Rescue roundup: Thank you for being our back-up this summer

School’s out. Covid restrictions have eased. And the pressure’s on for RNLI lifesavers who are in the midst of what could be their busiest summer yet. 

The surge in staycations this summer means that RNLI lifeboat volunteers and lifeguards are stretched like never before. Their world-class training is coming into its own, kit is taking a battering and lifeboats are constantly being refuelled.

But your support is getting them through it. You’re the backup they need to save every one they can. Here’s just a snapshot of RNLI rescues so far this summer - rescues made possible by you.  

20 May 2021: Trearddur Bay

What does it take to go out into seas when others would turn back? That's the question volunteers at Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station had to ask themselves when they launched their B class Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat to rescue a surfer who had become engulfed by a violent surf. 

Watch this video to find out what was going through their minds as they raced to save the surfer's life:

6 June 2021: Peterhead

In their second call of the weekend, Peterhead lifeboat volunteers launched their Tamar class all-weather lifeboat The Misses Robertson of Kintail at 6pm to reports of a person cut off by the tide and in the water.

Upon arriving at the scene, the volunteers launched the lifeboat’s inflatable Y class daughter boat to negotiate the shallow, rocky waters and reach the stranded casualty, who had climbed up onto a rock. They transferred the casualty onto the all-weather lifeboat before returning for two members of the UK Coastguard Rescue Team who were also on scene to help the casualty.

Watch the rescue footage:

20 June 2021: Scarborough North Bay Beach

Just 1 month into her first lifeguarding season with the RNLI on Scarborough North Bay Beach, Lifeguard Carolina Clements rescued six people stuck in a rip current, single-handedly.

Carolina paddled out to the casualties - three swimmers and three surfers - on her rescue board. She told the swimmers to float rather than swim against the rip current to conserve their energy, and to hold on to their boards. Then she coached all six casualties on how to safely get out of a rip by swimming parallel to the shore.

‘It was essential that the six adults stuck in the rip raised their hands and shouted for help,’ says Tom Pratt, a seasonal lifeguard supervisor at Scarborough. ‘Because they were at a lifeguarded beach, their actions alerted our team right away.

'Carolina acted quickly and calmly. And by listening to Carolina’s advice, the casualties’ cooperation made this mass rescue possible.’

RNLI Lifeguard Carolina Clements on Scarborough North Bay Beach on a cloudy day. Caroline is kneeling on the wet sand holding her yellow RNLI rescue board. She is wearing a red RNLI fleece and blue RNLI beanie, with a yellow rescue tube over her shoulder.

Photo: Richard Ponter

New RNLI Lifeguard Carolina Clements rescued six people from a rip current, single-handedly 

25 June 2021: Sandhaven Beach, South Shields

After some rough weather hit Sandhaven Beach in South Shields, RNLI Lifeguard Alex Gwynn discovered an injured puffin whilst monitoring the beach at 5.30pm. The bird lay helpless, washed up on the sand, and was being attacked by numerous insects.

Alex managed to secure the puffin in his RNLI jumper and carry it back to the lifeguard base, despite it continuously pecking at him. 

The team of RNLI lifeguards at South Shields stayed on after hours until the RSPB arrived to take the injured puffin to a nearby RSPB rescue centre.

‘Although the RNLI is best known for its efforts in rescuing people, animal rescues are sometimes part of our charity’s lifesaving work as well,’ explains RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Nick Campbell. 'Aiding or rescuing animals ensures that members of the public don't put themselves in danger by attempting to help.'

Alex Gwynn, an RNLI Lifeguard at South Shields, inside the lifeguard base holding an injured puffin in his red RNLI fleece

Photo: RNLI/Lucas Johnson

RNLI Lifeguard Alex Gwynn rescued a puffin he found washed up on the beach

26 June 2021: Penarth

When a 7m fishing vessel began taking on water near Lavernock Point, an area known for its strong currents, the fishermen put out a mayday call - the most urgent of all calls for help.

Penarth lifeboat crew launched both their B class Atlantic 85 and D class inshore lifeboats and raced to the scene. Barry Dock lifeboat crew stood by in their all-weather Trent class lifeboat, ready to assist, as did the Penarth Coastguard Rescue Team on the shore.

‘When we saw the location of the boat and it being nose down in the water, along with the speed of the dropping tide, our priority was to make sure the people aboard the fishing vessel were recovered safely,’ recalls Helm Hugh Kelsall. ‘Boats taking on water can sink in a matter of minutes or even seconds, and if people end up in the water the situation quickly becomes much more dangerous.’

