Tourist survives yacht fall by transforming jeans into makeshift lifejacket

A German tourist who was knocked off a yacht and stranded at sea saved his own life – by using his jeans as a lifejacket.

Arne Murke was travelling with his brother from New Zealand to Brazil aboard a 12-metre (40-foot) sailing yacht when the boom knocked him overboard off Gisborne coast on 6th March. Rough conditions and engine trouble prevented his brother from being able to save him, leaving Murke stranded and at the mercy of choppy seas.

Luckily, Murke was able to put into practice a technique used by Navy Seals whereby a pair of trousers can be transformed into a makeshift buoyancy aide – and this kept him afloat until he could be rescued.

Talking to the New Zealand Herald, Murke said, “Luckily, I knew the trick with the jeans. Without the jeans I wouldn’t be here today, they were really the thing that saved me.

“I saw it many years ago and I always thought if I ever go overboard without a lifejacket I’m going to do that.

“I took a deep breath, took out my jeans, made knots at the end of the legs and inflated the jeans; pull it over water and get air inside and then push it under water. I had like an improvised life vest.”

After three-and-a-half-hours in the water, Murke was eventually spotted by the coastguard helicopter based at Hawke’s Bay that had been deployed to save him.

“Two times it was really close to me but they didn’t see me and flew away,” Murke recalled. “At that moment I was really doubting if they were going to come back for me. It took another 20 minutes but luckily I could see the helicopter again. They let down the rope and I was so glad.”

Despite his ordeal, Murke suggested the experience will not deter him from continuing to sail.

“I know the risk but I’m not scared of it. I’m just going to be super careful in the future. I would never say I’m not going out any more, or I’m too scared.”

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