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Shipwrecked fisherman forced to swim for 45 minutes after boat hit rocks and sank off Jersey's coast

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A SHIPWRECKED fisherman was forced to swim for 45 minutes and nearly succumbed to hypothermia after his vessel hit rocks an sank earlier this year, according to a marine incident report.

The Blue Pearl fishing boat on the day of the incident, passing the Island Voyager Picture: Ports of Jersey (23232947)

At 10.30 am on 30 July, a man in his mid-20s left La Collette Marina on his 6.25-metre open fishing boat, called Blue Pearl, to haul and reset his lobster pots.

He then made his way to the first pot, near Demie de Pas, heading east towards La Rocque.

After picking up his final string of pots, the skipper turned to the south-west and began dealing with the lobsters that he had caught.

But minutes later the vessel struck a submerged rock about two-and-a-half miles from La Rocque and began listing heavily to its port side, before taking on water and capsizing.

The fisherman managed to scramble onto, and stand on, the upturned hull of his boat to attract attention, waving his waterproof trousers in the air.

With no other vessels in sight, he then swam into the air pocket of the upturned boat in an attempt to retrieve his VHF radio and life jacket, but soon found that the air beneath the vessel had become contaminated with petrol fumes.

Noticing the vessel had begun to sink under the weight of its 100-horsepower engine, he swam to the nearby Taxe Rock. However, this quickly became submerged under the rising tide.

He then stripped down to his underwear and tried to reach the nearest dry rocks around 900 metres away, according to the investigation.

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The report said: ‘He swam for 45 minutes and landed on some rocks about 20 metres from his intended target. He had become exhausted and cold and – barely able to stand up – subsequently missed flagging down the first passing boat. He was soon spotted by a commercial RIB, Intrepid Voyager, which went to rescue him.

‘The skipper of the RIB described the casualty as looking tired and showing initial signs of hypothermia, shaking and shivering, with slurred speech.

‘He was provided with dry clothes, water and had something to eat, and by the time the RIB arrived back in St Helier he was looking considerably better.’

He was taken to hospital by paramedics but was discharged a few hours later.

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The incident happened on the same day that a man was seriously injured on Island Voyager – a RIB operated by the same firm that owns Intrepid Voyager.

The two vessels were caught on CCTV passing each other in the entrance to the Harbour.

According to Ports of Jersey, which compiled the report, if the lobster fisherman had not been picked up when he was, it would have been ‘very likely’ that he would have succumbed to hypothermia.

The organisation recommended that single-handed fishermen should wear ‘suitable’ lifejackets and personal locator beacons, so that they could be found in the event of an emergency.

Ports of Jersey praised the skipper of the Intrepid Voyager, saying that his actions had prevented the incident having ‘more serious consequences’.

The sunken vessel has been deemed a total loss and left at sea as it does not present a hazard to navigation for other watercraft.

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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