You power our lifesaving: September rescue roundup

It’s been a busy September all around our coasts but our RNLI volunteers have been there when the call for help goes out. And that’s thanks to you.

Here’s just a selection of the lifesaving work our crews around the UK and Ireland have been doing.

Minehead, 2 September

Two exhausted kayakers were rescued by RNLI Minehead after being swept out into the Bristol Channel by strong offshore winds.

Three men had set off from Porlock Weir to paddle around the bay. The conditions were calm to begin with, but they soon encountered choppy water and a steady southerly wind which they were powerless to paddle against.

One of the men struggled back to Porlock Weir and raised the alarm. Minehead’s D class and Atlantic 85 lifeboats were quickly launched. But by the time the crews arrived on scene, darkness was rapidly falling.

A Coastguard helicopter joined the search and eventually located the pair nearly a mile away from their last reported position. They used their searchlight to guide the lifeboats to them.

The Minehead crew 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 T-shirts and clearly the cold was getting to them. Conditions were quite nasty out there. With that wind they weren’t going anywhere except further out into the channel.’

Kirkwall, 3 September

Kirkwall lifeboat tows fishing vessel to safety.

RNLI/Graham Campbell

Kirkwall's volunteer lifeboat crew powered to the rescue of a fishing vessel, and her six crew, drifting in the Pentland Firth. 

The all-weather lifeboat launched just before 3pm and arrived on scene an hour and a half later. The volunteer crew attached a tow rope and begun the long passage back to Kirkwall. The conditions were blustery, with winds reaching near gale force at times.

It was a long tow and after seven and a half hours, they reached the sanctuary of Kirkwall harbour. Both the lifeboat and the fishing vessel berthed safely just before midnight.

Lymington, 5 September 

Lymington RNLI were called to a capsized dinghy

Photo: Suzanne Brown

A Lymington crew member in the water, righting a capsized dinghy

Lymington RNLI were paged by the Coastguard after they received multiple 999 calls about a capsized dinghy. The crew quickly launched their Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat David Bradley

Under the helm of James Lever, the lifeboat proceeded through the Hurst Spit and toward Milford. The crew quickly located the upturned dinghy, which was drifting towards Mudeford on the tide. Thankfully, the people onboard the dinghy had already been picked up by the Keyhaven Yacht Club.

A crew member was placed in the water to try and right the dinghy. This was difficult because the spinnaker sail was wrapped around the mast. A second crew member entered the water to help. The wind started to pick up, and the dinghy capsized once more. The two crew members managed to right it again, cut the spinnaker away and drop the main sail.

Next, the Lymington volunteers established a tow line and towed the dinghy back into Keyhaven with an RNLI crew member onboard. It was slow progress, given the bigger tide and building sea conditions.

Sennen Cove, 7 September

Sennen Cove RNLI work alongside the Coastguard to rescue an injured climber

Photo: Elliot Andrews

Sennen Cove RNLI worked alongside the Coastguard to rescue an injured climber

Falmouth Coastguard requested the assistance of Sennen Cove RNLI following reports that a marine climber had fallen down the cliffs at Gwennap Head and sustained serious injuries.

Both lifeboats launched at 5.40pm: the D class inshore lifeboat Amy Brown and the all-weather Tamar class City of London III. They made best speed to the location. The Land's End Coastguard Cliff Rescue Team were already on scene, along with a marine doctor.

A careful examination of the casualty revealed that he had a broken femur. There was also concern that he may have sustained head injuries. The teams discussed the best and safest way to evacuate the casualty, including the possibility of transferring him to the lifeboats and transporting him to the ambulance at Sennen Cove.

However, because of his injuries and the risk involved in getting the inshore lifeboat close enough to the bottom of the cliffs in the breaking waves, it was decided that the safest way was to use the Coastguard Rescue helicopter to airlift him directly to hospital.

The tricky operation was completed at 7.40pm. With the casualty safely aboard the helicopter, both lifeboats were stood down and they returned to the station at 8pm.

Dun Laoghaire, 17 September

Dun Laoghaire inshore lifeboat and crew on Sea Point Beach after rescuing swimmer in difficulty off Blackrock

RNLI/Dun Laoghaire

Dun Laoghaire inshore lifeboat and crew on Sea Point Beach

Dun Laoghaire’s volunteers were requested to launch by the Irish Coast Guard at 5:57pm after a member of the public reported a swimmer who appeared to be in difficulty off Blackrock.

The inshore lifeboat was launched swiftly at 6pm by Helm Nathan Burke who had been at the lifeboat station doing routine equipment checks. A further two crew members, Andrew Sykes and Ronan Adams, arrived minutes later and with the lifeboat already in the water, the crew powered to the rescue.

