A “lucky” escape for Keith and his canine companion

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A man and his dog had a ‘lucky’ escape when they were rescued by Castletownbere RNLI after spending the night stranded on Calf and Bull Rock off Dursey Island.

Keith Cookman (50), originally from Tipperary but vacationing in Allihies, took out his kayak on Tuesday evening with his 13-year-old dog Lucky on board.

“We went on a trip to Bull Rock, but when it was time to leave my dearest dog, he decided it was too dangerous to join me on the boat,” Keith told the Southern Star. He said he tried to reason with her but gave up after 30 minutes because “dogs are good at saying no”.

It was around 7 p.m. on July 13 – unlucky for some – and Keith knew he had about two hours left to act. With the tide coming in and the swell at 90 degrees, Keith realized that these conditions were dangerous for the kayak and that his boat could roll in the waves.

He knew the right thing to do was “get ashore and wait,” so he headed to the nearby island of Calf, which offered more shelter.

But Keith was not yet out of danger because while trying to climb over the rocky terrain, he grazed his knees and parted from his boat.

The kayaker, who was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, got soaked as he climbed onto the rock, so he used what he had to maintain his body temperature during the long, cold night.

Much like Bear Grylls, he took shelter as much as he could on the rock outcrop and used his spray deck and kayak jacket to try not to expend too much energy while shivering.

Keith said his main concern that night was finding his dog and he couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that if she had been stranded on the same rock as him they could have warmed up .

Keith’s car keys, cell phone and other accessories have been lost in the sea and his boat has yet to resurface somewhere along the coast.

But none of that matters in the grand scheme of things, according to Keith. He thanked the crew of the Dawn Hunter who alerted the Coast Guard shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, and he also congratulated the RNLI volunteers.

“This is a bright, happy bunch of guys who were more than willing to pull me out of an embarrassing situation with absolute professionalism,” he said.

RNLI Director of Operations Paul Stevens has confirmed that this is not the first time someone has been stranded in Calf Rock. In 1881, the top of the lighthouse was washed away and swept away by a severe storm, forcing six lighthouse keepers to spend 12 days on the rock before being rescued.


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