|View of Bradwell from the Tollesbury side of the Blackwater|
So on the Saturday we duly dragged Ben out of bed and hastened down to SYH just after 9am, in plenty of time to get into the Deben. Sam was a bit tired but wanted to walk down to the boat, so I insisted he wear a lifejacket as well as his climbing harness. Just as well I did. About 15 feet from the boat he dropped his walking stick, and as I turned to see what had happened he bent to pick it up...and kept on bending until he toppled gently into the marina.
Loads of people rushed to help, we triggered the lifejacket (which turned out to be one of only two manual ones that we have - I know the difference now) and floated him around to the stern of Kalessin, where we dropped the guardrails, attached the mainsheet to his harness, and hoisted him out, all within 10 minutes or so. We got him below, changed into dry clothes and he had two cups of hot sweet tea and seemed warm and very cheerful, but even so we felt it was best to stay put and see how he was, rather than hurtling off into the Deben. Ben and I decided to pop into Ipswich to get some bits that we needed, but fortunately stopped at the big Sainsbury's which is only 10 minutes away and got pretty much all we needed there.
When we got back Sam seemed a little bit dopey.... then gradually went paler and paler, his lips went blue and water came out of his nose. There was no way we could get him off the boat if he wasn't alert enough to help us, as the finger pontoon is too narrow for the wheelchair - he has to walk. So Ben called 999 and we spent the next 10 minutes trying to find the postcode for SYH so they could get to us. A normal ambulance with two paramedics turned up while Ben was still on the phone, swiftly followed by the HART (Hazardous Area Response Team) which included FOUR vehicles with SIX more crew, this time wearing snazzy green waterproof outfits and lifejackets. Sam got oxygen and a thorough check from the first two paramedics - until one of them had to get off the boat because he felt seasick (we were still tied up in the marina). Then Ben and I hoisted him into the cockpit with his normal harness and halyard, they transferred him to a "basket" stretcher (actually a large plastic tray) and all eight of them got him on to a wheelbarrow and into the first ambulance, and off to Ipswich hospital.
|Sam is wheeled off down the pontoon (under waterproof blue covers)|
|Transfer from the "basket" to the ambulance stretcher - took about 5 minutes of discussion on techniques|
|Three of the five vehicles|
The first paramedic was concerned about slight hypothermia and a bang on the head. Evidently Ipswich hospital didn't consider that a problem as he was stripped to a hospital gown, covered with a thin cotton blanket and left in a rather chilly curtain area for a couple of hours! His head got a pretty cursory inspection, and after various blood tests and other checks he was pronounced fine and sent home. We gave him something to eat and he was in bed and asleep before 9pm - bruised (as we discovered later) but not too badly affected. Ben & I were exhausted!
The major downside of all this was that at some point in the process Sam lost his Rolex Submariner, which I gave him for his 50th birthday. Ben swam for it and found no trace. On the advice of Jonathan Dyke we contacted Diveline in Ipswich and on Friday Jeff Errington, who is almost as old as Sam, spent part of the afternoon and a tankful of air looking for the Rolex - sadly with no positive result. We will continue to feel with toes, or dredge with garden rakes at low water....