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Challenging Mother’s Day rescue for RNLI Walmer volunteers

Lifeboats News Release

Walmer's D Class inshore lifeboat Duggie Rodbard II responds to a tasking from HM Coastguard.

Crew in the water keeping the lifeboat head to sea.

RNLI/Christopher Winslade

Crew in the water keeping the lifeboat head to sea.

The inshore lifeboat Duggie Rodbard II launched at 10.35am on Sunday 14 March to a report of three people cut off by the rising tide at Ness Point near St Margaret’s Bay.

Soon after launching the engine was found not performing to full capacity and a top speed of only 13 knots was initially achieved. Helm Dan Sinclair stopped a number of times carrying out some on-board maintenance - draining and switching fuel lines, checking under the engine hood and around the intake for blockages or obvious problems. Nothing was discovered so the decision was taken to continue to the scene with the station’s Atlantic 85 Donald McLauchlan which was on exercise shadowing.

The casualties were located on an outcrop a couple of meters above the water. Two crew from the Atlantic were asked to transfer to the D Class for extra manpower. It was clear that the sea conditions were challenging with swells coming from different angles and many rocks hidden beneath the lifeboat. Two crew members were briefed to attend the casualties handing them survivor’s lifejackets, masks and gloves. Two others stayed with the helm to keep the boat held head to sea.

The swells were fierce and crew were constantly battling to keep the boat head to sea and to stop it smashing into either of the flank rocks where they had first approached. The sea was lifting the boat up and could potentially have thrown it back to the chalk rocks behind.

Once the crew had the three casualties ‘boat ready’ they were told to wait for transfer. The first casualty was successfully transferred. Seconds later a wave crashed over the bow and engulfed the whole boat. After the transfer of the third casualty the whole mattress of the boat had disappeared due to the water on board. The additional weight caused the boat to start drifting beam on. The crew battled endlessly to keep the boat head to sea and then get the boat positioned the other side of the rock. One crew member re-boarded the and the Atlantic recovered the remaining crew from the sea using throw bags.

Near the shore, Langdon Mobile Coastguard team with drysuits and lines helped recovery of the casualties who were placed safely ashore. Two or three further swells broke over the stern and swamped the boat again.

On their return from the rescue Helm Dan Sinclair said ‘This was the most challenging shout I have been involved in - mentally more than physically as I was the person making the decisions. Without the assistance of our Atlantic crew this rescue would not have been possible. I am so proud of all of the crew today so performing outstandingly in very challenging conditions. Each-and-every one of them played a vital role in getting the casualties home safe!’

Notes to editors

Walmer lifeboat station was established in1856.

It currently operates two inshore lifeboats – a B Class Atlantic 85 Donald McLauchlan and a smaller D Class Duggie Rodbard II.

Crews have received 28 Awards for Gallantry

Rescue viewed from Donald McLauchlan

RNLI/Christopher Winslade

Rescue viewed from Donald McLauchlan

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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