Arriving at 6.05pm, the crew swiftly pulled the person from the water. After a casualty care assessment, they realised the person was in a hypothermic state and slipping in and out of consciousness. 

The crew returned to Sea Point Beach immediately, with the National Ambulance Service and Irish Coast Guard’s Rescue 116 helicopter on their way to provide further medical assistance. 

Helm Nathan Burke says: ‘The timing was crucial tonight and I’m very glad I was at the station when the call out came in. The other two crew members arrived very quickly which ultimately resulted in a successful outcome. This evening showed that it is very important for swimmers not to overestimate their ability and underestimate the unseen currents and cold water that make swimming in the sea in Ireland more challenging’.

Mumbles, 21 September


Casualty taken to boat

At 9.55am, the Coastguard at Milford Haven received a call for assistance for someone with a suspected broken ankle near Brandy Cove.

The volunteer crew at Mumbles swiftly boarded their inshore lifeboat The Mark Lott and made best speed to assist the Mumbles Coastguard Cliff Rescue Team.

With the casualty safely on a stretcher, they were taken by lifeboat to Caswell Bay and given casualty care from the crew. Lifeboat Helm Josh Stewart says: ‘The position made access pretty tricky without going by lifeboat. Hopefully the injury will be not too serious but they were in a lot of pain’.

Portrush, 25 September

The volunteer crew in Portrush were requested to launch their all-weather lifeboat to go to the aid of someone in distress. It turned out to be a false alarm with good intent. However, once onboard, the lifeboat crew were alerted by the Coastguard to a separate incident. A 999 call had been made by a member of the public – someone was in difficulty in the water off Portstewart Head, 5 nautical miles from Portrush.

The lifeboat launched under Coxswain Des Austin with six crew members onboard. They were facing challenging weather conditions, with a Force 6-7 wind, some showers and a rough sea with 2-3m swells. Fortunately, the lifeboat arrived on scene in less than 10 minutes.

Quickly, the crew spotted a person in the water waving their arms. A teenage boy who was wearing a wetsuit was struggling against an ebbing tide which was pulling him away from the land and out to sea.

The coxswain manoeuvred the lifeboat close to the casualty in the surf and breaking waves, while the station’s mechanic donned a drysuit and PPE. The crew then attached a line to the mechanic, who jumped into the water and got hold of the casualty. The remainder of the crew pulled the mechanic and casualty around to the starboard side of the lifeboat and got them safety onboard.

The lifeboat crew administered casualty care to make the boy comfortable. He was showing signs of hypothermia and exhaustion, and was suffering from the effects of shock. The lifeboat made its way back to Portrush Harbour where he was transferred to the care of Coleraine Coastguard and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.

Coxswain Des Austin says: ‘Conditions were challenging at sea today and time was of the essence. The tide was turning at the time the casualty got into difficulty and the conditions were pulling him out to sea. The prompt actions of the lifeboat crew saved a life and we would like to wish the casualty well following his ordeal.’

Aberdeen, 27 September

Aberdeen's inshore lifeboat 'Buoy Woody 85N' searches off Aberdeen Beach

Library image courtesy Mark Gray/RNLI Aberdeen

Aberdeen's inshore lifeboat 'Buoy Woody 85N' searches off Aberdeen Beach

Aberdeen’s two lifeboats launched minutes apart after a member of the public spotted two surfers in danger in Aberdeen Harbour and called the Coastguard.

The surfers had paddled out beyond the surf line and were being swept further offshore, unable to make their way back due to the tide and wind against them.

The inshore lifeboat Buoy Woody – 85N was first on scene with her crew of three, having been guided to the precise location by Aberdeen Coastguard Rescue Team volunteers ashore.

The two experienced surfers were uninjured but said they were both exhausted, having been in the water for almost 2 hours. They and their equipment were taken aboard the lifeboat.

With the tide approaching high water, violent surf running up the beach, and the small inflatable inshore lifeboat loaded to capacity, the surfers were transferred to the all-weather lifeboat Bon Accord, which had now arrived on scene in the calmer water beyond the surf line.

Cal Reed, Coxswain at Aberdeen, says: ‘We took the surfers onboard Bon Accord and our  crew confirmed they were none the worse for their experience – but grateful for the offer of assistance from the lifeboat.’

You’re an essential part of our lifesaving crew and you don’t need to pull on a pair of yellow wellies or step aboard a boat to be one of our rescuers. Whether you’re sharing our safety advice with friends and family, giving a kind donation, or selflessly offering your time to power our lifesaving work, you’re making a huge difference. Thank you.