A fisherman has issued a simple but life-saving message to his fellow crewmen following his recent rescue after he fell overboard: “A lifejacket and PLB saved my life: wear them.”

It had started out as an ordinary working day for fisherman Paul Reed (pictured above, right), who got up, got dressed ready for a day out at sea and headed down to Plymouth harbour to meet skipper Gordon Cowie. They boarded the Sidney Rose and set off for a normal day’s fishing.

There was nothing to suggest it was about to become one of the scariest – and most fortunate – days of Paul’s life.

But the smallest of slips turned Paul’s ordinary day into an overboard ordeal that he only came through because of the smartest decision he has ever made: to grab his lifejacket – equipped with a personal locator beacon (PLB) – before going out on deck.

If he had not, he most likely would not be here to tell his tale and urge fellow fishermen to don a lifejacket and carry a PLB.

Paul’s overboard ordeal took only 67 minutes, but felt like a lifetime.

He says he tripped as he tried to reattach a loose connection, and was unable to prevent himself tumbling over the side and into the cold water.

He was only able to watch as the Sidney Rose sailed away from him, leaving him alone in the vastness of the Atlantic.

“I’ve been a fisherman for 38 years, and this is the first time I’ve gone overboard,” Paul said. “The lifejacket and PLB saved my life – it’s that simple.”

He is sharing his story to explain how easily a fisherman can end up overboard, and why a lifejacket with a PLB attached is the key bit of rescue kit.

Paul said: “We left Plymouth on Friday morning, at about half past eight in the morning, steaming towards the fishing grounds.

“I went out to secure a swinging block, because it was banging into the side of the boat.

“I grabbed my lifejacket and put it on – it’s part of Oceanic Drifter company policy, and they give us training for it – before I walked out onto the stern. I stepped over a pound board, tripped on a bit of loose netting, and fell over the side.

“I weren’t too happy, and I guess I shouted some choice words–itwasabitofashock.

“But as soon as my lifejacket inflated, I activated the PLB and thought: ‘Hurry up rescue.’ I knew it was working as soon as it started flashing, so I knew I’d get picked up at some point.

“It felt like a long time before the helicopter went over the top of me. It was a big relief to see them coming for me.

“I’m very glad it turned out well – you hear the stories and know it doesn’t always turn out this way.

“My message to other fishermen is simple: wear a lifejacket. I did, and it saved my life.

“They’re only small, they don’t get in the way when you’ve got them on, you get used to them, and if I didn’t have mine on, I wouldn’t be talking to you now.”

Ben Squire (pictured above, left), owner of the Sidney Rose as part of the fishing company Oceanic Drifter, said: “All my crew wear lifejackets.

“I take fishing safety very seriously, and I ask my crews to do the same. I’m hoping a success story like this can also serve as a serious reminder to others to wear one – I fear the outcome would have been devastating if Paul hadn’t put his on.

“The skipper rang me in a hell of a state – he had taken a short nap while they were steaming to the fishing grounds and woke up to find Paul missing.

“It was a very scary hour for us all. The Coastguard did an awesome job in responding immediately and then finding him so quickly – we’re very grateful.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here. (Image credit: MCA)

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