A local nine-year-old who’d taken a Coastguard elective at school recently got an unexpected taste of the real thing last weekend when she was rescued from near Te Toto Gorge by one of the course organisers.

And there was plenty for her to talk about back in class at Te Uku School on Monday morning.
The girl was one of a party of four lucky to escape with only minor cuts and scrapes from clambering around rocks to the gorge after they had to swim for it when their boat was swamped by two rogue waves about 20 metres from shore late on Friday.

One of the first rescuers she saw after a night in a bivouac the four hastily built as darkness set in was Raglan Volunteer Coastguard’s Kevin Dreaver, who’d helped take the school course.
“She recognised me when I arrived … they were quite happy and quite warm, sheltered by a cliff from the southeast winds,” Kevin recalled this week.

He took her and two others, one by one, by Coastguard jetski out to the surf club’s waiting IRBs which in turn transferred them to the Harbour View rescue boat. The big Coastguard boat took the stranded trio back to Raglan wharf where they were checked over by waiting St John Ambulance officers.

The stranded boaties had earlier waved down a local fisherman who anchored up so the girl’s father, who didn’t want to be named, could swim out to his boat and get dropped at Manu Bay to raise the alarm.

Within 20 minutes a combined Coastguard, surf club and police rescue operation was underway and an hour later everyone was safe — none the worse for wear, say Raglan police, except for being very hungry 15 hours on from when their boat sank.

The local father and daughter with their mates from Ngaruawahia — Seth Taylor and his 10-year-old son Corban Radford — had only raw paua to eat during their ordeal.

They’d just put down a craypot in quite calm seas when their 14-foot aluminium dinghy was hit by the two waves in quick succession and sank within five to 10 seconds.

“They were all wearing lifejackets and did everything right,” said police. “And the kids were in good spirits.”

Both dads worked to turn the near-tragedy into an adventure for their children who were reportedly buzzing from the experience and couldn’t wait to get to school this week to tell their friends.

But any hope Mr Taylor had of salvaging his $6000 boat was dashed after he returned to Raglan early this week and saw it — in Raglan Coastguard president Wally Hawken’s words — “quite severely damaged on the rocks, a fait accompli really”.

Edith Symes