A KAYAKER called Steve McQueen had a great escape after he capsized on Loch Ness and was paralysed by the freezing water.
Steve became hypothermic so quickly he could not move his arms and legs to swim to shore just 15 metres away.
Despite being “hammered” by waves, he managed to cling to his upturned kayak for 20 minutes – long enough for a RNLI team to get to the scene and haul him to safety.
The kayaker from Edinburgh joked about getting back into his boat seconds after being rescued but the lifeboat crew said he was “lucky” to survive.
Had Steve, who was wearing a wetsuit and flotation device, been in the water very much longer he might have lost his grip on the kayak and succumbed to the cold.
Loch Ness is so deep the temperature of the water a foot or more below the surface hardly ever rises above 5 degrees C – colder than the North Sea.
A video taken from the boat and helmet cameras show the crew speed to the scene where Steve can be seen floating in the water, clinging to his upturned boat.
They manage to grab his arms and pull him to safety. He confirms he is not injured and even jokes about going back to get his kayak.
He is wrapped in a survivor’s bag – a plastic sheet to prevent wind chill – and the lifeboat then speeds back to the station.
Steve, who is believed to be in his 30s, and friend Simon Bilcox set out from Fort Augustus on Saturday and made their way north up the loch.
But conditions deteriorated around Urquhart Bay, near Drumnadrochit, and Steve’s boat capsized as the pair tried to reach shore.
He was left clinging desperately to his boat, trying to make sure he was not swept onto nearby rocks.
Simon made it to dry land and raised the alarm. The local cruise boat, the Jacobite Warrior, provided a detailed position and two passing yachts also responded.
The lifeboat, which is stationed nearby, was on the scene quickly and managed to haul Steve aboard.
The coastguard helicopter from Inverness was also scrambled and arrived on scene around the same time as the lifeboat.
Martin Douglas, spokesman for Loch Ness RNLI, said: “The waves were getting aggressive and harsh.
“They were experienced and had good gear but this goes to show that things like this can still happen. He was getting hammered by the waves.”
Vivien Bailey, one of the crew members who rescued Steve, said: “He was extremely cold when we got him out of the water – so cold that he couldn’t swim.
“He was barely clinging onto his upturned kayak. If he had been there much longer, he could have drowned because he wouldn’t have been able to keep his body upright in the water.
“His friend did exactly what he should have and called for help. Steve was incredibly grateful after the rescue – and so was his girlfriend.”
The three-strong crew took Steve, who is from Edinburgh, back to base where other lifeboat members tried to heat him up using a warm shower and drinks.
Mr Douglas praised helmsman Gary McLeod for skillful seamanship and Vivian Bailey for her ropework during the rescue.
He added: “We had the best outcome in what was an exciting and challenging technical rescue.”
The RNLI shared a video of the rescue on social media, where their actions were described as “perfect” by viewers.
Charles Heal said: “Absolutely textbook. Professional and perfect and a happy outcome as well.”
Jasmine Isabella added: “What am amazing job you guys are doing there.”