Lucky by name and lucky by nature – that was the opinion of seafarers in Castletownbere, Co Cork, on Wednesday morning when a lone kayaker and his eponymous dog were rescued by the local RNLI lifeboat after they spent the night on separate rocks off the west Cork coast.
The 50-year-old kayaker had landed with his spaniel, Lucky, on the Bull Rock, west of Dursey Island, on Tuesday evening. When he went to leave the rock, however, Lucky would not come with him so he paddled to the more sheltered Calf Rock where he intended to stay the night before returning to the Bull.
However, the kayaker became separated from his kayak and was stranded on the Calf overnight. He was spotted on Wednesday morning by a local fishing boat, the Dawn Hunter, which raised the alarm and contacted the Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue Co-ordination Centre on Valentia Island.
Valentia tasked the Castletownbere RNLI all-weather boat, Annette Hutton, to rescue the man and within minutes coxswain Dean Hegarty and crewmates Marney O'Donoghue, Kyle Cronin, Mark O'Hare and David O'Donovan were speeding to the scene.
According to RNLI lifeboat operations manager, Paul Stevens, the lifeboat located the stranded man on the Calf Rock at about 9.40am and immediately launched a dinghy to retrieve him from the rock which, together with the Cow Rock, lies between Dursey and the Bull Rock.
“Coxswain Hegarty complimented the crew as landing at the Calf Rock required considerable skill as there was a two-three metre run of tide. The kayaker was found to be safe and well and none the worse for spending the night on the Calf,” said Mr Stevens.
“The RNLI Annette Hutton then proceeded west to the Bull Rock and again launched its dinghy or Y-boat in similar sea conditions to retrieve the man’s dog, and both man and dog were reunited on board the lifeboat – much to everyone’s relief and joy.”
Speaking after the RNLI Annette Hutton returned to port with both the kayaker and his dog, Castletownbere RNLI deputy launching authority, Felix O’Donoghue, said the rescue highlighted the need for anyone heading to sea to use a VHF radio to make contact in the event of an emergency.
“Luckily, other than being cold last night, neither the kayaker or his dog suffered any ill-effects from being stranded on two separate rocks overnight,” said Mr O’Donoghue who paid tribute to the crew of the RNLI for their speedy response and successful rescue of the kayaker and his dog.
Mr Stevens recalled that the kayaker, who is understood to have been visiting the area, was not the first person to be stranded on the Calf Rock which can be subject to driving winds and heavy seas when the weather turns bad.
“In 1881 when the top of the lighthouse was blown off and swept away in a violent storm, six lighthouse keepers spent 12 days on the rock prior to being rescued. Modern lifeboats, dedicated volunteer crew and good weather meant that this kayaker only spent one night there,” he said.