Woman relives her terrifying paddleboard ordeal in Sinclair's Bay for BBC programme
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The dramatic rescue of a woman caught on camera be lifeboat crews in Sinclair's Bay near Wick will feature in a BBC programme next week.
Sheena Thompson's ordeal last year is also in a Royal National Lifeboat Institution podcast called RNLI 200 Voices – episode 82, Cold and Alone, currently available online at rnli.org.
In the morning of August 2, 2022 Sheena was excited to try out her new paddleboard at Reiss beach and took to the waters of Sinclair's Bay with the intention of staying in for just a few minutes.
However, the winds were stronger than she anticipated and pushed her further and further out of the bay. She shouted to her husband who was on Reiss beach but, worryingly, he could not hear her cries for help. With no lifejacket or mobile phone, and too far out for her husband to hear her shouting for help, Sheena realised she was in deep trouble.
In an article featured in the online edition of the Caithness Courier on the day of the incident (August 2, 2022), a series of images were shared by the crew of a fishing vessel called FV Reaper that helped in the search for the missing woman. Sheena is seen desperately clinging onto her paddleboard and because she was so low to the level of the water, the extra height of the fishing vessel made it easier to locate her.
A spokesperson for Wick lifeboat said at the time: "Wick RNLI Lifeboat the Roy Barker II and Wick and Duncansby HM Coastguard search teams were paged today at 12.25pm to search for a missing paddleboarder that had taken to the sea at Reiss beach earlier in the morning."
Sheena's husband had quickly understood the gravity of the situation and alerted the emergency services. The lifeboat, upon arriving at the position given, started "an expanding square search". Meanwhile, it was joined by FV Reaper which had responded to the issued Pan Pan alert from Shetland Coastguard which was coordinating the incident.
The photos shared by the fishing vessel show Sheena fearfully holding onto her paddleboard as the Wick lifeboat locates and recovers her from the sea near Sinclair-Girnigoe Castle at Noss Head. The crew assessed her condition after which the lifeboat returned to Wick and the Sheena was reunited with her family.
HM Coastguard station officer James Farquhar commented that when his team of seven volunteers arrived on scene at Reiss Beach the casualty "could not be seen from shore as she had been carried out of sight". However, a direction given by her husband was passed to the RNLI.
In the podcast Sheena shares important guidance for staying safe on a paddleboard – things she says she wished she had known before heading out that day. RNLI personnel on board Roy Barker II captured headcam footage and this will also feature in the BBC documentary next week.
A Wick lifeboat spokesperson added: "The crew and fundraising team would also like to take this opportunity to thank Sheena for assisting in passing on the safety messages and wish her well."
Saving Lives at Sea is a current BBC documentary series following the men and women of the RNLI and has also featured a Thurso lifeboat rescue. The rescue of Sheena will be shown in the next episode on Thursday, November 16 on BBC2 at 8pm. It will be available on the BBC iPlayer afterwards.
The RNLI says about the programme: "Back for a seventh series, Saving Lives at Sea tells amazing stories of courage. In the new series, you'll hear from RNLI lifesavers as they describe incredible rescues, from sinking ships to tidal cut-offs, from paddleboarders in distress to people caught in rip currents, just seconds away from drowning. Saving Lives at Sea puts you right at the heart of the action."