Canoeists criticised after rescue

Twelve canoeists rescued after getting into difficulty off the Dorset coast have been criticised by the coastguard for having no way of raising the alarm.

Two RNLI lifeboats and two nearby boats rescued the 12 canoeists
Two RNLI lifeboats and two nearby boats rescued the 12 canoeists

The group, who were not injured, were "fortunate" to be spotted by a nearby diving boat after six of them capsized near Old Harry Rocks, Portland Coastguard said.

The alarm was raised by a boat called Skua, who sent an emergency message to the coastguard when it spotted the canoeists in danger yesterday.

It was joined by another nearby boat, Playtime, and two RNLI lifeboats which rescued nine of the group and escorted the remaining three back to Knoll Beach in Studland.

Ros Evans, Portland Coastguard watch manager, warned it was " imperative " that boaters had the experience and training to cope with the water before setting out.

"The 12 canoeists were out in difficult weather conditions, in easterly winds off Old Harry Rocks which has a notorious race and with the sea temperature still at winter levels," he said.

"They were dressed only in shorts and t-shirts. They were wearing buoyancy aids but appeared to have no other safety gear, no rescue equipment and most worryingly, no way of raising the alarm.

"They were fortunate that the Skua happened to be in the vicinity and was able to offer assistance, despite having divers in the water.

"We would recommend that all boaters wear a personal flotation device, appropriate to their sport, such as a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.

"It's imperative that the weather, sea conditions and tides are checked and that people ensure that they have the experience and training to be able to cope before setting out."

He added that it was essential to have a "way of calling for help" should the worst happen, including a VHF radio or marine distress flares or mini flares and a mobile phone as a back-up.