Harwich RNLI volunteers assist stricken yacht

Lifeboats News Release

A routine Sunday morning training exercise turned into a first service call for trainee crew member Gail Mander when a 10m yacht ran aground at the entrance to the River Deben.


Gail Mander on completion of first service

At 9:08am on Sunday 20 March the volunteer crew of Harwich RNLI’s Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Tierney, Harvey, and Sonny Reid were requested by the UK Coastguard to assist a ten metre yacht which had reportedly missed the entrance to the River Deben and run aground on a sand bar, with one person on board.

Several attempts were made to get close to the yacht but all failed due to a breaking sea swell caused by a moderate easterly breeze, and shallow water surrounding the casualty vessel. Floating a tow line to the casualty was considered, but deemed too dangerous as it could have become entangled in the lifeboat’s propellers, which were needed to prevent the lifeboat going aground itself.

It was deemed the safest option was for the casualty to launch their tender to the lifeboat, which was manoeuvred as close as safely possible. The casualty was taken to Felixstowe Ferry, and passed to the care of volunteers from the Felixstowe Coastguard mobile unit so they could make arrangements to recover their yacht.

On board the lifeboat was Gail Mander completing her first service since joining the volunteers at Harwich RNLI in June 2021, and working her way through the training programme.

Gail, a specialist nurse with NHS Blood and Transplant from Dovercourt, said on completion of her first service: ‘I have always been in awe of the work the RNLI does, so when I had the opportunity to join the Harwich crew it was like a dream come true. What should have been a routine training exercise turned into my first ‘shout’ when we were asked to assist a yacht which had run aground off Felixstowe.

'The conditions were challenging and it was amazing to work first hand with such a skilled team, and having the opportunity to put my training into practice. I feel privileged to be part of such an amazing team, and pleased we were able to help the yacht’s occupant when they needed us.’

Helmsman Antony Charles, added: 'A good service for Gail’s first, there was a lot to consider and take in, during which she performed brilliantly. Her hard work and dedication in training really paid off.

'It was good to see the occupant of the yacht was well equipped and experienced. Today’s incident shows it can happen to anyone, even the most experienced.’

Safety tips and advice for those taking to the water can be found at rnli.org.uk

Harwich RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Peter Bull added: ‘Harwich RNLI is immensely fortunate to have such dedicated members of the community like Gail, with or without experience of the sea, coming forward and volunteering to crew the town’s two lifeboats. It has been inspiring to see their commitment to the training, and that of the experienced crew parting with their knowledge and experiences to those following in their footsteps.’

Notes to editors

Felixstowe Ferry mentioned is the small hamlet at the mouth of the River Deben, and not the foot ferry service.

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.

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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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