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Conoeist tells of terror in the bay


By Graham Crawford

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Canoiest Nick Smith, who was left in shock after his ordeal with a jet-skier
Canoiest Nick Smith, who was left in shock after his ordeal with a jet-skier

Canoiest Nick Smith, who was left in shock after his ordeal with a jet-skier

A CANOEIST has told of his terror as his kayak was deliberately overturned by a jet-skier hundreds of yards out to sea in Gamrie Bay.

"He was determined to capsize me. I have never been so frightened in my life," said 64-year-old Nick Smith, from Gardenstown.

"Six times he came at me before my kayak was finally flung up in the air and I ended up upside-down in the water.

"It was the most terrifying two minutes of my life. Not knowing when the attack was going to end, and the fact that there were no witnesses around, made me feel even more vulnerable.

"Because of the amount of wash, it took me two attempts to roll back upright."

Mr Smith said that what had begun as a tranquil paddle on a sunny day turned in a moment to horror.

Now he wants to see jet-skiers banned from the beauty spot, and has reported the incident to the police.

"I was in shock for days after," he told ‘The Banffshire Journal’. "I couldn’t think of anything else.

"The jet skier came straight to me at possibly 50mph before turning 90 degrees within five to 10 metres of my kayak. He was clearly trying to create a wall of water to tip me over. He was determined.

"When I rolled back out of the water after capsizing, he actually asked me if I was all right. I just waved a finger and said no, meaning ‘no more’.

"I only took up kayaking 18 months ago, and I am so grateful for the training I received from instructors at Banff-based Deveron Paddlers."

Former oil rig worker Mr Smith, who moved to Gardenstown from Grimsby five years ago, said: "As a young deep-sea fisherman, I survived a hurricane which claimed the lives of dozens of fishermen off Iceland in 1968. I was frightened then, but this was even more terrifying."

Mr Smith reported the jet-skier, one of a small group of young men sharing the same machine, to Gardenstown harbourmaster Michael Watt shortly after the incident last Saturday afternoon. Within an hour, the jet-skier phoned to apologise.

"I asked him why he did it," said Mr Smith. "He said, ‘I’m sorry, I was just being an arse’.

"What he did was incredibly dangerous. He could have misjudged his steering at high-speed, or I could have drowned or had a heart attack.

"But we all do daft things when we are young, and I’d be happier now if the police didn’t charge him.

"That said, I now feel strongly that jet-skis don’t belong in Gamrie Bay. I want to see them banned. I don’t believe tourists come here from all over the world to have the beauty and silence of the area disturbed by them.

"There have also been incidents on the Moray Coast of jet-skiers harassing dolphins, and they can’t be good for birdlife either."

Mr Watt told ‘The Banffshire Journal’: "I was disappointed to hear about this incident.

"We try to accommodate everyone who uses the harbour. Jet-skiers use it regularly and pay their fees, and they are warned about behaving appropriately.

"We also encourage them to stay away from east of the village, where dolphins and other wildlife are more likely.

"This incident will be discussed at the next meeting of the harbour board, which has the power to decide whether or not to stop letting jet-skiers use the harbour."

A spokeswoman for Grampian Police said: "We are aware of this alleged incident and our investigations are continuing."

* What are your views on jet-skis? Should they be banned from parts of our coastline, or do you feel they have as much right to enjoy it as anyone else? Write to Letters, ‘The Banffshire Journal’, 22 Old Market Place, Banff AB45 1GE, or e-mail editor@banffshire-journal.co.uk



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