Once the four fishermen were safely aboard the B class lifeboat, the lifeboat crew began the task of recovering the fishing boat so it could be towed to shore. But its condition was so severe, it sank within minutes.

‘It’s a great shame when a vessel can’t be recovered,’ adds Hugh. ‘And it can’t have been a nice experience for the fishing boat’s crew. But they did the right thing in calling for help, and thanks to the quick actions of the RNLI lifeboat crews and the Coastguard, the four men are safe and well.’

Penarth lifeboat crew in their B class inshore lifeboat watch helplessly as a fishing vessel sinks. Luckily, they had already rescued the four fishermen onboard. Penarth’s D class inshore lifeboat is in the distance.

Photo: RNLI/Penarth

A lucky escape: Penarth lifeboat crew rescued four fishermen just minutes before their fishing boat sank

3 July 2021: Littlehampton

As the nation sat down at 8pm on Saturday 3 July to watch the Euro 2021 football match between England and the Ukraine, Littlehampton lifeboat volunteers were paged to help search for a missing person who may have entered the water near Goring.

Light was fading and a force 4 south-westerly breeze was creating waves of up to 1m when Littlehampton launched their B class Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Renée Sherman and D class inshore lifeboat Ray of Hope. Using searchlights, both lifeboat crews undertook shore parallel search patterns. And miraculously, 2 hours later at 10.31pm, the casualty was found just to the west of Goring, floating on his back and calling to the volunteers.

A crew member from each lifeboat entered the water to support the casualty while the Coastguard helicopter crew recovered the casualty from the water for immediate transfer to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.  

Littlehampton’s lifeboat and shore crew volunteers were ecstatic at the positive outcome. 

‘The RNLI promotes #FloatToLive as a way to survive in the water if you are in difficulty,’ says Nick White, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Littlehampton. ‘The gentleman we rescued had done exactly that and called for help when our lifeboats came near. The whole station was elated. It was a great result.’

View from Littlehampton’s B class lifeboat as the Coastguard helicopter recovers a casualty from the sea. It is pitch dark and only the red light from the helicopter can be seen in the night sky.

Photo: RNLI/Littlehampton

The red light of the Coastguard helicopter is the only thing that can be seen in the night sky as its crew recover the casualty from the water

3 July 2021: Kinsale

On Thursday 13 May, a solo sailor left the Caribbean island of Carriacou in the Grenadines for the UK in a 15m ketch. Three weeks in, the ketch lost power, forcing the skipper to continue his 6,500km journey under sail. Then the wind dropped, and the ketch was stuck for 10 days. And once the sailor was able to resume his voyage, the sails were damaged, further hampering his progress.

By the time the Irish Coast Guard became aware of the sailor’s plight, his ketch was travelling at just 3 knots with no prospect of reaching his intended destination. 

Kinsale RNLI volunteers tracked the vessel online throughout the day, growing increasingly concerned for the sailor’s safety. At 6pm, the Coast Guard requested they launch their B class Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat to assess the situation. Once Kinsale lifeboat crew had located the ketch off the Old Head of Kinsale, Crew Member Felix Milner went aboard to chat with the sailor. It was agreed to take the ketch under tow to Kinsale Harbour.

Felix remained onboard the ketch to safeguard the wellbeing of the skipper, who was exhausted and needed to get to shore. 

‘It is a tribute to the yachtsman’s seamanship that he made a 6,500 km voyage single-handed and remained calm and focused, despite the many problems he encountered in the course of his journey,’ says Helm Jonathan Connor. ‘He was exhausted after 52 days alone at sea, and it was the right decision to help him over the final hurdle and bring him safely to Kinsale.’

Kinsale lifeboat crew in their B class Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat assisting a sailor on a 15m ketch who had sailed from Carriacou in the Caribbean

Photo: RNLI/Kinsale

After being alone at sea for 52 days, the sailor was happy to see some friendly faces 

12 July 2021: Yarmouth

Yarmouth lifeboat crew and their Severn class all-weather lifeboat Eric and Susan Hiscock (Wanderer) went to the aid of four sailors west of Newton Creek after their 12m yacht was struck by lightning. 

