A ‘Lucky’ escape for Keith and his canine companion

July 21st, 2021 7:10 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Keith Cookman and his dog Lucky with members of Castletownbere (from left to right) Marc O'Hare, Marney O'Donoghue, David O'Donovan, Keith Cookman, Kyle Cronin and Dean Hegarty, coxswain.

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ONE man and his dog had a ‘Lucky’ escape when they were rescued by Castletownbere RNLI after they spent the night marooned on Calf and Bull Rock off Dursey Island.

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

‘We went for a trip up Bull Rock but when it was time to leave my dearest dog 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.’

That was about 7pm on July 13th – unlucky for some – and Keith knew he had about two hours left in which to take action. With the tide coming in and 90-degree swells, Keith realised these were dangerous conditions for kayaking and that his boat could roll about in the waves.

He knew the right thing to do was to ‘get on land and wait it out’ so he headed for nearby Calf Island, which offered more shelter.

But Keith wasn’t out of danger yet because as he tried to clamber across the rocky terrain he sustained scratches to his knees and became separated from his boat.

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

In true Bear Grylls fashion, he took as much shelter on the rocky outcrop as he could and used his spray deck and kayak jacket to try and keep from expending too much energy by shivering.

Keith said his main concern that night was to be reunited with his dog and couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that if she had been marooned on the same rock as him they could have kept each other warm.

The keys of Keith’s car, his mobile phone, and other paraphernalia were lost to the sea and his boat has yet to resurface somewhere along the coastline.

But none of that matters in the greater scheme of things, according to Keith. He thanked the crew of the Dawn Hunter who alerted the coastguard shortly before 9am on Wednesday morning, and he also praised the RNLI volunteers.

The RNLI crew included Marc O'Hare, Marney O'Donoghue, David O'Donovan, Keith Cookman, Kyle Cronin and Dean Hegarty, coxswain.

‘They are a brilliant, happy bunch of lads who were more than willing to get me out of an embarrassing situation with utter professionalism,’ said Keith.

RNLI operations manager, Paul Stevens, confirmed this is not the first time that someone has been stranded on Calf Rock. In 1881, the top of the lighthouse was blown off and swept away in a violent storm, which resulted in six lighthouse keepers spending 12 days on the rock before they were rescued.

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