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Three shouts in one evening and a very long late night for Appledore RNLI.

Lifeboats News Release

Two shouts were taskings to help boats in distress off Lundy Island, approximately 22 miles from Appledore, and one was for people cut off by the tide in the Torridge Estuary.

Appledore RNLI library photo/Appledore RNLI crew member Alex Hall

Appledore RNLI volunteer crew prepare for a long night time shout
On Wednesday 9 August, supper for many of the volunteer crew was put on hold as their pagers went off at 7.30 in the evening following a MAYDAY call (the highest level of distress alert) from a dive boat which had four divers in the water, missing in the fog, half a mile south west of Lundy. The crew immediately assembled and launched the all-weather lifeboat Mollie Hunt. Before the lifeboat had reached the inner pulley buoy, still within the estuary, a further call came in from HM Coastguard saying the divers had been found, all safe and well. The crew were stood down and Mollie Hunt was secured back onto her moorings and the crew returned to the lifeboat station.

Five minutes after the first call, Falmouth Coastguard also requested the launch of the inshore lifeboat Glanely. Two people had been reported by a member of the public, as cut off by the incoming tide on a sandbank between the Royal George pub in Appledore and Instow. With the shore crew still at station having just launched the all-weather boat, they proceeded to get the inshore lifeboat ready whilst more crew arrived and got kitted up. Further eye-ball reports came in from a local coastguard that the casualties could be seen on the Crow Point buoy end of Spratt Ridge. The inshore lifeboat made best speed, located them, found that they were fishing but had their own means of getting back to shore. The lifeboat returned to station getting back to base at the same time as the crew from the all-weather lifeboat.

The third shout came in just after 10.30 pm requesting the launch of the all-weather boat, again for an incident off Lundy. A 31 foot motor cruiser was asking the coastguard for help. He was on his way to Bideford. Both his electronic navigation equipment and navigation lights had failed. Unsure exactly where he was, and with a large rocky island nearby but invisible in the dark, he was unsure how to proceed safety. He thought he was south of the island. The crew pagers were set off for the third time that evening and the all-weather lifeboat preceded at best speed to Lundy to help.

On their way a more exact position was given off the South West side of the island, but on arrival on scene, the lifeboat could find no trace of the boat despite using direction finding equipment and radar; nor could the casualty vessel be heard on VHF, all indicating that the vessel was somewhere else. The lifeboat then decided to search the south and east side of the island. With nothing found, through the coastguard who had communication with the casualty, the lifeboat requested flares be set off by the casualty. The first was seen indicating direction and the second allowed the crew to take a bearing. Soon after 12.30 am the vessel was located about eight miles North East of Lundy.

With the casualty’s top speed of 10 knots, he was escorted back to Appledore and made safe on the spare lifeboat mooring and brought back to the lifeboat station soon after 3 pm where his wife was waiting to take him home. Following a detailed debrief, and making ready the boarding boat for the next launch, the crew could finally go home to their beds. A long night for shore and boat crew alike.

Martin Cox, Appledore RNLI coxswain requests: ‘If you are going to sea, please wear lifejackets. In addition to tracking your voyages and alerting emergency contacts if you fail to return home on time; the free RYA SafeTrx phone app allows you to activate an emergency call to 999, even without an input active trip. When in UK waters, the app will automatically determine your location and direct the call to the UK emergency services. A VHF/DSC radio has a distress button, the alert of which is a recognised emergency signal containing your exact location, which will be picked up by the UK Coastguard and nearby vessels. There are many navigational and location aids which can be downloaded to your phone, some free of charge which can provide immediate location information, such as ‘what3words’, an easy way to identify precise locations. Globally, every 3m square has been given a unique combination of three words: a what3words address. You can find, share and navigate to precise locations using three simple words’.

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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.