Beacon saves the day for fisherman

Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter was dispatched and a  nearby recreational boat was able to assist
Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter was dispatched and a nearby recreational boat was able to assist

Crab fisherman Brian Inns spent an hour treading water in the sea off Motueka after his boat, the Calypso, capsized.

The 47-year-old Renwick man was coming into Port Motueka in the 7-metre boat yesterday, when a big wave hit, said Search and Rescue incident controller senior Constable Gerry Tonkin.

That caused the crab pots on board to shift and the boat to capsize, he said.

Inns luckily managed to grab his personal locator beacon and a portable VHF handheld radio.

The national Rescue Co-ordination Centre tracked the beacon signal, which was first pinpointed off d'Urville Island but a second pass of the satellite more accurately honed in on his location off the Motueka River bar.

The rescue centre sent the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter to make an aerial search and the crew spotted the aluminium boat overturned and submerged in the water, then saw items floating about 100 metres off shore. Further out they found Inns, clinging to a chilly bin lid, nearly one kilometre off Port Motueka.

He had been treading water for an hour when he was picked up.

Greg Buckett, Talley's New Zealand seafood sales manager who is also a commercial skipper, said he got a radio call from one of their fishing vessels that had picked up the may-day call.

In a case of perfect timing, the water taxi Venture was ready to go out on a sea trial, so it went out to find Inns. A Talley's boat and two other vessels on the water also went. Buckett said a private boat reached Inns first, pulling him out of the water.

He was then transferred to the Venture which brought him ashore.

Inns had told him he was coming in across the bar when the boat got picked up by a big wave and his gear shifted, with the momentum turning the boat over.

Buckett said it was not the first time a vessel had struck problems there. "It's very hard to see where the channel is when there is a lot of surf, and the marker buoy is hard to see.

"I believe they are looking at digging this channel, and this instance reinforces that it's necessary to get a channel put through.

"Motueka is quite a big boating area, with Abel Tasman. I'm surprised there have not been more serious accidents. It would be nice to see something done out there."

Inns had capsized inside the bar but the tide washed him out. "If he had not been found it could have been a different story."

Inns was uninjured.

"He was good, he's a very lucky man," said Tonkin. "He was very happy to be on dry land."

He praised Inns for being well equipped with emergency equipment.

The Calypso sank but later in the afternoon washed up at the south end of Jackett Island, said Tonkin. The boat was still submerged this morning and was being salvaged.

Speaking last night from their Renwick home, Inns' partner, Helen Cook, said he was lucky to be alive. "I am in shock at the moment," she said. "I received a call from the skipper of the boat that found him to say Brian had been involved in an incident. When I spoke to Brian he said he was OK but I think he was probably in shock. Thankfully, he didn't suffer any injuries."

Cook said Inns did not require hospital treatment but he was looking forward to a hot shower.

"Brian is an excellent swimmer and he is very level headed when there is a drama. I will be thankful when he is home."

The Marlborough Express