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Otaki Surf Lifesaving Club IRB
Sunday February 8 1976 was a miserable day in Otaki.

A sou’ easterly gale was whipping the one and a half metre waves sideways and you could see white caps out to the horizon. Neale Ames and Napier McFedries were in the Ōtaki clubrooms instructing a group of nippers when a call came in for assistance. A man and boy had been trying out a new dinghy in the estuary at Ōtaki river, had lost their oars, and had drifted out through the river mouth into the raging sea.

They were not wearing life jackets and the boat was rapidly filling up with water as the waves crashed over the side.


McFedries and Ames responded in the club’s Jeep with the juniors on the back. They drove about 1500 metres south where McFedries took a rescue board and two rescue tubes and paddled out towards the sinking boat. He was just a few metres away when two fishermen in a small boat with an outboard motor swooped in and scooped the man and boy from the water just as the dinghy sank. They asked McFedries if he wanted assistance but misunderstood his reply and left him in the water to take the exhausted pair to shore where they were treated by a local doctor.

The rescuer's boat was swamped near the shore and the fishermen did not think they could launch off the beach and reach McFedries who was rapidly being swept north and further out to sea. Donald McFedries, one of the juniors on the jeep and who had a real interest in where his dad was going, was delegated to keep McFedries in view while the group quickly returned to the clubrooms to summon help. Meantime, other senior members had gathered at the clubrooms and were also keeping a close watch on proceedings from the patrol tower. Two boat owners were called out and Murray Scott, who had been elected Mayor of Ōtaki the night before, arrived first having broken down the door of the building where his boat was stored. Scott
launched his 17.5-foot offshore craft from the boat ramp 500 metres north of the club and guided by radio reports from the club lookout tower headed out to pick up McFedries.


Meantime McFedries had abandoned the rescue board because it was catching the wind but had retained the two rescue tubes to assist with floatation. He is a strong swimmer but despite his efforts, he made little progress towards the shore. He had been in the water almost an hour when he was pulled from the water about 1600 metres out to sea and 3500 metres from where he entered the water.


McFedries wife, Lyn, had been called upon to bring warm clothes and blankets to supplement what was at the clubrooms, but not informed her husband was the subject of the rescue. Everyone was impressed with her calm demeanour when she arrived at the beach where she found Napier being checked by the doctor.


A few days later the rescue board was found near the Hydrabad wreck on Waitarere beach prompting the quip that if McFedries had taken a cut lunch he would have been fine. In recognition of the danger involved, especially in rough conditions and when there was a strong offshore wind, the club investigated the purchase of an IRB and motor. The purchase was made at a cost of $4289 in October 1977.

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