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RNLI lifeboat volunteers work together to secure 80m coaster off Cornish coast

Lifeboats News Release

Penlee and Sennen Cove RNLI lifeboat crews spent 11 hours at sea yesterday (20 March) assisting the 88 metre 3,600-ton Coaster Lady Alida.

The vessel, with 7 crew on board, had suffered engine failure three miles south of Gwennap Head at 3.00am, and with a strong south westerly force 6 wind, had started to drift towards the shore.

Falmouth Coastguard requested the launch of both lifeboats in the hope that they could attach tow lines to stop the vessel drifting ashore, or evacuate the crew if that failed. Thankfully, in very difficult conditions, the Ivan Ellen and City of London III lifeboats were able to tow the vessel two miles into deeper safer water. The Lady Alida then dropped anchor and both lifeboats headed to Newlyn at 6:20am

At 6:25am, while the volunteer crew were having a cup of tea in the Penlee boathouse, Falmouth Coastguard requested the relaunch of both lifeboats - the Lady Alida was dragging its anchor and drifting towards the shore at the speed of 1 knot.

Just after 7.00am, after an uncomfortable steam, both lifeboats arrived on scene - the initial plan was to stand by the vessel until a tug arrived from Brixham but at 8:30am, with the vessel only 2.5 miles from shore and still drifting north easterly at 1 knot, Sennen Cove and Penlee lifeboats once again attached tow ropes and slowly headed seaward to safer waters.

The salvage tug on route from Brixham was struggling with the poor weather conditions and making slow progress. A larger tug anchored in Mount's Bay, was then tasked to assist the Lady Alida.

By the time the tug arrived on scene both lifeboats had towed the Lady Alida over 4 miles to safer waters in fairly poor weather conditions. With their job complete the two lifeboats were stood down after nearly 11 hours at sea, and the volunteers were able to return to their respective stations.

Patrick Harvey, Coxswain of Penlee RNLI all-weather lifeboat said:

‘It was an extremely long job, not made easy by the conditions. A fantastic team effort from both of the volunteer lifeboat crews from Penlee and Sennen Cove.’

Notes to editors
  • Footage of the shout is available to download from the RNLI website
RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Amy Caldwell, RNLI Public Relations Manager at or 07920 818 807 or Elaine Trethowan, volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer at Penlee lifeboat station on 07704669406 Or Brian Simpson, Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer at Sennen Cove on 07762057127

RNLI/Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove and Penlee RNLI work together to secure coaster off Cornish Coast

RNLI/Sennen Cove

Photo taken from Sennen Cove lifeboat of Penlee RNLI towing coaster

RNLI/Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove worked with Penlee RNLI to tow coaster

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland