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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution - Saves Lives at Sea

CANOEIST RESCUED IN FORTH

18/09/2004

Kinghorn RNLI Lifeboat was called to the rescue of a canoeist who was clinging to his water filled canoe, in the main shipping channel of the Forth, at Braefoot Bay, near Inchcolm today (18/09/04).

The lifeboat was launched at 2.15pm to a report of a canoeist having capsized and who was unable to right himself in the fierce conditions. An RAF Boulmer Search and Rescue Helicopter which was already airborne in the area, was also diverted to the scene and was first arrive and managed to rescue the casualty, Stuart Gray (34) a Landscape Architect from Linlithgow, from the water. Stuart's companion, Alister Low (34) from Stirling, who was in another canoe was rescued by Kinghorn Lifeboat when it arrived at the scene around 2.30pm, Alister and both canoes were taken back to Kinghorn where Stuart had been set down by the helicopter.

Stuart spoke after his rescue saying: 'Alister and I planned a short trip from Silver Sands in Aberdour to Inchcolm and got caught out! We went to Braefoot Bay where we had a bite to eat and tried to cross the channel to Inchcolm, but the tide had changed direction and with the high winds the conditions suddenly became terrible, the water was very rough and was knocking us about. It seemed to change within 15 minutes. I was knocked out of my canoe and although I managed to get back in again, I was continually being knocked back into the water and the canoe was taking on water all the time. The waves were climbing to two metres and I was stuck and started to rapidly feel the cold.'

Alister added: 'We had prepared safety drills in which one could rescue the other, but the conditions really were just so bad, there was no way I could help Stuart, it was bad enough trying to keep myself in the canoe as the waves were pounding us from different directions. I had a phone and made my way back to the shelter of Inchcolm so I could call for help.'

Stuart continued: 'I had been in the water around half an hour and starting to turn blue, when I heard the helicopter arriving, I've never been so grateful in my life. These rescue crews of the Helicopter and lifeboats are just the bees knees. They dropped me off on the beach at Kinghorn lifeboat station, and told me I was bordering on hypothermia. The lifeboat brought Alister and both our canoes back to Kinghorn. I've learned so much today, it will be a while and a lot more training and experience before I go back out on the water again. I can't thank the crews enough for their help, thank God we have such professional rescue services!'

Mhairi Hay, a member of the lifeboat crew said: 'There was a 2-3 metre swell and a strong south westerly wind blowing, which made conditions difficult for the lifeboat heading into it. It is the roughest sea, I have personally had to steer through. It took us around 15 minutes to reach the scene which wasn't bad going, given the rough sea. Kinghorn Bay is so sheltered, you sometimes get a surprise at how rough the main channel can be, and I think the canoeists were caught out as well. Luckily there was a helicopter nearby who managed to lift Stuart from the water fairly quickly. Given the conditions, we rescued Alister and ferried both canoes back to Kinghorn. Both Guys are very sensible, but sea conditions can change so quickly and I think they were caught out. People sometimes forget just how cold, even the sheltered waters of the Forth can be with prolonged exposure."

The lifeboat crew and launch team consisted of Mhairi Hay, Mike McErlane, Dave Farns Joanne Wibberly and Evelyn Stoker.