Ilfracombe RNLI launch to kayakers in distress
Volunteer crews from Ilfracombe RNLI launched both lifeboats on Sunday 9 August at 11.50 a.m. following reports of multiple kayakers in distress near Combe Martin Bay.
The alarm was raised by two off-duty RNLI volunteer crew members who were out on local sea safari vessel the Lundy Explorer when they saw multiple kayakers in difficulties. The RNLI Ilfracombe all-weather lifeboat, the Shannon class, The Barry and Peggy High Foundation and the D class inshore lifeboat, Deborah Brown II were quickly launched and made good speed to Combe Martin in a 20 knot (23mph) easterly wind with a one metre swell.
As the lifeboats entered the bay 10 minutes after launch, they found up to 50 kayaks out on the water, and the crew checked that these groups did not require assistance. Arriving on scene the lifeboat crew found that local charter vessels had come to the assistance of a number of kayakers. Two kayakers and their kayaks had been taken aboard Ilfracombe charter vessel Adventure Ribs and a third kayaker had been taken aboard charter vessel Reel Deal. The third kayaker was not wearing a buoyancy aid or a wetsuit and was cold, he had also lost his kayak which had blown away in the fresh breeze. None of the kayakers were carrying a means of calling for help. A further two kayakers had been escorted back to the beach by the Lundy Explorer.
The inshore lifeboat (ILB) was tasked to Egg Rocks, where there were reports of two kayakers out of their boats and on the rocks, however, when the ILB arrived they found that the two kayakers had been assisted back to the beach by members of the public. The ILB then carried out a search for the missing kayak which was found on rocks and retrieved. The kayak was taken back to Ilfracombe harbour and handed over to the Ilfracombe Coastguard.
The kayakers from the two charter vessels were transferred safely onto the all-weather lifeboat and were checked over by the crew. The lifeboat then made its way back to Ilfracombe harbour around 1.30 p.m. where the casualties were handed over to the care of the Coastguard.
RNLI Volunteer Coxswain Andrew Bengey says: ‘the forecast today was for a fresh easterly wind and as the tide turned the waves started to increase. The kayakers who had gone further outside the bay found themselves in difficulties. If you are going out onto the water on any leisure craft we would advise that you speak to local people to understand the conditions in the area and also check the tide timetables and weather forecasts before heading out. We would always urge people to wear buoyancy aids or lifejackets when venturing out on the water and carry a means of calling for help.’
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.