A kayaker who was rescued near Buckie has thanked a passerby who pulled him out of the water – saying the stranger “saved his life”.
The man had to be rescued from the sea off the coast of Portessie near the Moray town and was airlifted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness on Saturday.
Bertrand lives in Buckie and said his passion for the outdoors often drives him to go mountain hiking and kayaking. The Belgian photographer was kayaking on just such an occasion from Buckie to Findochty when his paddle broke.
Thankfully, he had brought a spare but it was located in the back hull rather than on top of the kayak net. This meant when he went to open the back hull and a wave caught him off guard, it flooded the hull and the kayak sank.
Meanwhile, lifeboat crews have also been praised for their fast response to the emergency.
Kayaker didn’t think he would make Buckie shore
The 48-year-old realised that recovering the kayak was a lost cause and instead decided to swim to the beach with the vessel. At that point, the beach was around 700m away but a series of strong currents transported him to the rocky side of the of beach.
This happened three times before Bertrand managed to reach some rocks close to the beach and hypothermia was setting in. By this point, he had no energy left as a strong circular current was pulling him away.
A passerby happened to see the kayaker struggling and jumped into the water to grab him. He was only a few metres from the beach but if he had not been pulled out, Bertrand was not sure he would have made it.
He said the young man who grabbed him “saved his life”.
Other bystanders who witnessed the rescue stepped in to help, dragging Bertrand onto the beach and covering him with blankets and other warm clothes.
It was then that he saw the Buckie RNLI Lifeboat arriving who was first on the scene followed by the coastguard ambulance who took over. Three coastguard teams from Buckie, Macduff and Portsoy also attended the scene.
Bertrand said he had swallowed quite a bit of water and had bad hypothermia. Once the coastguard helicopter arrived, they airlifted the Buckie kayaker to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. After he was warmed up and a few tests had been carried out, he was released from hospital.
The incident happened just after noon on Saturday afternoon and the teams involved in the rescue left the scene an hour later.
‘I want to say thank you’
Following his ordeal, Bertrand said: “I was released from hospital with some minor bruising to my body and a major one to my pride. Even though I wasn’t careless, I was well equipped and have some sea kayaking experience – I made a rookie mistake.”
Thanking all those involved after his rescue, the Buckie kayaker said: “I would like to thank all people who helped me out and ultimately saved my life.
“Especially the young man who jumped in the water to grab me. There was only few meters left but I couldn’t have made it by myself.
“Thank you as well to the RNLI crew and the medic Chris, the young lady and man from the Coastguard ambulance team, the coastguard chopper crews and all the staff of Raigmore Hospital in Inverness as they were amazing, kind and reassuring.”
Bertrand added that he would be going back into the water but he will definitely be assessing his safety protocol. He said it was a good reminder to himself but also others about the dangers that can be faced at sea.
The Buckie kayaker added: “The sea is majestic, wonderful and fun but can de deadly on a blink of an eye.”
Warning to kayakers in Moray Firth
The Buckie lifeboat crew has praised how prepared the kayaker was when setting out on his voyage.
They say the incident shows how quickly situations can change, while highlighting the dangers at this time of year.
Buckie lifeboat coxswain Davie Grant said: “This was an excellent example of rapid-response by our own crew and teamworking across the agencies.
“Despite recent storms, conditions at sea were fine for the kayaker’s planned trip. He was well equipped and was wearing a ‘dry-suit’, similar to those our own RNLI crew wear.
“That he became hypothermic after less than an hour in the water just confirms the combination of low air and water temperatures in the Moray Firth this time of year.”