October rescue roundup: Lifesaving powered by you

Summer may have come to an end, but October was just as busy for RNLI lifesavers across the UK and Ireland. Your kindness powered them to the rescue. And brought them safely back home too. Thank you for being their lifesaver.

Here are just some of the many rescues and amazing feats of bravery you made possible in October 2020.

Beaumaris - 2 October

Beaumaris RNLI’s B class Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat being recovered by the launch and recovery tractor in the early morning darkness

Photo: RNLI/P Blackwell

Beaumaris RNLI’s B class inshore lifeboat Annette Mary Liddington being recovered after an early morning launch

An early start

Beaumaris lifeboat volunteers had a very early start to the day when their pagers sounded at 3.56am. A 7m yacht had suffered engine failure near Penmon Point at the entrance to the Menai Strait en route from Conwy to Fleetwood. Luckily the two crew onboard had managed to anchor the vessel. 

Launching into the darkness, Beaumaris lifeboat crew reached the yacht and towed her and her crew back to the safety of a mooring near Beaumaris. Once the yacht was secure, the lifeboat crew then took the two crew members ashore and transferred them into the care of the Penmon Mobile Coastguard Rescue Team.  

Second launch of the day

Almost 12 hours later at 3.44pm, the lifeboat volunteers’ pagers sounded again. This time, a 12m fin keel yacht was aground on sand between Friars Bay and Penmon in the Menai Strait. With a falling tide, Beaumaris lifeboat crew made their way as quickly possible to the yacht and her crew. But the tide was already too low, and they were unable to get close to the stranded vessel. 

With no damage to the yacht, her crew deployed the anchor and decided to remain onboard until the craft refloated on the rising tide that evening. The lifeboat crew returned to station and prepared the lifeboat for another possible launch that evening – which thankfully did not happen.

Fleetwood – 17 October

‘The sea wanted to take me back out’

One of the highest spring tides of the year caught out experienced bait digger Adrian Botham. By the time Fleetwood lifeboat volunteers reached him, he was chest deep in water and struggling to stay upright.

‘Even though the tide was flooding in, the sea wanted to take me back out,’ says Adrian. ‘The sand was washing away from underneath me, and the current pushing me back out to sea, with massive force. I used my bait pump to anchor myself to the seabed and hung on. It was such a relief to see the lifeboat heading towards me. My life is indebted to the brave, selfless volunteers from Fleetwood RNLI.’

This is the first time Adrian has got into difficulty in all the 30 years he’s been bait digging around the Fylde coast. Daryl Randles, volunteer Helm and Mechanic at Fleetwood Lifeboat Station, says he was very sensible – and very lucky.

‘Adrian was sensible and experienced enough to anchor himself to the seabed to prevent him from falling into a deep gully. He was obviously cold and wet when we picked him up, but he soon warmed up with a hot shower back at the station. He was very lucky – the outcome could have been so different. But it does show you that even the most experienced can get into trouble.’

Loch Ness - 17 October

An unusual sighting

Loch Ness lifeboat crew were called to an unusual sighting on the loch. Only this time it wasn’t Nessie but seaplane PBY Catalina who needed their help. 

The aircraft crew had experienced engine trouble while attempting to take off and the plane was now drifting on the loch. Loch Ness lifeboat volunteers managed to establish a tow and moved the World War Two flying boat to the safety of nearby Urquhart Bay. With a wingspan of 32m, Catalina was too wide to recover to a harbour or a pontoon, so the lifeboat crew secured her to a mooring buoy instead.

‘Towing Catalina was no easy feat, ‘says Crew Member David Ferguson. ‘Fixing points are few and far between on such an aircraft, and the best option was underneath the tail, which barely cleared the bow of the lifeboat. Nevertheless, with some care, we managed to establish a towline.’

Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay and Rosslare Harbour - 20 October

A herculean team effort

Three all-weather lifeboat crews from Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay and Rosslare Harbour prevented a major catastrophe when Lily B, a 4,000-tonne cargo ship with a crew of nine, lost power in heavy seas.

Battling force 8 conditions and waves over 6m high, the volunteer crews worked courageously together to prevent the ship from hitting rocks near Hook Head at Wexford. They attached towlines to the drifting vessel until a tug arrived to take over. The lifeboats then escorted the tug with the cargo ship under tow into Waterford Harbour before returning to their respective stations.

‘The seas were huge, and it would not have been pleasant for anyone out there in those conditions,’ says David Maloney, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Rosslare Harbour. ‘The lifeboat crews were out for over 12 hours in a callout that involved serious skill and concentration and I am tremendously proud of all three lifeboat crews involved. Thankfully, we did not have a tragedy today.’

Speaking to RTE Radio, Dunmore East Crew Member Neville Murphy recounts the challenging rescue. Listen to the interview.

Treyarnon and Gwithian Beaches - 28 October

Storm surge rescues

At the end of October, Hurricane Epsilon brought major waves, strong winds and heavy rain to parts of the UK and Ireland. This dramatic footage from RNLI lifeguards captures the moment a storm surge at Treyarnon Beach in Cornwall knocked walkers off their feet. 

Further down the north Cornish coast near Gwithian Beach, nine people were swept into the sea by surging waves. A major rescue operation ensued involving RNLI lifeguards, St Ives lifeboat crew, Portreath Coastguard Rescue Team, Cornwall Air Ambulance, the South West Ambulance Service and the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter. 

This incredible photo captured by Mark Price shows St Ives lifeboat crew in their all-weather Shannon class lifeboat Nora Stachura and RNLI Lifeguard Barney Stevens on a rescue watercraft tackling the mountainous waves and swell.

St Ives all-weather lifeboat crew and RNLI Lifeguard Barney Stevens on a rescue watercraft tackling mountainous waves and swell brought by Hurricane Epsilon.

Photo: Mike Price

Apart from being bruised and shaken, miraculously everyone in each of these incidents was OK. But it shows how quickly the sea can catch you out and how important it is to heed warnings in conditions like this.

Thank you for being a lifesaver

You don’t need to pull on a pair of yellow wellies or step aboard a lifeboat to be a lifesaver. Whether you share our safety advice with friends and family, give a kind donation, or selflessly volunteer your time to power our lifesaving work, you make a huge difference to saving lives at sea and we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you for being an intrinsic part of our lifesaving crew.