in an instant of the extra large breaking wave in front of me, one that shouldn’t be taken at 70kph in a 5.5m RIB.

Flying through the air was really quite enjoyable for about 3-4 seconds before I hit the water and surfaced to see my upturned RIB about 12m away, disappearing in the trough of the 1.5m seas before rising high on the next crest. It seemed like ages, but

2 minutes is probably all it took to reach the upturned boat and to sit on the hull, clutching the outboard legs. The wind and tide were now taking me away from land and into an increasingly uncomfortable bay. Seas which were great fun had now turned

grey and extremely cold at 16.00 on a February afternoon. I stood on the hull for 15 minutes holding onto the outboards and waving my arms - but to no use.

"Right”, I thought, “Have to help yourself”.

I had flares, radio, thermal blanket, drink and chocolate with me - all strapped into the battery compartment!!

I fastened my crash helmet to the outboard leg, removed my buoyancy aid to dive under the boat and then ....

stopped.

“Hold on”, I thought, “ I’m warm, dry, conscious and ALIVE! If I dive under here the battery may come loose and fall on me, I might get snagged up on something under the hull, the flares might have fallen out and the 1-2m rise and fall of the boat might smack me on the head and all this in the darkness which I would find under the hull.

I climbed back onto a hull I could hardly see and thought, “My wife won’t raise the alarm for some time as tonight I’m due at the AGM of the local yacht club and I’m always late anyway!” My dry suit was keeping me warm, although my toes were cold and the Force 4-5 wind was taking me further offshore.

I couldn’t see the waves coming but I could hear them, even through my helmet. There was a subdued roar and I could see the effervescence 3m away as the crest tumbled towards and over me.

I was determined not to doze off, I started to sing and talk to myself, telling jokes and singing Beatles hits whilst sitting in the cold, being swept by seas and hanging on for dear life!

“What’s this”, I shouted out loud to myself at around 18.30. Navigation lights to seaward, only 100m away. I foolishly stood up to wave and shout. A few seconds later I was in the water, holding onto a lucky grab of the life line as successive waves rolled over me.

The lights were now only 20m away and I saw the figure of a man carefully walking forward and looking my way as his boat rose and fell to each breaking sea. It became clear that it would be foolhardy to bring the boats alongside in such heavy seas and it was pure ecstasy to see more navigation lights heading towards us at


speed. The police launch had picked up my rescuer’s call to the Coastguard and had found us both by radar.

Conclusion:

A waterproof radio is now strapped to me whenever I’m afloat and I also have a mini flare pack tied to my dry suit. The main flares are strapped to the ‘A’ frame and I am never at sea without my dry suit, which undoubtedly saved my life.

The lessons I have learned:

Adjust your speed to the conditions.
Keep an eye on the sea at all times.

The next awkward wave could have your name all over it.

Have the means of survival ON YOU - my boat would have blown away if it hadn’t turned over and I wouldn’t have written this!

~ Mike Deacon.