A KAYAKER was lucky to escape with his life after being knocked out of his boat by a seal and swept out to sea.

The man had been fishing but his kayak was capsized by the seal, which was trying to steal the 20 mackerel he had already caught.

The fisherman had to cling on to the vessel for 45 minutes before being rescued about a mile off the coast of Hartlepool.

An off-duty police officer and his wife spotted the man in distress raised the alarm.

The fisherman had a net off the side of his boat and the caught fish attracted the seal, which managed to capsize the boat as it tried to get to the food.

It is thought the kayaker was forced to hang on to his boat after he got into trouble near Parton Rocks, off Marine Drive, at about 5.30pm yesterday (Wednesday, July 17).

Hartlepool RNLI launched the lifeboat minutes later and lifeboatman Ken Hay jumped into the water to help rescue the kayaker and push him on to the lifeboat.

Mr Hay said: “He was wearing a wet suit and had been in the water for about an hour. He was tired and appeared a bit disorientated.”

The kayaker was checked over by Hartlepool RNLI’s volunteer crew members and taken onto the beach and left in the care of the ambulance service.

Mike Craddy, Hartlepool RNLI’s operations manager, said: “It appeared that the man had been fishing from his kayak and had caught about 20 mackerel and had them in a net over the side.

"A seal bumped into the kayak capsizing it and grabbed the net and fish for its tea.

"Hartlepool RNLI’s volunteer crewmembers train regularly for incidents like this and are pleased the man has recovered and didn’t need hospital treatment."

A spokesman for HM Coastguard said it was lucky the off-duty policeman and his wife had spotted the kayaker or the incident could have been more serious.