Pair left red-faced after rescue

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 07:52 13/02/2013
kayak
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

BACK TO SHORE: Nelson Harbourmaster, Dave Duncan, right and Nelson police officer Ray Clapp help Roger Pittman, left and a friend from the sea after Mr Pittman's boat was swamped while kayaking.

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A Nelson man suffered sunken spirits after his kayak capsized in Nelson Haven, potentially earning himself a $200 fine from Maritime New Zealand.

The kayaker was not wearing a lifejacket when he got into difficulty yesterday.

Constable Ray Clapp said the man was "lucky it didn't end another way".

Police and the harbourmaster were alerted to Roger Pittman's plight at 12.30pm, when they received a phone call from a witness in Atawhai, near Wakapuaka cemetery.

The witness could see a man was in the water after falling from his kayak. He did not appear to have a lifejacket on.

Harbour Master Dave Duncan reached Mr Pittman when he was just 200 metres from shore. He was being towed to shore by a companion in another kayak. Mr Pittman was submerged in the water but supported by his half-sunk kayak.

It was unclear how far out Mr Pittman was when his kayak took on water.

Mr Duncan and police helped the men out of the water."I don't think we need telling off, like little children," Mr Pittman said.

However, Mr Duncan told the men their lack of preparation had unnecessarily put themselves and their rescuers at risk.

"This is how people die," he said.

"I think it's just stupidity."

Mr Duncan said the benign-looking Haven experiencesd a 4 1/2 metre tidal drop each day, leaving parts of the estuary relatively deep and thus dangerous.

The harbourmaster's depth-sounder showed Mr Pittman was in 2.5 metres of water when reached by the rescue boat.

"There's no way he could stand up," Mr Duncan said.

Mr Duncan praised the efforts of a third kayaker who assisted Mr Pittman before the harbourmaster arrived.

"He set a great example."

The men were apologetic when they visited the harbourmaster after the fiasco, Mr Duncan said. They would complete a "man-overboard" form and send it to Maritime New Zealand, who would determine whether or not to issue each of them with a $200 fine for not wearing, nor storing onboard, lifejackets.

Mr Pittman's wife Judy also greeted her husband as he was helped ashore.

"Shut up, Roger," she said as he argued with Nelson Mail staff at the scene.

"We are fine, and we are sorry about all the agro," Mr Pittman said.

"I just thought, ‘I hope the Nelson Mail doesn't come here!'."

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