Coast Guard Group Humboldt Bay units rescue kayaker off Trinidad Head

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. – A Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued a man from the rocks on the north side of Trinidad Head this morning, after his kayak overturned in the surf. (video below)

The man was kayaking with his wife when his boat overturned, and he could not right himself. He elected to separate from the kayak while submerged and swam towards the cliffs of Trinidad Head.

A Good samaritan had just pulled up to the beach parking lot to watch the waves and eat breakfast when he saw the kayak capsize. He immediately called 911 and the California Highway Patrol forwarded the call to the Coast Guard. As the Coast Guard prepared to deploy assets, the communications center at Group Humboldt Bay issued an urgent marine information broadcast on marine VHF radio channels.

Soon after the broadcast, the Trinidad Water Taxi launched from the Trinidad boat ramp and proceeded to the scene.

The Coast Guard dispatched a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Humboldt Bay and an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Humboldt Bay. The water taxi motored around the north end of Trinidad Head and spotted the gentleman’s wife and made contact with her. She was able to board the water taxi and then relay the position of her husband and his apparent condition to the Coast Guard.

“The Good samaritan on the beach and the Trinidad Water Taxi were key to the successful outcome of this case. Without a call from the beach, and without the help of the Trinidad Water Taxi, who kept an eye on the kayaker throughout the entire rescue, this could have ended differently,” said Lt. Adam Wolfe, the Dolphin helicopter co-pilot.

Once the helicopter arrived one scene, the crew contacted the water taxi on marine radio and was directed into position above the cliff. The helicopter entered a hover above the man and lowered their rescue swimmer down to a relatively flat area. The rescue swimmer made verbal contact with the gentleman, and the kayaker did not report any injuries.

“This was definitely not a standard case,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brendan Dent, the Dolphin helicopter rescue swimmer. “It wasn’t really a water rescue, and it wasn’t really a cliff rescue because of his position in the crevasse.”

Both men were then hoisted safely into the helicopter and transported to Arcata Airport where emergency medical services met the aircraft at the Coast Guard Air Station.

“The position of this kayaker was such that we had to hover pretty close to the cliff,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andre Blanchard, the Dolphin helicopter flight mechanic.

EMS evaluated the gentleman and released him at the Air Station.

“It shows you how dynamic and unforgiving the maritime environment can be on the Northern California coast. These folks were experienced kayakers that had all of the best safety gear, including life jackets, helmets and waterproof hand-held marine VHF radios,” said Lt. Todd Vorenkamp, a Coast Guard spokesman and pilot stationed at Air Station Humboldt Bay. “They had their names and phone numbers posted on their kayaks as well – something critical for not only search and rescue but for having your gear returned to you if you get separated from it. However, despite all of these precautions and experience, they were overcome by the conditions and ended up in distress.”

The Coast Guard reminds mariners that the maritime environment is extremely dangerous and mariners should keep an eye on weather and sea conditions at all times, know your personal limits, and ensure that you wear your life jacket and have safety gear in good condition whenever you venture out on the water.

“It was definitely a good way to start a 4th of July duty day,” said Lt. Michael Chocholak, the helicopter pilot.

Photos of the rescue can be viewed at the Coast Guard News Facebook page.

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