Two kayakers winched to safety

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 11:40 03/01/2014
Kayakers found at Godley Head cliffs
Sumner Lifeboat

FOUND: The two kayakers were found below the Godley Head cliffs before dawn.

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A father and son were winched to safety after spending the night on the rocks beneath Godley Head.

Michael, 47, and stepson Ricky, 17, set off from Sumner late yesterday morning on a fishing trip. They paddled around to the head of Lyttelton Harbour where they spent a few hours fishing. 

Michael said the wind started to pick up so they decided to head back, but about halfway home the northwest winds got stronger and the men struggled to keep paddling.

After their boat capsized twice, they decided to pull into shore and take shelter.

On a rocky spot under Godley Head, the men found a ''small alcove'' to take shelter in. It kept them dry, and their wetsuits and life jackets kept them warm, but there was not much sleep last night for the pair. 

''The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks was pretty noisy,'' Michael said.

But he said it was not too scary. Michael said because they were not injured, he and Ricky were ''more worried about everybody else thinking the worst''.

With their cell phones left in the car in Sumner, and no radio or flares, the men could not alert anyone to their predicament. Michael's wife raised the alarm late last night after the two failed to return home.

Sumner Lifeboat coxswain Paul Lawson said two boats went out at 4am with spotlights to begin searching for the men.
The kayakers had not left any record of their intentions, but Lawson said the searchers were able to narrow down the search area based on currents and winds.

About 5am the two men were found under the Godley Head cliffs, near the lighthouse site.

Lawson said the two men were unable to move in either direction, so they were trapped on the rocks. When first light arrived, the crew planned to send a swimmer to collect the men, but this was called off due to treacherous sea conditions.

At 6.30am, the Westpac rescue helicopter arrived and winched the two men to safety. A Westpac spokesman said it was a challenging winch because of the cliffs and sea swells, but ''it's what we spend all our time training for''. 

Michael and Ricky were checked by a paramedic, then dropped off by chopper in Redcliffs where they were free to head home.

Although the pair have kayaked together before, they normally stick to bays. This was their first attempt at open sea kayaking, and Michael said it would likely be the last.

Although his wife knew where the two were headed, she did not know what time they were due back and had no means of contacting them. Michael said there were ''a few lessons to be learnt''.

Search and Rescue co-ordinator Logan Penrose said a lot of people in ''paddle crafts get caught out by offshore winds''. He reminded those heading out to sea to check the conditions for the next 24 to 48 hours.

''Look further ahead than you need to.''

While the men had life jackets, they could also have left record of their intentions, and taken some form of communication on board with them, Penrose said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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