A BURNHAM lifeboat crew sprung into action after a 72-year-old man was thrown into the water while rowing a dinghy out to his moored boat.
The volunteer crew of RNLI lifeboat Staines Whitfield were told of the incident after a passing Sea King helicopter en route to RNAS Yeovilton spotted the capsized dinghy a mile or two off the Brean coast in the Bristol Channel.
Experienced boatman Roger Ferrier was rowing out to his boat in the River Axe at Uphill, near Weston, last Friday (November 30) when he was plunged into the fast-flowing water as he reached for a mooring rope.
He soon found himself being quickly swept downstream, but managed to pull himself safely to shore after making a grab for a nearby ground line.
Upon sighting the overturned dinghy, the Sea King crew alerted the Swansea Coastguard, which in turn notified the Burnham volunteers, who were paged shortly before 11.30am to recover the craft.
It was eventually found 12 miles from the site of the incident and taken to the lifeboat station, where Roger arrived to collect it later that afternoon.
Roger, who lives in Bleadon, North Somerset, and is himself an RNLI member, said: “I was rowing out to my mooring and the water flow was very swift.
“I grabbed for the mooring line and the dinghy capsized, throwing me into the water.
“My lifejacket auto-inflated and I attempted to swim unsuccessfully against the water flow, but I grabbed for a landline and managed to crawl to the shore.”
Mike Lang, of the Burnham lifeboat, said: “Our discussion with Roger highlighted two valuable points, firstly the importance of wearing a suitable lifejacket.
“In this instance it was new, apparently only three months old, and by automatically inflating it probably saved his life.
“Second is the importance of notifying HM Coastguard control promptly in the case of an incident, which in this case avoided a time-wasting missing person search.”