“You saved me! I’m alive because of you! My tears are not sign of disappointment they are tears of joy and happiness of just being alive.”
Those are the words of Chris Duff, a US kayaker who was saved at sea, 100 nautical miles southwest of Grindavík, by rescue workers from the rescue team Þorbjörn in Grindavík. The rescue mission on the rescue boat Oddi V. Gíslason took about 24 hours. An account of it can be found on the rescue team’s Facebook page.
Since 2011, Duff has been traveling from Scotland to Canada. He has set numerous world records in sailing, but last weekend, he ran into trouble in inclement weather close to the southwest coast of Iceland.
From the rescue. Photo: Björgunarsveitin Þorbjörn/Facebook.
Conditions were dreadful at sea, according to Otti Rafn Sigmarsson, who took part in the rescue. Waves were high and at this spot “currents meet from north and south, creating a sort of cauldron,” Otti described. Duff was in a home-made kayak, or a sort of rowing boat.
Saturday morning, he sent out a signal for help. His physical and mental condition was rapidly deteriorating. He was near exhaustion and the kayak was filling up with seawater. He managed to get a kite into the air in hopes the rescuers would spot it more easiliy than the kayak.
At last he heard a voice on the VHF channel: “Chris Duff, Chris Duff, this is the Grindavík rescue boat calling, can you hear me?” The connection was lost, but later, he heard, “Chris Duff, this is the Grindavík rescue boat, we see your kite and we are about 3.5 miles out and will be with you in 20 minutes.”
Duff was about to lose consciousness when he was pulled into the rescue boat.
He commented, “I have never witnessed such professionalism before. The crew received me with smiles, pleased to have me onboard.” Attempts were made to save the kayak, but after six hours of towing, the crew had to leave it behind.
Once on dry ground, Duff presented the crew with a large oar, as a sign of his gratitude.