Joint effort to rescue capsized kayakers

When the wind picked up, a metre swell on the lake tipped the couple from their kayak south of Mou Waho.

Coastguard Wānaka Lakes were put to task with an unusual rescue mission last weekend when two kayakers capsized on the lake on Saturday evening. 

President Jonathan Walmisley said the couple, both Hāwea residents in their 30s, had kayaked out to Mou Waho in fair weather at lunchtime on Saturday. On their return the weather deteriorated and, when the wind picked up, a metre swell on the lake tipped them from their kayak south of Mou Waho. 

Despite several attempts to get back in the kayak, it filled with water and they were unable to.

Fortunately, the kayakers were wearing life jackets and carrying a cellphone in a dry bag, which they used to contact the Police who activated the Coastguard at 5:20pm.

The couple were located at 6pm by a rescue helicopter dispatched from Queenstown, which hovered above them until the Coastguard and a local recreational boat - in the area and responding to a Coastguard channel 66 call for assistance - arrived on the scene. 

The couple were taken onboard the Coastguard vessel and the boatie returned to the marina with the kayak, where, upon arrival at 6:40pm, both kayakers were handed over to ambulance staff. The female was experiencing hypothermia after being in the water for an hour, but recovered and the couple were released back to their car in West Wānaka that evening. 

Walmisley said most Coastguard call-outs were for incidents with power boats or jet skis, and it was not usual for them to rescue people in the water.

“Fortunately, they had communications that worked and life jackets that worked,” he said. “They were in the water for an hour and the woman was hypothermic. It’s fortunate that we found her and that they are both well, and we hope they keep kayaking.”

Walmisley added that he was pleased with the rescue effort and his team. “We were at the site in 40 minutes, and back at the marina in 1 hour 20 minutes. That’s pretty damn good.”

Wānaka Police Prevention Sergeant Darren Cranfield said it was fortunate that the kayakers were well prepared, had checked the forecast and made plans with the local farmer, and the incident was “a good reminder that conditions can change, so always be prepared for the worst.”

Read edition 1014 of the Wānaka Sun here. 

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