Two exhausted kayakers had to be rescued by RNLI crews from Minehead and HM Coastguard after being swept out into the Bristol Channel by strong offshore winds.

And the incident has prompted lifeboat officials to stress the importance of kayak users always carrying some means of attracting attention in an emergency.

Together with a friend the men set out from Porlock Weir on Wednesday evening with the intention of paddling around Porlock Bay. 

Close inshore conditions were calm but as soon as they left the lee of the land they encountered choppy water and a steady southerly wind which they were powerless to paddle against.

The third man managed to struggle back to Porlock Weir and raise the alarm and Minehead’s D class and Atlantic 85 lifeboats were launched. But by the time the crews arrived on scene darkness was rapidly falling.

The search was joined by a coastguard helicopter which eventually located the pair nearly a mile away from their last reported position and used its searchlight to guide the lifeboats to them.

Crews helped the men aboard and returned them to Porlock Weir, cold but unharmed.

Lifeboat helm Phil Sanderson said: “They were very relieved to be rescued. They were only wearing tee shirts and clearly the cold was getting to them. Conditions were quite nasty out there and with that wind they weren’t going anywhere except further out into the channel.

“When we arrived we started sweeping the area but we had no way of assessing how far they might have been carried from their last known location and there was the additional problem that they were very low in the water.

“Even when the helicopter found them and illuminated the area we couldn’t see them until we were about 30 yards away.”

RNLI Minehead spokesman Chris Rundle said the rescue had highlighted one of the dangers of the Exmoor coastline.

“There are very high sea cliffs which provide shelter inshore in a southerly wind but as soon as that protection is lost sea conditions can change rapidly and dangerously – which is what happened here,” he said.

“We would stress the importance of kayakers preparing for all eventualities by wearing proper clothing and buoyancy aids. And above all they should always carry some means of attracting attention, such as a flare pack or a good waterproof torch.

“It’s only a small investment but one which could make all the difference between life and death.”