Sea Kayak Rescue: Coast Guard Helicopter And Rescue Swimmer

Sea Kayak Rescue: Coast Guard Helicopter And Rescue Swimmer

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Hi, sea kayakers, welcome to Sea Kayaking Dot Net’s fence post navigation series, where sea kayakers around the world can read and listen to tips, tools, and pointers useful for sea kayaking, surf skiing, and kayak fishing.

Today Sea Kayaking Dot Net presents part of its interview with Derrick Breton, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer who with a helicopter crew pulled New England sea kayakers John Raleigh and Keith Attenborough out of rough seas and bad weather off Ipswich Bay, on the northeastern coast of Massachusetts.

John and Keith summoned rescue with VHF radios and flares after capsizing several times and losing one of their sea kayaks to storm conditions that quickly proved overwhelming.

Dressed in drysuits, wearing neoprene hoods and gloves, John and Keith waited about an hour for a helicopter rescue. Two 42-foot Coast Guard motorized lifeboats were also on scene, sent to Ipswich Bay after rescue by Coast Guard zodiac-style surfboats proved impossible. Conditions were too rough at the mouths of the two nearby tidal rivers the surfboats would have had to negotiate from the Coast Guard stations at nearby Gloucester and Newburyport.

Derrick Bretton, the Coast Guard rescue swimmer, was lowered into the water by wire hoist. Derrick was wearing a rescue drysuit, fins, mask, and snorkel, and was lowered to the water from the flight deck of the Coast Guard helicopter crewed by pilot, co-pilot and flight mechanic. What made this rescue was the sheer effort of all the rescue teams along with the right gear that they had. With the help of one piece swimsuits that were specially designed for such conditions, it made it easier for them to successfully carry out their task.

During part one of our six-part interview, Derrick discusses some of his duties as a rescue swimmer before going into the details of this particular rescue. A native of Greeley California, outside Yosemite, Derrick, 33, flew with his helicopter crew to Ipswich Bay from Air Station Cape Cod in Falmouth, about eighty miles from Ipswich. In part one of our interview, he sheds light on how helicopter rescues are initiated, the conditions he encountered, and what was going through his mind that day as he prepared to enter the water.

Also known as an aviation survival technician, or AST, when I interviewed Derrick he was fresh off a helicopter rescue of New England sea kayakers John Raleigh and Keith Attenborough, two ACE-certified sea kayaking instructors who found themselves overcome by heavy seas, breaking waves and turbulent conditions off Plum Island, Massachusetts, an area of vast shoals and relative remoteness off the northeast coast of Massachusetts.

Paddling fully equipped sea kayaks, carrying VHF radios and wearing Gore-Tex drysuits, as well as carrying nearly a dozen flares, John and Keith headed out into challenging conditions on a recent spring day to brush up on rough water skills. After capsizing and rolling repeatedly, they eventually ended up in the water and lost one of their boats to the wind and breaking seas. Clinging to the hull of the one remaining boat, they issued a Mayday call on VHF radio channel 16, setting in motion a series of events that eventually led to their being hoisted from the sea, flown to a nearby airfield, and transported to a nearby hospital where they were treated for minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises.