Clacton RNLI lifeboat volunteers search for lost sailor and his dog

Lifeboats News Release

Clacton’s volunteer crew launched their Atlantic class lifeboat to search in the dark for a lost sailor and his dog onboard a 31ft converted yacht with engine failure.

At 6pm 16 November the Atlantic class lifeboat Norma Ethel Vinall was launched in the dark with three crew members onboard at the request of UK Coastguard. They were tasked to search for, and locate a lost sailor who had suffered engine failure.

The initial information suggested the boat was approximately three miles south of Jaywick, but upon launching this information was changed to three miles south of the Gunfleet Windfarm. As UK Coastguard were struggling to get a radio signal from the lost sailor they were speaking to him via his mobile phone. With this, it was agreed that the lifeboat would make its way to the Swin Spitway (approximately five miles south of ClactonPier) and await further instructions as the Coastguard were trying to locate the sailor via his mobile phone. On Route to the Swin Spitway the lifeboat had its blue light flashing in the hope that the sailor would see it and report this to the coastguard operative.

On reaching the Swin Spitway the UK Coastguard gave the lifeboat crew coordinates for a position they would like them to search, which was near the Barrow No.4 (approximately 8.5 miles S.East of Clacton Pier). Before making way, it was deemed prudent to try and contact the sailor direct from the lifeboat, in the hope the direction-finding equipment on board could be used, no response was received. On reaching the position given the only thing seen was a fishing trawler working its nets, which was not the vessel in distress.

The crew were then asked by the Coastguard to fire a white parachute flare to light up the sky while they had the lost sailor on the phone, to try and get some idea as to where he was, in relation to the lifeboat. He reported seeing nothing.

After approximately ten minutes the lifeboat was requested to make its way to the mouth of the Blackwater (near to Bradwell Power Station). By this time the Coastguard rescue helicopter had also been tasked to help with the search. The helicopter quickly located the stricken vessel approximately one mile from the power station. The Coastguard helicopter hovered above the vessel with its searchlight trained on it until the lifeboat arrived alongside.

Once the welfare of the sailor was checked and assessed to be in a fit state the helicopter left the scene while the volunteer lifeboat crew prepared to tow the vessel to West Mersea, where a UK Coastguard mobile unit awaited their arrival.

After leaving the sailor and his dog in the hands of the mobile coastguard unit, the lifeboat returned to station, where it was made ready for the next service by 9.45pm.

RNLI crew member Steve Oaks commented: ‘Services in the dark are extra challenging due to the limited visibility, even with RADAR, especially with such a large potential search area’.

Mr Oaks went on to say: 'Of the 56 services carried out in 2016 by Clacton RNLI’s volunteers 21 were during the hours of darkness’.

Notes to Editors

Atlantic 85 currently on station is the Norma Ethel Vinall of the reserve fleet, while Clacton’s own boat David Porter MPS is away for a refit.

RNLI media contacts

  • Richard Wigley, Lifeboat Press Officer, Clacton RNLI: 07903 424698
  • Clare Hopps, RNLI Regional Media Officer, North East and East: 07824 518641
  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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