Three lifeboats and a Coastguard Helicopter on overnight rescue of lone sailor

Lifeboats News Release

On Sunday night, 7 October, Appledore and Clovelly volunteer lifeboat crews were tasked to help a very seasick lone sailor in difficulties south of Hartland Point, assisted by a Coastguard Helicopter and Paramedics.


RNLI crew turn out, any time of day or night, 27-7 to help those in doifficulty on the sea
Soon after 11pm on Sunday night the Appledore RNLI crew were requested to help a lone sailor who was on passage in a 12 metre yacht from Portishead to Portugal. Having just rounded Hartland Point, the sailor called the Coastguard for assistance as he was extremely seasick. The yachtsman had set the boat to autopilot as was completely incapacitated, there was also concern as he was diabetic. The all-weather lifeboat was immediately tasked. The tide was dropping and at low spring tides the Appledore all-weather lifeboat is off service for an hour or two because of the shallowness of the water through the estuary entrance. It was touch and go as to whether the large all-weather lifeboat could get out through Bideford Bar. Being the best lifeboat for the job it was decided to try, however the lifeboat ran aground near Greysands at the tip end of Northam Burrows. The decision was made to launch the inshore lifeboat from the nearer lifeboat station of Clovelly, and to send Appledore inshore lifeboat as back up. Both were launched just before midnight.

Clovelly lifeboat arrived at the casualty vessel first at 1.00 am along with the Coastguard Helicopter. By this time the yacht was sailing down the coast near Morwenstow. A member of Clovelly lifeboat crew was put aboard the casualty’s yacht to help transfer the casualty to the lifeboat. A paramedic was winched down into the lifeboat and the decision was made to take the casualty back to Clovelly by lifeboat, leaving a crew member on board the yacht. An ambulance and extra paramedic was waiting for them at Clovelly harbour.

Appledore’s inshore lifeboat arrived a few minutes later, when an Appledore crew member joined the Clovelly crewman on board the yacht and they began to sail it back towards Appledore.

In the meantime, the Appledore all-weather lifeboat had floated and made its way safely out of the river joining the yacht and Appledore inshore lifeboat. This enabled a second Appledore crew member to be placed aboard to continue to sail the yacht back, thus relieving the Clovelly crew member. He was taken back to Clovelly by the Appledore inshore lifeboat which then returned home itself. The Appledore all-weather boat escorted the yacht back safely to Appledore where it was placed on a safe mooring at 5.30 am. An extremely successful joint lifeboat station rescue.

The casualty, who had been stabilised by the paramedics and brought to Appledore was, at his request, reunited with his yacht and will remain in Appledore for a few days while he recovers and reassesses his plans.

It was after 5.00 am when the Clovelly, and 6.00 am when the Appledore, lifeboat crews were stood down, all tired but in time for their days work. For Appledore’s two full time crew members this involved showing forty five school children around the lifeboat station and explaining all about the lifeboat service, so no sleep was had that night. For Clovelly, it was a dramatic first shout for crewman Marc Baker who has been volunteering for just over a year.

Key facts about the RNLI

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, in a normal year, 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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.