Ilfracombe lifeboat launches to assist two people in inflatable dinghy

Lifeboats News Release

The Ilfracombe RNLI all-weather lifeboat was paged just after 3.30 p.m. on Sunday 8 August after a report to the Coastguard of an inflatable dinghy in difficulty near Watermouth Cove.

Shannon class lifeboat at sea

RNLI/Neil Perrin

Ilfracombe RNLI all-weather lifeboat (library image)

The alarm was raised by a member of the public who called the Coastguard when they saw two people in the dinghy, attempting to row against the tide, being swept out of Watermouth Harbour and along the coast eastwards towards Combe Martin. The Ilfracombe Coastguard Search and Rescue team were in the area patrolling and were tasked by the Coastguard to locate and check on the dinghy. The Ilfracombe Coastguard team confirmed the dinghy was in difficulty and the RNLI lifeboat was tasked to assist.

The volunteer crew quickly launched the station’s Shannon class all-weather lifeboat The Barry and Peggy High Foundation in moderate conditions with a fresh Force 5 (19-24 mph) westerly wind and a one metre swell. The lifeboat made good speed along the coast and soon spotted the dinghy at Wild Pear beach approximately 1 mile beyond Combe Martin.

As the lifeboat arrived on scene, the dinghy entered the surf line next to the beach and capsized. The two people onboard were tipped out into the water and washed onto the beach. The RNLI Volunteer Coxswain assessed the situation and having manoeuvred the lifeboat as close to the beach as possible, a crew member entered the water and swam ashore to check on the casualties. The two people, a man and his son, were unharmed and were wearing wetsuits. They explained that they had been trying to go fishing in the 2 metre long, child’s inflatable dinghy when they realised that they would be unable to row against the tide and the wind.

The lifeboat crew floated a line to the crew member ashore, who secured it to the front of the dinghy. The man and his son then climbed back into the dinghy and were pulled clear of the surf into open water with the crew member holding on to the back of the dinghy to keep it steady. The dinghy was pulled alongside the lifeboat, and the man and his son taken aboard. The crew member was then recovered, and the dinghy pulled onboard. The lifeboat then made its way to Watermouth Cove arriving 15 minutes later, where the man and his son were placed into the care of the Coastguard.

The lifeboat then returned to Ilfracombe harbour, arriving at 5.00 p.m. where it was recovered and made ready for the next service. This was the third shout in three days for the Ilfracombe RNLI crew and shore crew.

RNLI Volunteer Coxswain Carl Perrin says. ‘we would always recommend people check the tide and weather conditions before taking any water craft out to sea. The tidal currents in North Devon are extremely fast and it can be extremely difficult to swim or paddle against the tide. Many of the emergencies we respond to involve inflatables and that is a key reason why we strongly advise against taking them to the beach. Inflatables are not designed for open water and it takes very little breeze for them to be swept out to sea much quicker than you can swim or paddle back to the beach. What may seem fun at first can turn into an extremely serious situation, in a matter of seconds.’

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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 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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