An unknown adult male is lucky to be alive after being rescued from the choppy waters of Te Arai on January 7.
Drifting more than a kilometre from shore in stormy seas, the man owes his life to the astute hearing of a couple out fishing for the afternoon.
Long-time ‘local holidaymakers’ to Mangawhai, keen boaties, fisherpeople and members of the Mangawhai Boating & Fishing Club, Aucklanders Linda Hunt and Glenn Shakespeare were out ‘pounding the bar’ in their 5.1m boat JabbaJaws.
Linda, a First National Real Estate sales consultant, says they had decided to go fishing after spending the day paddleboarding with family at the estuary.
“It was around beer-and-wine-o’clock, around 4pm, although the boat has a strictly no alcohol rule of course,” she says. “Once we passed the bar, the sea was unexpectedly quite rough and the wind not as expected. We both wondered why on earth we had bothered… the fishing sucked and the wind blew!”
After having a laugh once they had admitted to each other they could have easily given the fishing a miss (if only they had clearly communicated) the couple decided to head back ‘for a cold bevvy or two!’
As they fought the rough, outgoing seas of Te Arai and Pacific Beach, Linda says she thought she heard a whistle, distant but distinct.
“It wasn’t like wind through your nylon on your fishing rods but more like that of a plastic whistle attached on some life jackets or that of the thumb and finger ‘sheepdog kind',” she says.
Glenn, a diesel technician, thought he also heard a sound and cut the motor. Scanning the waters for the source, Linda spotted a hand disappearing within the swell of the waves.
“Then we saw two arms appearing, flapping and waving around,” she says. “To our total amazement there really was somebody out there… in the middle of nowhere.”
Linda and Glenn made a quick approach and helped the exhausted man on board before reuniting him with family and friends who were waiting for him on the beach.
“We exchanged hugs, thank you’s and tears before he returned to his family, so happy to get him back to his loved ones.”
The man ended up in the water after a torpedo launch went wrong and he kayaked out to retrieve the instrument. Unfortunately, he capsized, lost sight of his kayak and was stranded alone to battle the rocky seas.
“We’d actually noticed a red torpedo in the water and had passed this guy on the way out but didn’t see or hear his desperate calls for help,” Linda says.
The man had entered the water around 4pm - the same time JabbaJaws had launched – and was rescued after 7pm.
“That’s three hours in rough water. Luckily he was wearing a red kayak life jacket and had managed to keep from drowning or being eaten by the many sharks in the area!”
As Linda and Glenn were the last boaties headed back that evening, there is little doubt that he is one fortunate man, suffering only from severe leg cramp and loss of his green kayak and red torpedo.
“But at the end of the day, he got the best gift of all for 2017 – his life!” Linda says. “It is a very special feeling knowing you saved someone’s life. What a lovely beginning to the New Year, something to reflect on.”
Turns out Linda and Glenn were meant to go fishing that day after all.