Saving Lives at Sea: Series 8 Episode 7
When the pager goes off, RNLI volunteers will drop everything to get to a rescue as quickly as they can – even if that means dashing from a wedding, which you’ll have seen in this episode. Watch this video to see just a handful of the situations that crew members will abandon when the call for help comes in.
Margate: Missing paddleboarders
The episode started with the Margate volunteers launching after receiving reports that three paddleboarders were drifting out to sea. Winds were getting stronger and shifting direction, causing the paddleboarders to start blowing offshore. When the crew found out that they were all on one paddleboard, and two of them were a father and his 12-year-old son, they knew that they needed to get there as quickly as possible.
As the crew arrived at their last known position, around 300 metres off Kingsgate Bay, the paddleboarders were nowhere to be seen. Then, an RNLI lifeguard reported that they were right next to the busy shipping lanes – nearly 2 miles out to sea. But worryingly, the crew still couldn’t see them.
Finally, they caught a glimpse of something nearly a mile further out. But they could only see two people. As they got closer, the father reassured the crew that there wasn’t a third person, which was a huge relief. The father and son were scared and in shock, but so thankful to be safe. Once they were onboard the lifeboat, the crew took them back to shore.
The RNLI saw a surge in paddleboarding incidents in 2022. If you’re heading out for a paddle, make sure you follow our advice to stay safe on the water.Read our paddleboarding safety advice
Porthcawl: Swapping suits for drysuits
Next, we saw Porthcawl volunteers dash from the wedding of a fellow crew member to rescue two people about to get cut off by the tide on a notoriously dangerous beach. Before the couple could say ‘I do’, the crew’s pagers sounded. Those on call rushed out of the church and headed straight to the lifeboat station.
Just 20 minutes after their pagers went off, the crew arrived on the scene and spotted the two people. But with the water level rising, it was too risky to steer the Atlantic lifeboat any closer. They called for the Coastguard, who sent out the search and rescue helicopter based at St. Athan. One of the crew jumped into the water and swam on his back towards the people. He needed to get to them as soon as possible – they were completely unaware of the danger they were in.
The crew member shouted across to tell them to stay put and reassure them that more help was on the way. When the helicopter arrived, they brought the two people – and the crew member – onboard and took them to safety on the cliff top above Dunraven Bay. Once the lifeboat was back at the station, the crew made their way back to the wedding to resume the celebrations.
RNLI volunteers are called away from weddings more often than you think! Have a read of a similar rescue, where Ilfracombe volunteers left a crew member’s wedding to help a family stranded on a beach.Find out what happened next in Ilfracombe
Blackpool: Caught in a rip current
The Blackpool crew launched after receiving reports of a teenager in trouble in the sea near Blackpool Pier. The teenager’s friend managed to make it back to shore to raise the alarm.
There was a strong easterly wind blowing towards the sea. A powerful rip current caused the teenager to drift further and further out of his depth. Onlookers grew frightened as he appeared to be struggling to stay afloat.
The volunteers launched their D class lifeboat and raced across the water at full speed. When they arrived, the teenager was extremely cold and tired. They quickly pulled him onboard the lifeboat. Knowing how dangerous the tide can be in Blackpool, the crew felt relieved that they got to him before it was too late. They rushed him back to shore, where paramedics took him to hospital to be checked over.
Rip currents are a major cause of accidental drowning on beaches across the world. Here are our tips on how to spot them, and what to do if you find yourself caught in one.Read: Rip currents
Dunbar: Dog stranded on the rocks
Finally, the Dunbar crew responded to a call from a woman whose dog had been swept out to sea at Ravensheugh Beach. Flat-coated Retriever Fergus had jumped into the water to swim after a seabird. When his owner realised that he wasn’t coming back, she started to panic.
Strong currents and an offshore wind meant that Fergus began drifting out to sea. It didn’t take long before his owner had lost sight of him altogether. She called 999 and, within minutes, the Dunbar volunteers had launched their D class inshore lifeboat.
A mobile coastguard unit caught sight of the dog and relayed his location – and his name – to the crew. They found him, visibly in distress, on a small group of rocks. As they got closer, the crew calmly called his name and reassured him, then carefully lifted him onboard the lifeboat. One of the crew gave him lots of affection as they made their way back to shore. Twenty minutes after launching, the owner was very relieved to be reunited with her beloved pet.
Whether you’re at the beach or by the river, it’s important to keep yourself safe when walking your dog. Read these helpful tips so you’re prepared for your next outing.Get tips for safe dog walking by the coast