Naked fishermen forced to swim to safety

By Amy McGillivray -
Photo / File / Thinkstock
Photo / File / Thinkstock

Two naked fishermen had to make a desperate swim to Matakana Island after their kayak sank in Tauranga Harbour.

Daniel Penwarden, 21, and top volleyball player Edwin O'Dea, 23, were fishing from a kayak in the Tauranga Harbour channel about midnight on Tuesday when an open hatch started filling up with water. The kayak sank as the pair tried to tie up to a channel marker halfway between Ferguson Park and Matakana Island.

"We were in the water and all the rods and all the fish and all the burley were in the water. At that stage we weren't really worried about anything except sharks because it was a big pool of blood," Mr O'Dea said.

He had tried to use his phone to call for help but it wouldn't work, despite being in a waterproof case.

The men decided to strip off and swim for Matakana Island wearing only their lifejackets because there were no boats in sight and their heavy clothing was weighing them down.

"We just started swimming and swimming and swimming. I'm a pretty reasonable swimmer and Daniel is, too, but you never realise how hard it is until you're in the water and you're cold."

Once they made it to land, the duo, shivering from the cold, ran about 5km along the shoreline before spotting a catamaran anchored just offshore

"When we saw the yacht we knew there was someone on it," Mr O'Dea said.

Boatie Paul Donovan heard their cries for help and came to the rescue.

"These two half-drowned water rats came out. One of them was bordering on hypothermia," Mr Donovan said. "They just said, 'Can you help us? We're freezing'."

Mr Donovan had jumped in his dinghy and rowed to shore to collect them. The two had hopped aboard for the trip back to the boat only to find themselves in strife again.

Halfway to the boat water started pouring into the dinghy and Mr Donovan realised he had forgotten to put the bung in.

The two passengers stopped the water and put the bung back.

Back at the boat Mr Donovan cooked them a meal, warmed them up and gave them a lift back to Pilot Bay the next morning.

Mr Donovan said he had gone to Matakana Island on a whim that night. "I don't know why. I just got this urge to go over and anchor at Matakana. I was at Pilot Bay."

The ordeal was a reminder of the dangers of the sea, he said.

"Tauranga is Maori for safe harbour. Even though it's a safe harbour water is never safe."

Mr O'Dea agreed it was a lesson well learned.

"Without a lifejacket I wouldn't have a clue what would've happened because I struggled to get to shore with it on. We were pretty lucky but at the same time, once we'd fallen into the water, we kept pretty calm."

Even luckier still, a boatie spotted the kayak about 8km offshore on Wednesday morning and the harbourmaster agreed to help Mr O'Dea retrieve it.

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