A FISHERMAN has spoken for the first time about his dramatic rescue after his kayak capsized half a mile of the Hartlepool coast.
The stricken fisherman was plucked to safety by Hartlepool RNLI volunteer crew after spending an hour in the water off Hartlepool’s Steetley Pier, as reported in the Mail on Thursday.
The man, who did not want to be identified, has since told the Mail that about 20 mackerel he had caught caught the eye of a hungry seal, which bumped his kayak, tipping him into the sea, before stealing the fish.
The man, who has since recovered, said the ordeal “scared me that much, I have packed in kayaking”.
“It must have been a one in a million chance of a seal leading to all this drama, said the man, who has only been kayaking for a year, but said he is now going to sell the vessel.
“It does go through your head that you are going to die – I was there an hour.”
He added: “I was fishing and went to phone the wife to tell her I was coming home. “I opened the dry hatch up on the kayak and had the phone in my hand, but a seal came from nowhere and grabbed my bag of fish at the side and pulled me over.
“My phone got wet so I couldn’t call for help.
“The seal went about 20 yards with the kayak, then disappeared.
“With the dry hatch being open, the kayak filled up with water straight away so I couldn’t get back on.”
He said he is a strong swimmer and has been out in worse weather, but with the strong wind and current he did not want to chance swimming back.
So the man, who was wearing a wetsuit, tread water until rescuers, who were called by off-duty Peterlee police officer Andy Holland, from Hart Station, who was in the water with his pet Labrador Fynn when he heard the man’s cries, reached him.
PC Holland’s wife, Sue, 52, was on the beach near Marine Drive when she spotted the kayak and “someone waving”.
RNLI volunteer crew member Ken Hay had jumped into the water to bring him aboard the inshore lifeboat with fellow crew Mark Barker and Darren Killick. The man, who was checked over by paramedics ashore but did not need hospital treatment, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who helped me.”
Mike Craddy, Hartlepool RNLI’s operations manager, said: “Hartlepool RNLI’s volunteer crew members train regularly for incidents like this and are pleased the man has recovered.”