David Lloyd and his wife Julie (one of our regular event swimmers) visited RNLI New Brighton Lifeboat Station recently to personally express their gratitude after RNLI volunteer crew rescued David and his upturned kayak from the River Mersey on 8 July 2018.
The Liscard couple met some of the RNLI lifeboat and shore crew who had been involved on the day and saw many of the team before the volunteers headed off on a Sunday morning training exercise.
David (55) said: 'I felt so annoyed with myself for disturbing the lifeboat crew and a bit embarrassed. Once they helped me out of the eddy, I was okay. The lads did their job perfectly and were quick to assure me that’s what they’re there for.’
RNLI Lifeboat Helm Jay Hennessey, who was on the crew that evening, said: ‘David was very calm throughout the rescue, which was great. The fact that he was wearing a lifejacket helped immensely and stopped him from sinking.
'It was brilliant to see him and Julie after the event and, of course, we’re all absolutely delighted that all turned out well.’
David had been providing safety cover for the a group of around 10 open-water swimmers including Julie, one of the Mersey Mermaids, who had departed West Derby Pool heading for Fort Perch Rock.
Around three miles along, David escorted a swimmer who wished to head to shore ahead of Fort Perch Rock. On rejoining the main group on the other side of Fort Perch Rock and finding out they were also heading in, David turned his kayak around. He said: ‘That’s when I got into a washing machine-type effect with a couple of boats going out in the Rock Channel and that tipped me out. That’s nothing in itself – you’re not a kayaker if you don’t end up in the water from time to time. But although I’d righted the kayak, I couldn’t get back in because I was knocked back by waves every time I tried.
‘I knew that as I had my lifejacket on I wasn’t going to go under, but once I’d been in the water for nearly 45 minutes, had swallowed water and, although the shore didn’t look far away, I couldn’t get to it. It was about a two-knot push at one point. I was kicking and kicking just to stay in the same place, so I was getting pretty tired when our shore cover called the lifeboat.’
Julie (59) added: ‘My biggest concern was that David had a quadruple heart bypass operation five years ago and it wasn’t good for him to get cold. But the lifeboat crew were brilliant and I really don’t know what we’ve would have done without them.’
David and Julie are thinking about the best waterproof options of calling for help that would be accessible in a capsize situation.
The pair had scuba dived for many years and David completed a couple of kayaking courses at Liverpool Watersports Centre when he took up the activity. Julie has her Level Three Open Water Safety certificate from the Royal Life Saving Society UK. She said: ‘We’re pretty safety conscious and never thought we’d need the lifeboat here. We really do. Especially with the strong tides of the Mersey around our New Brighton beach.’
David has a few words of advice to other kayakers who could be caught out: ‘Make sure you’re prepared with a lifejacket on.
'You’re just asking for trouble if you don’t wear a lifejacket. That’s top. It’s what kept me afloat. Be aware of your environment and what’s going on – we were on the turn tide, but around New Brighton especially, the currents are so strong.
‘You can be standing with both arms in the water and one arm will be pushed that way and one arm the other way – you’ve got to be so aware of where you are and do just a little research so you know what you’re going to be paddling into. In hindsight, after guiding the swimmer in I should have gone ashore myself, but that’s hindsight isn’t it?’
In gratitude to the RNLI New Brighton volunteers, Julie has now set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for the lifeboat station across four August swims she is undertaking, one in each weekend of the month. For more details or to donate, visit:https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/julie-lloyd13.
RNLI figures show that of 16 fatalities recorded between 2010 and 2013 involving kayaks or canoes, none of the casualties had been able to call for help themselves.
In the majority of capsizing cases, the paddler could not get back into the kayak and remained in the water for at least an hour, with most relying on someone else raising the alarm.