‘Joanna C’: RNLI Newhaven remember, reflect and respect

Lifeboats News Release

One year ago today, RNLI Newhaven pagers sounded at 6:14am. The All-weather Lifeboat launched to help the fishing vessel Joanna C and her three crew. Lewis Arnold Coxswain and twelve of Newhaven Lifeboat’s volunteer crew took part in the search. One of the biggest searches in the station’s history.

RNLI/James Johnson

RNLI Newhaven stand with their community for the vigil of 'Joanna C' missing fishermen 25 November 2020
Lewis Arnold, Coxswain/Mechanic, says: ‘When we know there are people out at sea who need our help, there’s always a strong sense of the crew stepping up. It was palpable on that day.’

James Johnson, Navigator, says: ‘When the pager went off and we heard it was an EPIRB from a local fishing boat, my first thought was - I hope that’s a false alarm. But it was not. Sadly our worst fears transpired.’

It was a multi-agency effort, supported by RNLI lifeboats from Newhaven, Eastbourne and Hastings, HM Coastguard shore teams, helicopters from Lydd and Lee on Solent, fixed wing airplane, the Ocean Osprey, two Windcats and a fleet of local vessels.

Ryan Poulton, Mechanic, says: ‘I was duty mechanic on that Saturday. It was an early call out. We never know what we’re going to get. We quickly understood this was the real deal. I kept my focus on the engine and dealing with Comms.’

During Newhaven’s totalled 20-hours at sea, the David and Elizabeth Acland and her volunteer crew completed two parallel track searches, the first comprising of eleven legs, on the last of which, hope was rewarded.

Andy Bull, Mechanic, says: ‘After a while of searching you start to question, are we in the right place, while still looking and trying to visualise anything in the water that could be relevant. Then it was like a double-take. I saw him and called out: Starboard-side. There’s someone in the water. He’d got a hand up waving and was holding onto the lifebuoy.’

Jo Goode, Crew, says: ‘It was all action then. The team got him out so quick. We got him secure in the wheelhouse. Nick helped him out of his wet gear and into a thermal woolly bear undersuit, while I checked his stats. His feet were so cold, but he didn’t need any intervention. He’d coped with the cold water incredibly well.’

Nick Gentry, Navigator/Mechanic, says: ‘I was sat at the Nav table, following the boat on the chart plotting system, making sure we were covering the right track, when I heard it over the intercom, that there was someone in the water. It was the next part “and they look okay” - that was an amazing feeling.’

After the rescued fisherman was spotted and recovered, the Lifeboat returned to the station where he was transferred to hospital.

The Lifeboat launched again, beginning their second parallel track search of sixteen intended legs, although abandoned this after six legs. Instead, to maximize the search, RNLI Newhaven assumed coordination of the many other vessels now assisting on the water.

Danny Woodford, Crew, says: ‘Heading out without the immediate adrenalin of the pager going off was a different experience. I got on at crew change over on the Saturday afternoon. By which point it was a relief to be going out doing what feels natural to do.’

Alvaro Rodriguez, Crew, says: ‘I have seen how hard these fishermen work and what they give. I admire and I respect them. We are a fishing community.’

Alex Beckett, Navigator, says: ‘The line of vessels supporting the search spoke volumes of the determination on the water. Search pattern after search pattern. The natural response is to find these people and that’s what we all wanted.’

Newhaven Lifeboat established a sixteen, and later seventeen multi-vessel, line abreast search moving west to east, east to west, west to east until the fading light hampered the search.

Lewis Arnold, Coxswain, says: ‘At one point we had 17 surface vessels assisting in the search. It was a priviledge to coordinate with a community of such strength.’

Billy Hipperson, Crew, says: ‘As the situation unravelled it bought home the strength of this community and the respect our fisherman deserve. The going out, making the catch, and the bringing back. The level of risk our fishermen and their families live with on a daily basis.’

The search was resumed at first light with Newhaven Lifeboat leading a six vessel line abreast search from west to east and then due south.

Pete Todd, Crew, says: ‘These are people we know. It’s a gutty feeling. I was duty mechanic on the Sunday. You have to get yourself together. Lewis did a great job coordinating all the vessels, covering as many miles as possible, as quickly as possible.’

Newhaven Lifeboat returned to the station at 1.43pm on Sunday 22 November when they were stood down by HM Coastguard.

John Simcock, Navigator, says: ‘I’d do it all over again, without hesitation. It’s devastating to think of those lads out there.’

Lewis Arnold, Coxswain/Mechanic, says: ‘We have only admiration for our rescued casualty, it was a relief to see him. The loss of life for the families remains sad beyond words and today our thoughts are with them. We offer our deepest sympathies. Our commitment redoubles at Newhaven Lifeboat to saves lives at sea.’


Notes to editors
• EPIRB: An EPIRB or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is used to alert search and rescue services in the event of an emergency. It does this by transmitting a coded message via the free to use, multinational Cospas Sarsat network. A 406 MHz distress frequency signal is sent via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue co-ordination centre.
• Parallel Track Search: is a type of area search. Area searches are used when the information is dated or less accurate and where there are many possibilities of where the casualty could be. They are calculated using: up-to-date tide information, wind strength and direction to calculate the leeway (wind drift) of the casualty and wind information from the last 24 hours to establish wind-driven current.
• Line Abreast Search: is a type of area search. Area searches are used when the information is dated or less accurate and where there are many possibilities of where the casualty could be. They are calculated using: up-to-date tide information, wind strength and direction to calculate the leeway (wind drift) of the casualty and wind information from the last 24 hours to establish wind-driven current.

RNLI media contacts
For more information please telephone Roz Ashton, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07900 887423 or [email protected] or Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer on 07785 296252 [email protected] or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

RNLI Newhaven social media
Twitter: @NewhavenRNLI
Instagram: newhavenlifeboat
Facebook: @newhaven.lifeboat

Eddie Mitchell

RNLI Newhaven Severn class All-weather Lifeboat returning to Station

Daniel Moon

Vessels join RNLI in the search for missing 'Joanna C' fishermen

Daniel Moon

RNLI Newhaven washing down the lifeboat after a long day of searching is hampered by night

Eddie Mitchell

The community join with the families in a vigil for the missing fishermen of the 'Joanna C'

RNLI/James Johnson

Newhaven Lifeboat Coxswain and duty Volunteer Crew who served during search and rescue of the 'Joanna C’

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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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