Close Encounters – Lessons Learned

Below is a quick story, provided by Bryan Pearson, who was paddling with his wife Kerri in the recent NSW SurfSki Championships event, the Superbanks Showdown, raced from Patonga to Ettalong.

Short version of the story is: we got hit by a juvenile whale that turned on its side just as it passed underneath us. Its pectoral fin was sticking out the water about a meter and just cleaned us up, knocking us clean out of the boat. Inspected the damage which looked (surprisingly) minimal, jumped back in and carried on. All good for about 7km’s. Then it became clear we were taking on water.

Couldn’t raise the support boats on channel 77, although I could hear their transmissions. Entry to Putty beach looked really hard based on where we were and our ability to turn the boat. Tried to make Box Head and get into the lee and calm to be able to jump on the phone.

Got blown/pushed wide of Box Head. Were still making forward movement but now in trouble, Kerri paddling in chest deep water, with the rear of the boat under water – still able to paddle though. Jumped on channel 16 and put out an all parties distress call. Picked up by Sydney Marine Rescue who managed to hear us enough to get a location (500m due east of Lion Island on a line between Box Head and Barrenjoey lighthouse) and get boats to us.

Without the radio we would have been in trouble. Plan B was to continue on to Lion Island and get close enough to swim if we needed to. Kerri was getting cold and that was a concern.

Massive thanks to Marine Rescue and everybody involved in the search. Absolute legends!! Apologies to all of those – especially Joe – who we put through all the trauma. My view: get yourselves a radio folks and learn how to use it. 100% Saved us yesterday. And/or an EPIRB.


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