Irish lobsterman saved from drowning by Regatta Fishermen trousers
Irish lobsterman, Jamie Fitzgerald (35), had a very lucky escape at the end of January. He was potting for lobsters near Cork in a choppy sea when his boat capsized and sank, throwing him and his companion into the sea.
Fortunately Jamie, an experienced skipper from Crosshaven, was wearing a pair of Regatta Fishermen oilskin trousers with buoyancy built-into the front and back bibs.
"As soon as I fell into the water," he recounted. "I could feel the buoyancy lift me up and hold me straight up and down, with my head high and clear of the water. I immediately felt secure and had no worries about my safety."
He was able to swim the 60 metres or so to shore and clamber onto the rocks. The cliff was too high to scale at that point, however, and he had to re-enter the water and swim around the outcrop to a place where it was easier to climb ashore and raise the alarm at a nearby house.
Although he wasn't wearing his Regatta jacket at the time, he found that the trousers, even on their own, were able to help retain his body heat and prevent him from feeling cold, in spite of a low water temperature of around 4oC. (The wearing of the jacket, however, is recommended by the manufacturer, as it increases heat conservation and reduces the risk of hypothermia, as well as helping to prevent the underclothes from becoming waterlogged.)
"When I got out of the water, I could see the steam rising from my wet clothing, but I didn't feel cold until I reached the safety of the house and sat down with a mug of tea," claimed Jamie.
The Carraig An Iasc, (C366P), a 20 foot, 1.6 ton fibre glass boat, with a small for'ard wheelhouse, was built in the early '80's. As it turned beam-on to the wind and waves, it quickly became swamped by a wave and capsized and sank in 6 metres, just off Fish Point on the south side of Ringabella Bay, west of Cork.
Tragically, Jamie's crew mate, Jerry Hegarty (35), who was wearing ordinary oilskins with no buoyancy, was lost and his body not found till a month later by the Crosshaven RNLI lifeboat and laid to rest.
Ironically, Jamie had received the Regatta Fishermen jacket and trousers as a birthday present from his sister, Aoife, almost two years previous, but hadn't started wearing them until about three months before the accident.
"Initially I thought they looked too bulky and cumbersome with the flotation foam in the bibs," admitted Jamie, "but when I eventually tried them on, I found them to be very comfortable. The foam panels in the front and back bibs actually helped to keep me warm and protect my ribs and back from the odd bump and knock. I've now got a set for my father, as they certainly saved my life and did everything they claimed to be able to do in the manufacturer's publicity."