I had first-hand experience using Life Cell not long after buying it, in February 2016. I was on an annual fishing trip to South west Rocks and travelling on my boat with three other mates on this particular day. We've been doing this trip for about the past 15 years and in that time I've done the bar crossing many, many times, at least 50 times each way. I would say that I was experienced with the crossing although it is always changing.
After a morning of fishing, the conditions outside started to turn so we headed in towards shore. We stopped at the front of the bar crossing and put on our lifejackets and observed the conditions for a while. There was another boat also standing off monitoring the conditions. We decided to go and picked up a wave which we were riding in on for approximately half the crossing. The bar was rough and unfortunately a large wave rose out of nowhere and collapsed on the back of the boat. It pushed us forward and we skewed us sideways, losing control of the vessel. Within a matter of seconds the motor was flooded and we were unable to start it. Another wave quickly broke on us and turned the boat over.
We only had moments to get out before the boat sank. As I vacated the boat I grabbed hold of the Life Cell, threw it in the water not far from where the others were treading water. We were right in the impact zone, where the waves were crashing. We all managed to get close to each other. As the current took us into more free water and out of the impact zone, one of the blokes was able to grab the Life Cell and eventually we were all able to hang onto it. Holding onto the Life Cell, we swam our way back towards another boat that was nearby. Luckily we got there safely and managed to get on board. Our boat capsized and sank to the bottom of the ocean.
Unfortunately, two weeks later, another boat capsized in exactly the same circumstances as ours. They were experienced fishermen, and unfortunately one of them passed away on the crossing. It just demonstrates the dangers bar crossings can throw up at you. The wave that sank us came out of nowhere. It was completely unpredictable.
I’m thankful that we had the Life Cell on board, it kept everyone together and helped us stay afloat. It was of great assistance to us.
A few weeks after the incident I was at a boat show when I saw a guy sitting at the bar wearing a Life Cell shirt. I walked up and started a conversation with him and it turned out to be the inventor, Scott Smiles. I said “mate, you saved my life”.