A man who survived more than six hours in the ocean off Port Stephens on Sunday night had hired a lifejacket just minutes before setting out in his kayak. Boaters were therefore reminded the importance of wearing lifejackets after this incidence.
Kogarah Bay warehouse assistant Fhelipe Davoodifar, 26, who owns the kayak which was swamped on his return trip offshore from Nelson Bay with a friend, said he always wore a lifejacket when boating.
'I usually kayak in Sydney Harbour but I’ve been ocean kayaking before,' Mr Davoodifar said.
'I always wear a lifejacket but on Sunday I forgot to bring it. I almost went out without one but there’s a little hire kiosk on the beach and I picked one up - $15 for three hours. It was the best $15 I’ve ever spent,' he said.
Mr Davoodifar and his friend set out at 12.30pm and were heading back in to shore about 3.30pm when the conditions changed and Mr Davoodifar’s kayak was swamped when the pair was well offshore.
His friend headed back to shore to get help.
'I stayed on the kayak for as long as I could – about three or four hours - then I saw the search boats so I started trying to swim to shore.
'Sharks were the last thing on my mind. I was screaming for help when I saw the boats but I was pretty calm for most of it. The water looked very nice at night.'
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) Boating Safety Officer (BSO) Paul Hearfield together with a NSW Police Officer were part of the water based search and rescue effort. The pair plucked Mr Davoodifar from the water and took him to shore aboard an RMS patrol boat.
'This man’s life was saved because he made the very sensible decision to wear his lifejacket,' BSO Hearfield said.
'We got the call about 5pm and the sun was going down so we were trying to get a lot of coverage in a short time.
'The conditions were getting worse and then the helicopter spotted him but we couldn’t locate him on the GPS points so we started doing grid searches.
'We just happened to come across him in water – he looked like a crab pot. It was lucky he lifted his arm out of the water.
'He was physically exhausted but otherwise uninjured. I don’t know what better reminder there could be to wear a lifejacket if you’re going to go boating,' BSO Hearfield said.
Life jackets are required to be worn by kayakers when they are in ocean waters and also when in enclosed waters more than 100 metres from shore.
All boaters should also log their trip by contacting a Marine Rescue base or telling a family or friend where they are going and when they plan to be back.