Published: 00:00, 13 July 2015
A dad has told of the terrifying moment he and his family lost control of their dinghy and drifted out to sea.
The 33-year-old says he’d only owned the craft for two days before yesterday's drama off Leysdown.
The Whitstable Lifeboat was called in at 12.17pm to rescue the family, which is made up the man’s 32-year-old wife and children aged nine, seven and seven months. They found them about a mile from the shore.
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The Gillingham resident, who has asked not be named, said his intention was to “go back and forth” in the shallow water near the beach.
But things took a worrying turn when the engine failed and they started to drift.
“I then tried to use the oars,” he said. “But one of them broke and I just started to panic as we began to move out to sea.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the conditions began to change and the dad realised he had no other option than to call for help.
He added: “The funny thing is that when the oar snapped, I could have jumped out and pulled the dinghy towards shore because we were so close; it’s hard to explained but the panic just set in.
Video: Lifeboat crews rescue the family (courtesy of RNLI)
“It was meant to be a day of fun and it ended up a day of hell.”
The man, who owns a chalet nearby, contacted us after being criticised online for taking the children – especially the baby – out on the dinghy.
He said: “In hindsight, we definitely shouldn’t have done it, trust me the lesson has been learnt. But it was never our intention to go anymore than a matter of feet from the beach, events just took over.
"The father did exactly the right thing when things started to go wrong" - RNLI
"The kids were well wrapped up and we thought it would be OK, but it just shows how quickly things can get out of control.”
“Families all the time take a dinghy out and have a paddle with their children, we were just unfortunate.
“We like to pay special thanks to Dan and Ben of the RNLI who reassured our children and made them feel very safe and are now their heroes.”
He says he is likely to sell the dinghy now.
The RNLI said the father had done all the right things when things took a turn for the worse.
An RNLI spokesman said: ‘What happened to this family shows how easy it is to get caught out by the sea, even if like them you are close to shore in shallow water.
"The father did exactly the right thing when things started to go wrong. When the engine failed he had a back-up in the form of oars and when the offshore wind began blowing them away from land he made the decision to call for help quickly, having had the good sense to take a mobile phone with him in the first place.
"His actions enabled the RNLI lifeboat crew to reach his family quickly and safely before the situation escalated. We would urge everyone going on the water to take a working means of communication so they can raise the alarm if needed."