OFF the coast of Ilfracombe, Devon, two men were saved after their boat started sinking. The incident occurred on a recent sunny evening near Baggy Point, when a 32ft cruiser called Gazelle was struck by a large wave. The vessel, carrying Paul Hadfield from Swansea and his colleague, quickly began taking on water, prompting a swift response from the RNLI and coastguard.
Paul Hadfield, an experienced sailor with over 50 years of boating experience, had embarked on the journey from Swansea to Devon, driven by his love for pasties. Devon’s renowned pasties were the main attraction for Hadfield, who had bought nine of them to share with his colleagues back home. Speaking to reporters from Devon Live, he expressed his passion for these savory delights, stating, “It’s the pasties. You can’t get anything like them in Swansea. We’d been in Ilfracombe for the day, and I’d got nine pasties for colleagues back home.”
Hadfield recounted the harrowing experience when his boat encountered trouble. He explained, “It was a bit snotty as it is around Baggy, but we weren’t horsing it, just easing round to the quieter waters. Then a wave hit us, and there was pretty sick swell, so I think that is what did it – the wave popped out the saloon window and rushed in, and the volume of water already on the foredeck from the swell also swamped us, and suddenly we had water up to our knees in the saloon.”
Despite their best efforts to control the flooding by activating the bilge pumps and carefully maneuvering the boat toward Ilfracombe, they were unable to keep up with the inflow of water. Hadfield admitted, “I could see those nine pasties were already floating, and we knew that trying anything more was just going to cause personal risk to ourselves. It wasn’t worth trying anything more. I knew this wasn’t going to end well like it does in the movies.”
Upon receiving Hadfield’s distress call, the coastguard immediately dispatched lifeboat crews to locate and rescue the stranded sailors. Once found, Paul and his colleague were swiftly brought to safety, and efforts were made to tow the sinking Gazelle back to Ilfracombe Harbor. However, the boat succumbed to the relentless waves and sank shortly thereafter, with fragments of debris already recovered by the lifeboat team.
Stuart Carpenter, the Coxswain on duty during the rescue operation, praised the sailors for their quick thinking, stating, “The two men were absolutely right to call for help: they were in an extremely precarious situation with the boat taking on so much water so quickly. Our first priority is always to rescue people before vessels, and we are very pleased we were able to do that on this occasion. As we found out, the Gazelle had only minutes before sinking – if her crew had not been so cautious and called the coastguard when they did, they could have been in the water with their boat.”
The Gazelle, a former race cruiser built in 1972, held significant sentimental value for Hadfield and his family. He expressed his sadness over its loss, mentioning that the boat had undergone a complete refurbishment just before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Hadfield remains resilient and already has plans to return to Ilfracombe to satisfy his craving for Devon’s famous pasties.
The incident serves as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of the sea and the importance of safety precautions. The RNLI and coastguard’s timely response undoubtedly saved lives, and Paul Hadfield’s experience will forever serve as a testament to the perils faced by seafarers.