Quick-thinking sailors save struggling kayaker

Department of Defence

A quick, coordinated rescue effort by some of Navy’s finest had a distressed kayaker plucked from icy waters, preventing a potential disaster when they capsized in one of the busiest sections of Sydney Harbour during morning peak time.

Proving their ability to adapt quickly to any challenge, members of the Fleet Support Unit and Port Services East were carrying out routine maintenance of a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) on May 7 when they received an action call from HMAS Canberra.

Learning a member of the public had capsized on the Navy water’s line between Fleet Base East and Fort Denison, the maintenance crew sprang into action to assist the kayaker, who was struggling to right their small craft so it could be towed by another kayaker in the vicinity.

With the distressed paddler already in early stages of hypothermia and battling in one of the most congested morning ferry and shipping lanes in Sydney, the RHIB team prepared to get their feet wet and come to the rescue.

Lieutenant Nathan Rose, who oversaw the rescue, said with the cold immersion, limited clothing and significant fatigue taking its toll, it was lucky the incident occurred within arm’s reach of professional sailors.

“Navy is an incredibly variable job that provides a myriad of unique opportunities,” Lieutenant Rose said.

“Our members are constantly training, and this incident saw the team come together from the RHIB maintainers and crane operators to the boat crew in order to affect a successful rescue. This demonstrates that the training and team works.”

Also on hand was Seaman Riley Morton, from Port Services East, who said he was confident to see how quickly the skills learned at HMAS Cerberus came through in a crisis.

“You learn all these skills and knowledge at recruit school, but you don’t realise how valuable they are until you need them,” he said.

“The world-class training we received really stays with you and comes back in a crisis.

“We were able to adapt and come to the aid of someone in distress in a calm and professional manner. It’s given me a huge boost of confidence for when I deploy.”

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