Twist of fate | 

RNLI man astonished to find himself in Lanzarote restaurant owned by sailor he just rescued

Dave Curtis was stunned after chatting to the owner's wife who told him, 'You just saved my husband's life, but you should have left him there'
Dae Curtis and Maria Rayter

Dae Curtis and Maria Rayter

Gerry Hand

In an incredible twist of fate the Coxswain of a Coast Guard boat which rescued a British sailor off the Irish coast late last month jetted off on holidays the week after and ended up dining in a restaurant owned by the man whose life he had just saved.

Yachtsman Neil Payter (56) got into trouble on day one of the 3000 mile race between Plymouth in the UK and Rhode Island USA when freakishly high waves and gale force winds blew the electrical system on his ten metre yacht The Calebria. 8

Dave Curtis was the Coxswain that rode to his rescue and a week later he was stunned to walk into the Pelicano restaurant in Lanzarote, Spain and get chatting to the owner's wife who told him, 'You just saved my husband's life, but you should have left him there.'

On Saturday Neil said, 'She was joking, at least I think she was!

Neil Payter

Neil Payter

Recalling the dramatic events Neil said that although the race organisers were panicking when they lost track of him he was calm because he knew exactly where he was.

‘I knew I was off the coast of Ireland and was close to Rockall island, I wasn’t scared, being scared would have been useless but I was anxious. I can swim but Rockall was about thirty miles away and I can’t swim that far.

‘I’ve been through similar situations before in fact I think I am jinxed in this race as the last time I entered it a hurricane blew me off course.

‘The major problem I had was that I had little or no control over the yacht as both the sail and steering are electronically operated so that was a concern and the thing was made worse by the fact that although my electronic tracking beacon was displaying as working it actually wasn’t which meant I didn’t know nobody had a clue where I was.’

Neil repairing the yacht

Neil repairing the yacht

He certainly wouldn’t have starved though thanks to the foresight of his mother.

‘My mum, God bless her is in her eighties and still looking after me, she packed about three months worth of food and drink on board for a race that should have lasted fifteen days if everything worked out right.’

After being unable to locate him for 48 hours the organisers contacted the Coast Guard in Britain to launch a search operation.

A fixed wing aircraft was deployed by the British Coast Guard, which searched along the west coast.

The Caliberia was spotted approximately 40 miles west of Achill Head.

The Malin Head Coast Guard was contacted, and the Achill Island RNLI with Curtis on board was dispatched to assist the sailor and the racing yacht.

Even then it wasn’t all plain sailing for the stranded sailor.

Neil revealed, ‘They brought in the Sligo Coast Guard rescue helicopter to try and light up where I was and after a three hour search they reached me, that was about eleven o clock at night and we didn’t get back into port in Clare Island until five to nine the next morning.

‘It was strange that the Sligo unit was involved as my mothers family are called Snee and are from Sligo,’

Neil and Maria

Neil and Maria

When all the drama was unfolding thousands of miles away Neil’s wife Maria had no idea what was going on, she knew he had been lost track of but wasn’t aware he was in the process of being towed to safety.

She said, ‘Honestly I thought he was sleeping with the mermaids, it gave me a terrible scare.’

Incredibly despite his ordeal Neil has opted to repair his yacht and sail back home to Spain on Sunday.

‘For the last ten days I have been helped by the O'Malley's and O'Grady's here at Clare Island and am looking to sail home via Portsmouth.

‘I know Maria or my kids won’t want me to sail again but if it is left to me I will carry on racing what happened was just one of those things,’


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