A yachtsman had a lucky escape yesterday when his vessel capsized and he was trapped upside down in the water when his foot caught in a ladder as he tried to get back on board.
The incident occurred in the out harbour at Ilfracombe and fortunately, the town’s RNLI crew were already out on a training exercise.
Matt Simpson, volunteer helmsman, said two men, a man and his nephew, had been returning to their yacht aboard an engine driven dinghy, when the engine of the small vessel stopped working.
They continued towards the yacht by rowing, but the huge swell of the sea and strength of the tide meant that they were making little headway.
Another boat, also engine driven, came to their aid, towing them to the yacht, anchored in the outer harbour.
On reaching the yacht, the younger of the two men climbed aboard but before his uncle, the second man, could get to the boat, the dinghy was caught in the swell and capsized, tipping him out into the very choppy water.
He managed to get hold of the ladder, but as he went to climb aboard the wild pitch of the yacht in the waves caused him to slip, catching his foot in the ladder and causing his body to be upside down in the sea.
“Luckily, as we had just finished our exercise, we were ideally placed when the mayday call came over the radio, meaning we could launch almost immediately, saving three or four minutes,” said Mr Simpson.
“When we arrived with the yacht, the gentleman was caught upside down in the water, and was being battered by the heavy swell.
“Those few minutes almost certainly were the reason that he did not suffer serious injury or even worse.”
Once the crew had managed to get the casualty into the inshore lifeboat, they quickly brought him to the lifeboat station and the waiting ambulance.
Leaving him in the care of the paramedics, they then re-launched, taking their inflatable boat to recover the dinghy which was being battered by the rocks.
“Although no lives were still at risk, we made the decision to recover the dinghy and return it to the yacht,” said Mr Simpson.
“If we had left it where it was, we would run the risk of a member of the public getting into trouble attempting to recover it themselves.
“We also would have had members of the public calling the coastguard to alert them to the dinghy, and would likely have had to launch later in the day to recover it.
“It therefore made more sense to recover it while we were already at sea.”