Can you help today by making a donation to give Coastguard volunteers vital rescue gear this Spring?
You could provide rescue blankets, medical dressings or flares for our crews as they cope with the seasonal increase in marine emergencies.
Last Spring, Coastguard’s volunteer crews were called out a staggering 600 times! Before Labour Day we need to ensure that our volunteers have enough rescue gear to save lives at sea.
This is a dangerous season on the water, because the weather changes so quickly. And the sea is still really, really cold.
Each year, before the start of the ‘rescue season’, we need to raise funds for essential rescue gear.
Barry Grouby, pictured above, is one of our fantastic Coastguard volunteers. Seven years of volunteering for Coastguard have taught him to be ready for most things.
Barry had just sat down for his Saturday breakfast and was looking out onto a cold, windy morning when his pager went off. Three young men in kayaks were in trouble on nearby Lake Rotorua. Barry dropped everything and rushed to help.
“It was bloody cold, and there was a fair good chop on the lake,” recalled Barry.
As they paddled from Ngongotaha towards Mokoia Island, an icy gale hit the kayakers. The wind whipped the lake into large white-topped waves. It was far too choppy for the kayakers, and one of them suddenly capsized and fell into the freezing water. The shock of the cold water took his breath away and numbed his fingers; his body was so cold.
Our volunteers put on their rescue gear and launched their rescue vessel into the grey lake.
On board, the crew battled the gruelling conditions. Two-metre swells battered their boat. They had to drop their speed right down; tall waves threatened to capsize them too. The lake was heaving around them, and the wind howled in from the side.
In chilly water, being ‘rescue ready’ was vital. Thirty minutes in the water might have been enough to make the kayaker lose consciousness. In an hour, he could be gone.
But our volunteers were ready. When they reached him, Barry recalled, "the kayaker in the water was not in a good way.” He was suffering from hypothermia. His skin was pale and blue, his movements slow and laboured. It was touch and go.
With some difficulty, Barry and the crew lifted the man out of the water and into the rescue vessel. They kept his body flat at all times; as skilled lifesavers, they knew how to stop his body going into shock.
The crew laid the man onto the deck, wrapped him in woollen blankets and started warming him up.
When all the kayakers were safely on board, the rescue boat made its way as quickly as possible to shore. An ambulance was waiting, and Coastguard volunteers stretchered the survivors to safety. It had been a cold and frightening ordeal – but they’d made it.
“It easily could have been a different outcome. We could have been retrieving a body, for sure. One of the guys collapsed on the ramp, he was that cold,” said Barry.
“It was bad out there. People don’t realise how bad the lake can get. It can change quickly. You can run out of puff when the wind gets up.”
Coastguard volunteers like Barry are trained to be ‘ready for anything’ to rescue people in distress. They selflessly give their time, but need funds for vital rescue gear – bandages, thermal blankets and first aid gear.
To make a life-saving contribution to Coastguard this Spring please click here!