It was 5am when John Potter left wife Pam to sleep, joining mates Buzz Kronfeld and Oison Frost for a half day fishing trip. All three experienced fishermen took every precaution to stay safe on John’s boat. With lifejackets on, a chilly bin full of catch, and a sense of accomplishment, they logged a final trip report with Coastguard before crossing the Manukau Bar on their way home.
“We’d crossed the bar for 20 odd years,” John recalls, “we always treated it with respect. Just 60 metres from our destination, it started to roughen up.”
Suddenly, John’s boat was on the back of a large wave, with a second wave of equal measure, rolling in behind.
“The two waves created a massive hole to our right and we just slid sideways into it.”
The boat rolled twice. Oison swam out of the cockpit and held on to the upturned bow. Buzz clung to a now empty chilly bin, but John was in trouble. He gashed his head as he was flushed out. His friends grabbed some rope from the anchor locker to secure to the hull, but they could see their Skipper was struggling. All three hung on to the rope for dear life as waves crashed around. For three hours they fought to stay together, but eventually John lost all sight of his mates.
John knew his only way to survive was to swim to shore. He couldn’t use his legs, but he was fit.
“I got on my back and paddled with my arms. Eventually I felt firm ground and crawled out, but I still wasn’t sure I would live.”
The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was tasked to help search and rescue efforts. The busiest day on record for the service, it was briefly diverted to save the life of a critical patient in Piha.
Miraculously, Oison and Buzz made it out as well. With the help of locals and emergency services, they found John. The rescue helicopter returned to help save John’s life. He would spend three weeks in hospital and six more weeks in bed, but he survived. Nothing could have prepared John for the day he needed Westpac Rescue’s help, but he learnt a very important lesson that day - to never go fishing again without saying goodbye to Pam!
Every year, crew of the Auckland & Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopters perform over a thousand rescues. The Hirepool Leigh Fishing Contest on March 17th 2018 is the fishing fundraiser dedicated to helping those dedicated to saving lives. $70,000 in cash and prizes are up for grabs including the chance to win a Surtees 495 Workmate and Honda Outboard Package. Visit leighfishingcontest.org.nz for full details.
Caption: Still keen fishermen, John Potter (left) and Buzz Kronfeld have a newfound appreciation of the Auckland & Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopter service.
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