Ipswich: Extra padding kept sailor alive in bitter waters

A SAILOR who fell overboard today revealed how it was only his heavy build which saved him from the bitter chill of an East Anglian estuary.

Joseph Cohen says the Coastguard team who eventually came to his rescue told him the drama could have ended in tragedy were it not for his weight, which insulated him against the cold.

The incident took place in Walton Channel near Stone Point on July 1.

The 59-year-old spent 37 minutes clinging to his dinghy, his Mirage 28 sailboat, and a brand new outboard motor in waters cold enough to kill him.

Today he thanked the Royal National Life Boat Institution for saving his life.

“The coastguard said if it weren’t for my weight and strong build I would have died,” he said.

Mr Cohen fell into trouble when he was loading his brand new Mercury outboard motor from his boat, Free Spirit, into his dinghy.

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“As I lifted it off the back of the boat to hook it in the right place, another boat created wash going past and I fell into the water holding my new �1,500 motor.”

“It was 9pm, the winds were gale force, and I thought, ‘to hang on to my life I’ve got to let go of the outboard, then try and hang on to the boat’.

“So I tied myself up on the back end of the boat,” Mr Cohen said.

For what seamed like an eternity, Mr Cohen hung suspended in the 11C water, wearing nothing but shorts and a polo-fleece.

A vessel close by, manned by a friend unable to help, made a call for assistance to the Thames Coastguard, who had issued a high wind weather warning for the Suffolk coastline earlier that day.

“I’m 59, too old to swim in the water when it’s rough and so cold.

“I had one arm tied to the back of the boat, and a leg tied up to the dingy,” he said.

Mr Cohen was not wearing a lifejacket at the time.

But he believes if he was he may have sunk to the bottom with the outboard motor.

“Sometimes they (life jackets) get caught on things. I also lost a pair of glasses, new mobile phone, a blue tooth ear piece and of course the �1,500 engine – not bad for saving your life though,” he said.

The only injury sustained was a scratch to his left leg.

Have you been rescued from a life or death situation? Share you miracle story with us.

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