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Friday, 16 February, 2001, 15:24 GMT
Holidaymakers surf to safety
Oliver Vetter (far right) with his fellow passengers
Oliver Vetter (far right) with his fellow passengers
One of the British backpackers who was stuck on a stricken boat near Bali has told how he surfed to safety.

Oliver Vetter was one of four surfers who paddled to shore on their boards to seek help for the 12 other travellers on board the vessel.

The alarm had earlier been raised by a Scottish teenager who sent a text message from her mobile phone because the stranded boat had no radio communications.

But Mr Vetter has emerged unruffled from the "pretty intense situation" and plans to continue his travels with some of the new friends he made on the boat.

The crew just started praying and that worried us slightly

Oliver Vetter
"Six of us are going to get some surfing, which was the idea in the first place," he said.

"We just want to get some decent waves."

Mr Vetter told BBC Scotland that he first learned about the boat trip at the guest house where he was staying on a surfing trip to Bali.

He was asked if he wanted to join the others and make up the numbers on the journey to the island of Lombok.

They were within sight of the shore in rough waves when disaster struck on Wednesday.

"The two outboard motors were swamped by waves and they just shut down," he said.

Rebecca Fyfe still stranded at sea after SOS call on her mobile
Rebecca Fyfe first raised the alarm
"We weren't particularly worried at that point, we thought we would dry them out and get going again and possibly go back to Bali.

"The crew just started praying and that worried us slightly.

"We realised they had no radio and no form of communication with anyone."

The captain did have a mobile phone with him - but could not make outgoing calls because it had run out of credit.

That was when 19-year-old Rebecca Fyfe, from Ballantrae in Ayrshire, sent a mayday text message from her mobile phone to her boyfriend Nick Hodgson in England.

She asked him to phone the coastguard at Falmouth to let them know that they were in trouble.

Emergency services

The group's morale received a boost when the coastguard called back.

But they did not need the help of emergency services to get themselves back to dry land.

Mr Vetter told how he and three of the others decided to make a break for it after a night of rough waves and very little sleep on board the boat.

"We set up the sail again - which was just a tarpaulin with a couple of poles - but the current was taking us towards land.

"It was just lucky that we were coming closer and closer, and we were lucky that there was no reef, it was just beach."

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith returned to the boat
When the boat came within 200 metres of the shore they decided to drop anchor and the quartet used their surf boards to paddle ashore.

With no money or possessions other than their surf boards, they travelled by bus to a police station where they found that the officers knew of their plight.

Matthew Smith, one of those who made it ashore, returned to the boat several hours later to tell them that help was on its way.

But it turned out that this was not the case and he had to spend another night on board before the remaining travellers and the boat's crew made it to dry land under their own steam the following day.

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See also:

02 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Women dial for helicopter rescue
04 Sep 99 | Scotland
Coastguard mission crosses continent
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