Exe Estuary swimmer rescued by harbour patrol team

PUBLISHED: 17:03 02 September 2020

Graham Manchester (left) Grahame Forshaw (centre) and Nick Stone (right). Picture: Exeter City Council

Graham Manchester (left) Grahame Forshaw (centre) and Nick Stone (right). Picture: Exeter City Council


A chance passing of a buoy in the Exe Estuary on the ‘wrong’ side saved the life of a stranded swimmer.

The fortunate swimmer – who was suffering from the early stages of hypothermia – was plucked out of the Exe Estuary a mile from shore by Exeter City Council’s harbour patrol team on Wednesday (August 26).

The swimmer, who was clinging to the base of the navigational marker, would have been missed if the team had kept the buoy on the port (left-hand) side of the boat.

Instead, skipper and Harbourmaster Grahame Forshaw decided to pass with the buoy on starboard side – a decision which saved the swimmer’s life.

At the time of the rescue, the team were carrying out essential work on the navigational aids in the water just off Topsham, on board specialist mooring maintenance vessel, the Can-Doo.

Mr Forshaw said: “We quickly got the poor chap on board, put him in the wheelhouse and dried him off with a towel before putting some dry clothes on him.

“He was in a pretty poor state. The man was shivering uncontrollably, clearly shocked and fearful about almost losing his life.

“Once we had started to get some warmth into him he told us that he had parked his car over on the Starcross side of the estuary and because it was a fine day he decided to go for a swim.

“The distance from where he went into the water to where we spotted him is almost a mile.

“He had no chance of getting back to where he started and he was exhausted as well as starting to suffer the effects of hypothermia.

“If he hadn’t been spotted, he would very soon have started to lose the ability to swim, would have let go of the buoy and probably drowned.”

Mr Forshaw has since warned people not to get carried away and to respect the power of the tides.

He added: “Never go out alone or too far from the shore. It is well known that most people who sadly drown, do so within five metres of the shore.”

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