Appledore RNLI rescues three sailors from the water.

Lifeboats News Release

Appledore RNLI rescued three people from the water after their yacht run aground on Bideford Bar last weekend.

The Torridge Taw Estuary in North Devon has, reputedly, the second most dangerous river mouth Bar in the UK, no one has apparently claimed another is more dangerous. It is situated right in the middle of two major surfing beaches, Westward Ho! and Saunton Sands. It is shallow, constantly changes, and needs care to cross it. By people who do not know its nuisances this should normally only safely be done at high tide.

At around midday, Sunday 16 June 2019, a member of the public reported to the coastguard that a yacht had run aground on the North Gut when attempting to come over Bideford Bar at low tide. Although the sea was calm, the boat was well into the surf line. Assistance was immediately requested by Appledore RNLI, and the inshore lifeboat was launched. Whilst the volunteer crew were on their way to assist, through the high powered binoculars at the lifeboat station, three people were seen getting out of the yacht trying to walk, and then, having found they were on a sand bank with deeper water around them, swim to safety. As the crew approached it was clear two people were in a small rubber dinghy and one was in the water, with the tide rising. They had left the boat after trying to set the anchor, concerned about the surf.

The crew of the inshore lifeboat rescued the shocked, cold and very wet casualties, bringing them back to the safety and warmth of the lifeboat station. They then returned over the Bar to try and retrieve the yacht. However the anchor had unattached itself from the boat and the yacht was being pushed too far up the beach for the lifeboat to safely attempt to rescue. Luckily there were no visible ruptures of yacht hull and no one on board. The yacht crew, once warm and dry, planned to return to the yacht if and when it was safe to do so, when the tide was higher, reset the anchor and head off in the morning. Unfortunately the tide took it high up the beach where it is likely to remain, at least till the next spring tide.

The RNLI lent the casualties dry clothing, whilst the coxswain’s wife kindly washed and dried their clothes, and overnight accommodation was found for them.

It is understood that the skipper had recently bought the yacht, a bilge keel Westerly Centaur, from Swansea, and was taking it around to its new home on the South coast via Ilfracombe and Appledore and it was the crew’s first passage on her.

This incident followed one which occurred last week when a visiting motor vessel came in over the Bar four hours after high tide and subsequently run aground as the estuary was too shallow for it to precede. Luckily on that occasion the boat and crew were safe and no RNLI assistance was necessary. The boat remained high and dry for a few hours until it refloated. Pilot books and maritime charts warn that this estuary should not be entered other than two hours either side of high tide and that the sand banks constantly change. Once through the river mouth and into the estuary there are very few markers to show the channel and Appledore RNLI do urge caution to visitors and are always happy to provide visiting boats with local knowledge before their visit.

If a member of the public sees anyone in difficulty at sea, please phone the Coastguard on 999.


Three Sailors rescued on Bideford Bar, July 16th 2019

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 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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