A kayaker out on Tauranga Harbour at night and showing no light received the fright of his life when he was run over by a fishing boat.
Boatie Ron Pinkham ran over the kayaker in the dark as he was returning to the Sulphur Point boat ramp from a fishing trip up the Western Channel.
Boatie Ron Pinkham is urging all kayakers out at night to light up their boats for safety.
He was the last of about nine boats crossing over from the Western Channel at about 8.30pm.
“I was following another boat on the same heading, but a little out to his left so I could ride the smooth water in his wake about fifty metres off his stern,” says Ron.
“I felt the boat collide with an object and run up over something. I shut down the throttle and engaged neutral and turned hard to starboard pulling up fairly quickly.”
There was lots of yelling and one of the people onboard told Ron he thought they had run over someone.
In his floodlight Ron spotted a capsized yellow kayak about 15-20 metres off the starboard bow, with a person holding onto the upturned hull.
He idled over to offer help, when a second kayak appeared out of the dark.
“I was within two metres of the capsized kayak and spoke to the person in the water asking if he was hurt in any way, and had he been hit by the boat, or was it the kayak that was hit,” says Ron.
“His reply was he bailed just before impact. At this point a third kayak appeared, a double kayak, also yellow.”
The person in the water turned down Ron’s offer of help getting back on board his kayak.
“It was clear he had no idea how to re-enter his kayak so I directed the other two kayakers to right his kayak and get him out of the water,” says Ron.
Once the kayaker was back in his kayak they all began to paddle off into the dark.
He called them back and spoke again with the kayaker to ensure he had no injuries and his kayak was still seaworthy, says Ron.
“The other kayakers were calling out to him to hurry up and move on,” says Ron.
Ron offered to tow them all in but they declined and paddled off. They were out of sight in 20 metres.
Ron was travelling about 10 knots when he hit the kayak – about a 5 metre kayak length every second. At 20 metres he would have two seconds warning.
There were three people on Ron’s boat all facing forwards. He had briefed them earlier about keeping a sharp lookout for objects in the water, but none of them saw a kayak.
When he was back at the ramp he asked people on some of the other boats, and one person says she saw a kayak – as they went past it.
“Not one of the kayaks had any form of lights at all,” says Ron.
When Ron asked if they had any lights, one of the kayakers produced a small LED torch. He reported the incident to the volunteer coastguard and told them the three kayaks were heading to Ferguson Park.
Ron’s 16 foot boat was traveling about 10-15 knots, powered by a 150 horsepower outboard motor.
“I don’t want that experience ever again,” says Ron. “It should not have ever happened.”
An experienced kayaker himself, Ron says he used to hoist a kerosene lantern on a stick when kayaking at night. Today, a modern LED lamp on a stick for kayaks is $100.
The legal minimum night light for kayaks and rowboats boats under 7m is a hand held white light that must be able to be seen in time to avoid a collision.
Ron says while the sports shops have been selling fishing kayaks at increasing rates in recent years, they haven’t been selling kayak courses with the kayaks.
Canoe and Kayak in Tauranga offers two day kayak fishing courses that cost $395.