Nine incidents in five days for the volunteers of Harwich RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

Over five days the volunteers of Harwich RNLI responded to nine different incidents, five of which occurred around the River Deben, Suffolk. This brings the number of incidents responded to so far in 2022 to 44 - five more than the same time last year – and a renewed appeal to wear a lifejacket


The volunteers of Harwich RNLI responded to a wide variety of incidents involving; capsized kayakers, a broken down boat dragging its anchor, a speedboat aground with five people on board, a vessel on fire off Felixstowe, a catamaran with broken rudders 16 miles off the coast, and breaking away from the Festival of the Sea parade to ensure the safety of spectators being cut off by the tide on Stone Pier.

With five of the nine incidents happening around the River Deben, it is quite apt that’s where this busy spell started. At 11:42am Thursday 16 June, the volunteers were requested to launch the charity’s Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Tierney Harvey and Sonny Reid by the UK Coastguard, after receiving reports of a kayaker in difficulty after capsizing, just north of the river’s mouth.

Arriving on scene it was discovered that a passing vessel had pulled the kayaker on board their craft. The kayaker was transferred to the inshore lifeboat and their welfare assessed by a volunteer. Having deemed the kayaker was ok, they were taken ashore with their kayak, and left in the care of the Shingle Street Coastguard Rescue Team.

Friday 17 June, saw the volunteers attend three incidents in the River Deben. The first occurred while responding to reports of two kayakers in difficulty near Waldringfield, which led the volunteers to spotting another kayaker in difficulty as they entered the river. The kayaker was just clinging to his craft in a very confused sea, and was being taken further from land on the strong tide. Concern was heightened by the kayaker not wearing a floatation device, such as a lifejacket.

Having checked on the kayaker’s welfare and taken them ashore, the volunteers continued on to the original incident. Arriving on scene the lifeboat crew were informed by the Coastguard that all were accounted for and they could return to station.

Just 90 minutes after returning to station the volunteers were back on the water, heading once again to the River Deben. This time a speedboat with five people on board had gone aground on a sand bar at the entrance to the river. Due to the low level of water around the speedboat it was deemed safest to secure the boat and take the five people ashore to the awaiting Coastguard team on Felixstowe beach, in order to make arrangements to recover the speedboat on the next suitable tide.

On Saturday 18 June, while taking part in a flotilla of 80 boats (part of the Festival of the Sea), alongside Harwich’s all-weather lifeboat Albert Brown, and relief all-weather lifeboat Duke of Kent, the inshore lifeboat was diverted to ensure the safety of spectators making their way off Stone Pier, as water lapped over the top, having been caught out by the rising tide.

Just after 5pm a reported fire aboard a vessel off Felixstowe saw both lifeboats launched, but happily the vessel had extinguished the fire and was making its way back to its berth on one engine, so both lifeboats were stood down.

After a quiet Father’s Day Sunday, Monday made up for it with three incidents. The first came at 8:30am when an 18-metre catamaran, with one person on board, which lost both its rudders approximately 16 miles east of Walton-on-the-Naze. The all-weather lifeboat Albert Brown reached the disabled catamaran at 9.22am, and in the 1.2 metre swell it was deemed safest to pass a tow to the occupant to tie off, and tow it to shore. On reaching the Pye End buoy (off Dovercourt Bay), the owner decided to stop the tow and anchor up in order to make their own arrangements for proceeding into the Walton Backwaters for repairs.

That evening at 5pm, just 50 minutes after returning from investigating reports of a sailing vessel taking on water, which turned out to be a false alarm with good intent, the volunteers received their last launch request of this busy five-day period. Fittingly it would take them back to the River Deben, where it started the previous Thursday. A motor boat had broken down at the entrance to the river, and its anchor wasn’t holding. On establishing a tow line from the inshore lifeboat, the motor boat was only metres from being aground. Having taken the casualty to a mooring in the river, and ensured the three occupants were safely ashore, the lifeboat and its crew returned to station.

Lifeboat Operations Manager Peter Bull was full of praise for the team:

'I’m so proud of how the whole team has come together to ensure that they, and the lifeboats were always ready to answer the call throughout such a period of high demand for the charity.

'I can’t stress enough the importance of a suitable lifejacket for your chosen water based activities, such as kayaking. We don’t think twice about putting on a seatbelt in our cars, I would like to see putting on a lifejacket become second nature too.

'If you would like to help make a real difference by saving lives with Harwich RNLI, please email [email protected]. No experience is needed as full comprehensive training will be given.'

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact:

Richard Wigley, RNLI Harwich volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07903424698 or [email protected],

Clare Hopps, Regional Media Officer on 07824518641or [email protected] or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

RNLI/Peter Bull

Both lifeboats taking part in ‘Parade of Boats’

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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