A KAYAKER who was plucked out of the sea after his boat was struck by a freak wave in the Solent has thanked his brave rescuers.
Retired engineer George Finch, of Lee-on-the-Solent, was rescued after his kayak became swamped with water and it capsized near the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.
The 67-year-old was fortunately spotted in the water and the Queen’s Harbour Master then alerted boats to go to his rescue.
The SD Solent Racer, of marine services operator Serco, was the first to respond, and Mr Finch has praised the two-man crew who saved him from a potential disaster.
He said: ‘I was at Haslar Creek, down by Alverstoke and as I was coming past the jetty I could see the water was slightly churning up a bit.
‘Then this wave came back from inshore and flipped me over.
‘I tried to right the kayak three or four times but it was full of water and just too heavy.
‘My main concern was drifting towards the entrance of the harbour and beyond, and then these guys turned up and did a fantastic job.’
Boatmaster John Haines, of Gosport, and able seaman Trevor Goften, of Horndean, crewed the Solent Racer.
Mr Haines said Mr Finch was in the water for about eight minutes and would have been at risk of hypothermia if he had been left to fend for himself. Mr Haines said: ‘We saw he was in a little bit of difficulty so we went into “man overboard” drive.
‘We got him onto the tower-lift and took him ashore.
‘By the time we had him safely out of the water there was a helicopter overhead, another pilot vessel had come in as well, the police launch was overseeing and the Gosport ferry had also been diverted. It was a lot of assets to converge on this chap – he must have been there thinking “oh, what have I caused!”.’
Mr Haines said things could have been a lot worse, as ‘nobody wants to be stuck in the water at the entrance to the third busiest harbour in the country’.
‘Luckily for him the tide was coming in but if it was going out he might have been a different scenario,’ he said.
Mr Finch was taken to the dock at Haslar following the incident at midday last Tuesday.
He had a hot drink and shower there before being checked over by a paramedic.
Mr Finch, an experienced kayaker and cold water swimmer, said the mishap wouldn’t stop him enjoying what he loves.
‘The only injury was to my pride,’ he said.