Two kayakers and paddleboarder trapped by tide

Lifeboats News Release

The Ilfracombe RNLI inshore lifeboat was launched on 12 August just after 5.45p.m. following a report to the Coastguard of two kayakers and a stand up paddleboarder trapped on a beach near Combe Martin.

D class lifeboat with crew at sea

RNLI/Neil Perrin

Ilfracombe RNLI D class lifeboat (library image)

The RNLI volunteer crew were preparing to launch the relief D class inshore lifeboat (ILB) the Elaine McLeod Scott, for evening exercise when they were tasked by the Coastguard to assist two kayakers and a paddleboarder who were stuck on a small shingle beach beyond Little Hangman hill. As the crew were already assembled for evening exercise, the inshore lifeboat was launched in just a few minutes and the crew made their way out of the harbour in a fresh force 4 (13-18 mph) westerly wind and a choppy sea.

Arriving on scene just seven minutes later the crew found the three people on the rocky shingle beach. Two of the people, a man and a woman, had visited a local shop that afternoon and had hired an inflatable paddleboard and inflatable kayak, with the intention of paddling in Combe Martin Bay. However the two people found themselves pulled out to sea and around the headland by the strength of the rising flood tide and pushed eastwards along the coast. The two people were soon separated by the tide and currents, however, one of them who had a mobile phone with them managed to call the hire shop, explain their situation and ask for help. The hire shop quickly contacted one of their staff who was already out on a kayak, leading a group, and the staff member quickly paddled out to find the kayaker and paddle boarder and was able to tow first one, and then the other, to safety on the beach on the eastern side of Little Hangman. The staff member had hoped to tow the two people back to Combe Martin, but the strength of the tide meant this was not possible. The staff member then called the shop manager who alerted the Coastguard.

Arriving at the beach, the ILB helm assessed the situation, and a crew member was sent ashore to check that the people were unhurt, and to prepare the equipment for towing. The lifeboat was manoeuvred backwards onto the beach and a towline secured to the staff member’s kayak. The inflatable kayak and paddleboard were deflated and stacked on top of this kayak and secured ready to be towed. The three people were assisted into the ILB and the ILB made its way slowly in the choppy sea back to Combe Martin where they were met by the Ilfracombe Coastguard Search and Rescue team. The ILB then returned to station to be made ready for the next service.

RNLI Volunteer Helm Leigh Hanks says: ‘it is spring tides at the moment with over 9 metres high tide today and the strength of the tide can catch people out. When the tide is in full flood it isn’t possible for most people to paddle against it. We would always recommend that people check the tide timetables before heading out onto the water. Fortunately today no one was hurt, and the two people had a mobile phone with them and were able to call for help. We would urge people to carry a means of calling for help and make sure it is accessible. If you get into difficulty whilst at sea call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

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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