Sunk sailor: Beacon saved me

Last updated 10:58 22/04/2014
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Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter
RELIEF: Fisherman Brian Inns about to be rescued after his boat Calypso capsized. 

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A Renwick fisherman who trod chilly waters in the sea off Motueka for 90 minutes has told how his emergency personal locator beacon saved his life.

Brian Inns' boat Calypso was rolled over by a rogue wave last Wednesday afternoon as he returned from crab fishing.

As the boat capsized, the 42-year-old managed to get free from the wheelhouse and grab his personal beacon, which transmitted an emergency distress signal.

Inns told how he clung on to floating boat debris for 90 minutes and battled against tides pulling him out to sea.

"I was inside one of the buoys when the northerly swell tide rolled me over," Inns said.

"I was trapped in the wheelhouse. The boat rolled over two, maybe three times.

"My survival instinct kicked in - all I could think was ‘I have got to get out'."

Inns said waves were breaking on the boat but during a lull between breaks he had time to assess.

"You stop, think, and act as well as you can.

"When the boat stopped rolling and I got my bearings it was a case of get out. I grabbed my EPIRB and portable WHF radio and got out."

Inns said the tide pulled him away from the boat.

He set off the beacon and made a mayday call on the radio. "When I let off the beacon I knew it was only a matter of time [before I was found]."

Inns, who was not wearing a lifejacket, clung to debris from the boat as the tide dragged him further out to sea.

In water temperatures of about 12 degrees Celsius he was forced to take off his wet weather gear and gumboots, which were dragging him under.

"It was getting a bit chilly.

"When I heard the rescue helicopter coming it was a bit emotional."

Inns was picked up by the water taxi Venture and taken to port.

"When I got onto dry land I had a hot shower, warm clothes and said a lot of thank yous.

"I have the utmost respect for the rescue helicopter personnel and everyone involved in the rescue."

The experienced boatie of 25 years said he had learned a lesson and would be wearing a lifejacket in the future. And he urged all fishermen to have a registered personal beacon in the event of emergencies.

"Everyone should have an EPIRB. If I didn't have it I wouldn't be here today."

The Calypso was recovered and is being assessed in Motueka for damage.

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Inns said he didn't know if he would return to fishing.

"I am looking at my options. My partner wants me home fulltime." Fairfax NZ

- Nelson

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