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Hauraki Gulf rescue: Yachtsmen pull hypothermic fisherman from water after kayak flips

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Matt Brokenshire from Pied Piper Ratcatcher tends to the hypothemic man at the Milford Cruising Club until the ambulance arrives. Photo / Gavin Woodward

A hypothermic fisherman who flipped out of his kayak and was tangled in gear was lucky to be discovered by passing yachtsmen and plucked from the Hauraki Gulf.

The man had been in the water for an hour when he was pulled to safety by a group of men returning from a morning sail on Saturday.

Gavin Woodward was on his way back to Milford Marina in Auckland on his Pied Piper Ratcatcher when he was called to assist another Pied Piper in the rescue.

“We were on our way back and we saw another piedy Minstrel doing some circles around this kayak out from Castor Bay,” Woodward said.

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“There was a guy upside down in the water and tangled up in his kayak.”

Brad Brown and Dillon Browne on Minstrel were able to get to the upturned kayak by dinghy and pull the man up out of the water.

Crew on a Pied Piper called Minstrel were able to pull the man to safety after spotting him tangled in his upturned kayak in the Hauraki Gulf. Photo/ Gavin Woodward.
Crew on a Pied Piper called Minstrel were able to pull the man to safety after spotting him tangled in his upturned kayak in the Hauraki Gulf. Photo/ Gavin Woodward.

The crew on both boats then worked to get the man up onto Minstrel to take him to shore.

“We stripped him off and put him into the hypothermia blankets and called an ambulance,” Woodward said.

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“He had swallowed a lot of water. We could hear it in his voice.”

The man was finding it difficult to talk and communication was hard because his English was limited.

Woodward said the man was wearing a lifejacket and seemed well set up but must have flipped out of the kayak and then couldn’t get back in.

“It was a lumpy swell so I’m guessing he has probably just gone side-on and flipped out.”

“It doesn’t take much before you get tired and then get cold and start to panic.”

“Hypothermia kicks in and then you start drowning.”

The crew took the man to the Milford Cruising Club and got him warm until the ambulance arrived.

Hato Hone St John confirmed they “assessed, treated, and transported one patient in a serious condition to North Shore Hospital.”

This is the pied piper Ratcatcher that was kitted out with the correct hypothermic blankets and first aid kit for the rescue.
This is the pied piper Ratcatcher that was kitted out with the correct hypothermic blankets and first aid kit for the rescue.

Woodward downplayed the rescue and said the boats were in the right place at the right time – and had the right gear onboard.

“We had just done the last Coastal Classic so my boat Ratcatcher was all kitted out with the best first aid kit and all the hypothermia gear,” Woodward said.

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“I had also just done a first aid course for work so I felt pretty confident about doing CPR if I had to.”

Woodward was concerned at the amount of water the man had swallowed.

Sam Hume in front, Matt Brokenshire at back and Gavin Woodward right on Ratcatcher helped rescue the man tangled in his upturned dinghy and suffering from hypothermia.
Sam Hume in front, Matt Brokenshire at back and Gavin Woodward right on Ratcatcher helped rescue the man tangled in his upturned dinghy and suffering from hypothermia.

“Hypothermia was the main thing we were worried about but I also know there was a risk of delayed drowning so I know he needed an ambulance.”

Woodward said the incident cemented how important it was to have the right safety gear, first aid kits and communication equipment onboard.

“We were pretty prepared with all of the right stuff and there were enough of us there to help so it went really well.”

The men were also able to pull the man’s kayak onboard and left it at the Milford Cruising Club to collect when he recovers.

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