Upon arrival on scene, two lifeboat volunteers boarded the yacht to assess the situation. They found the four sailors were shaken by their experience, although uninjured. The lightning strike had destroyed the yacht’s electrical systems, leaving the engine running with no means of turning it off. The lifeboat volunteers managed to disable the engine and checked the rest of the boat for hotspots. 

The crew needed to get the four sailors to shore. Once it was deemed safe to do so, Yarmouth lifeboat crew secured an alongside tow and brought the yacht and its crew into the safety of Yarmouth Harbour. 

Fire crews meet Yarmouth RNLI’s Severn class all-weather lifeboat at Yarmouth Harbour to check over a yacht the lifeboat had towed to safety after it had been struck by lightning

Photo: RNLI/Teresa Fox

25 July 2021: Looe

On Sunday 25 July, Looe lifeboat volunteers experienced their busiest day since the lifeboat station was re-established in June 1992.

The first shout in the morning to an emergency signal from a personal locator beacon required the immediate launch of both Looe inshore lifeboats – the D class Ollie Naismith and the B class Atlantic 85 Sheila and Dennis Tongue ll. Both lifeboats were stood down as the PLB had been activated by accident.

The second shout at 1.55pm was to reports of three teenagers on paddle and bodyboards being blown out to sea at Millendreath. But when the lifeboat crew arrived on scene in Olllie Naismith, the group had been escorted safely ashore.

The third shout at 3.52pm was to a person in an inflatable dinghy being blown out to sea off Seaton. Plymouth Lifeboat Station also assisted in the rescue.

Shout number four involved launching Sheila and Dennis Tongue ll to take over from Ollie Naismith, which was out on the third shout. This was so that a crew member onboard the D class, who is also a trauma nurse, could help a teenager suffering an adverse reaction to a jellyfish sting.

Shout number five at 5.25pm was to three stand-up paddleboarders and a canoeist who had been reported as overdue by a family member. The lifeboat crew launched Ollie Naismith and spotted the group off Nailzee Point. The group had been struggling in the strong offshore wind, and the lifeboat crew stood by until the group made it safely ashore at East Looe Beach.

Shout number six was to two adults and a dog who had become cut off by the incoming spring tide. The lifeboat crew had spotted them on their way back from the fifth shout. They got the casualties safely onboard the D class lifeboat and dropped them off at Millendreath Beach.

Four Looe lifeboat volunteers at sea in their D class inshore lifeboat Ollie Naismith on their fifth shout of the day

Photo: RNLI/Ian Foster

Shout 5 of 6 for Looe lifeboat volunteers on what turned out to be their busiest day ever

29 July 2021: St Mary’s and Sennen Cove

Lifeboat volunteers from St Mary’s and Sennen Cove spent the night of Thursday 29 July at sea battling Storm Evert to assist a number of yachts in difficulty around the Isles of Scilly.

Falmouth Coastguard Operations Centre reported a total of 22 incidents through the night. The lifeboat volunteers worked together with a Coastguard helicopter and local teams in the storm force winds and rain to reach the vessels in need. 

The Sennen Cove crew described the conditions as some of the worst they’ve ever experienced, with the passage to St Mary’s taking them just over 3 hours in their Tamar class all-weather lifeboat.

‘It was a very busy night for everyone involved,’ says Pete Hicks, Coxswain of St Mary’s Severn class lifeboat. ‘I went aboard the Sennen Cove lifeboat to assist the crew with local knowledge of the area, and with a huge team effort we were able to successfully rescue everybody in difficulty.’

Separate photos of St Mary’s Severn class all-weather lifeboat and Sennen Cove’s Tamar class all-weather lifeboat powering through rough seas

Photos: RNLI/(Nigel Millard, Tim Stevens)

St Mary’s Severn class all-weather lifeboat (left) and Sennen Cove’s Tamar class all-weather lifeboat (right) battled Storm Evert through the night to help a number of yachts

Will you help us answer the next call?

This snapshot of RNLI rescues reflects the state of play this summer at our lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland and our lifeguarded beaches in the UK and Channel Islands.

No matter how busy our lifesavers get, they will always strive to save every one they can. But you’re the one who makes sure they’re ready. You train and equip them. You protect them with essential kit. And you bring them safely home.

You’re the one constant behind all RNLI rescues. None of these rescues would’ve been possible without the generosity and kindness of supporters like you. You’re a crucial part of our crew and we can’t save lives without you.

Please help us answer the next call with a donation to our Summer Appeal today. If you have already donated, thank you so much.