Archive for the ‘Lifeboats’ Category
…and west is west, and never the twain shall meet’. Kipling.
This month’s issue of Canoe Kayak UK magazine includes a feature I wrote on sea kayaking in East Anglia. In the article I basically I try to summarise what we learned about the paddling possibilities of Norfolk and Suffolk through our research for Pesda Press’s upcoming ‘South East Sea Kayaking’ guidebook, whilst keeping the cousin-marrying jokes to a respectable minimum.
Hope it is of interest.
Above and below are some random images from our splendid research trips (i.e. holidays) out east…
The national RNLI Headquarters are located across several sizeable buildings on Holes Bay, an offshoot of Poole Harbour. A few years back they opened the rather impressive and hi-tech ‘Lifeboat College’ which – despite looking somewhat ostentatious – is apparently self-funding, being a hotel and having facilities available for various functions such as training courses and weddings.
Last weekend, it was the location for the wedding of two of our kayaking friends, and a fine location it proved to be. A great day was had by all…
Whilst paddling the coast between Mousehole and Land’s End, give thought to the agonising sacrifice made by the small community of Mousehole on 19th December, 1981. The coaster MV Union Star had suffered engine failure and was being blown ashore west of Lamorna Cove by a hurricane. The Penlee lifeboat Solomon Browne launched. The all-volunteer crew had no illusions about the undertaking; Coxswain Trevelyan Richards had refused to allow the son of one crew member to board, saying “No more than one from any family”.
Richards managed to bring the Solomon Browne alongside the Union Star through 16m breakers, the lifeboat actually being flung onto the deck at one point. Four survivors were picked up, but when the lifeboat returned for the remaining crew, it was tossed skyward and pitched into a rocky trough. The Union Star later capsized. All eight crew of the Solomon Browne were lost, as well as all eight crew of the Union Star.
The lifeboatmen were posthumously honoured with medals from the RNLI, and a national appeal raised £3 million to support the widows and families.
From South West Sea Kayaking.
“The greatest act of courage that I have ever seen, and am ever likely to see, was the penultimate courage and dedication shown by the Penlee when it manoeuvred back alongside the casualty in over 60 ft breakers” – helicopter pilot who witnessed events.
The Old Lifeboat House on the shingle spit of Blakeney Point in Norfolk. It belongs to University College London. It was opened as a lifeboat station in 1898, but sold off to the University in 1910, after shifting shingle made its location less than ideal.
Kayakers can land here and explore the surrounding shingles, salt marshes and dunes by path. The information displays and general ambience add up to a somewhat more welcoming experience than that to be found out at the end of Blakeney Point.
Last week we happened to be sitting in the van on Filey seafront eating bacon sarnies for brekkie, when the Filey all-weather lifeboat launched for an exercise. The sea retreats someway offshore at low tide on this part of the Yorkshire coast, so a tractor is used to tow the boat into deep water.
As always with the RNLI, it was a pleasure to watch them at work.
Pasted below are a few documents which will hopefully offer some insight into where all the money went from this year’s South West Sea Kayaking Meet. Each participant donated £30. The only outgoing cost from the money donated was that used to hire the the nasty stinky toilets. I donated £10 a head to the National Trust for each person who camped in their field. I did not realise this at the time, but it would seem that they intend to use this money to provide paddling facilities in the area (see letter below). The rest was donated to the RNLI and Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Ashburton. These are both charities who have offered direct assistance to kayakers in difficulty, in recent years.
National Trust: £750
Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Ashburton: £1000
No personal profit has been made from the event.
I hope that all makes sense; please get in touch if you have any further queries.
I do not intend to organise any further South West Sea Kayaking Meets, but I do think that they have been a success. Whilst there is clearly a market for high profile ‘Symposium’ events where paddlers pay significant monies to be led by famous coaches, low key low cost events like the SWSKM demonstrably also have a role to play in enabling paddlers to meet new peers and develop skills to paddle on their own initiative in safe group sizes and conditions. Sadly there don’t seem to be many such events at present; I really do hope that others will grab the baton and organise similar events. It’s honestly not that hard…pick an area with a range of paddling possibilities and good parking/ access, find a camping field, get some sensible mates to paddle with small groups, et voila! If you can raise some money for worthwhile causes along the way, all good.
Most of all, thanks again to all who participated and helped this year. I hope that you will be satisfied with where your donations have gone.
This remarkable film about six volunteers at Poole RNLI was made by Jack Collins & Elliott Trent over two months. Elliott – a paddler – sent the link.
Enjoy, and consider supporting their work.
I was nowhere near the coast, this last weekend. However, I did find myself wandering over salt water, past Britain’s busiest lifeboat station.
It’s years since I paddled these waters; looking forward to paddling them again in a few weeks.
This photo of yesterday’s incident is from Barbara Browning; in the foreground are the bows of her kayak and mine. Just right of Weymouth Lifeboat is the kayak angler whom they extracted (by crane) and evacuated to Weymouth.
Apparently the paddler had strained himself trying to paddle back to shore, opening up an old injury; hence his inability to paddle.
More info/ discussion here.
Pan-Pan – In radiotelephone communications, a call of pan-pan (pronounced /ˈpæn ˈpæn/) is used to signify that there is an urgency on board a boat, ship, aircraft or other vehicle but that, for the time being at least, there is no immediate danger to anyone’s life or to the vessel itself. This is referred to as a state of urgency. This is distinct from a Mayday call, which means that there is imminent danger to life or to the continued viability of the vessel itself. Thus “pan-pan” informs potential rescuers (including emergency services and other craft in the area) that a safety problem exists whereas “Mayday” will call upon them to drop all other activities and immediately initiate a rescue attempt. Source – Wikipedia.
We headed out of icy Ringstead Bay for a paddle today; however, as soon as we arrived beneath the cliffs of White Nothe, we were blasted by unforecasted Force 6 gusts in our faces. It was obvious that making headway was going to be a pain. We turned back early (not before I nearly capsized when my paddle was blown out of my hands whilst trying to adjust my pogies) and headed back to the beach.
A large group of kayak anglers were also at Ringstead having some kind of informal meet, to fish around the reef located a short distance offshore. As soon as we landed, the VHF crackled into life and a ‘Pan Pan’ message was issued by one of these anglers. He was drifting offshore in the strong offshore winds with a friend who couldn’t paddle back against the wind. Portland Coastguard replied and asked for nearby vessels to assist, so (after a quick discussion with the CG) we launched again and paddled out to the two paddlers, located about 500 metres offshore and drifting quickly.
The situation was that one of the paddlers – for reasons unclear – couldn’t move one of his arms to paddle, and hence they were being blown into rougher water. His friend was attempting to tow him, but not making much headway. It would have been quite simple for our group to tow/ guide them both back to the beach, but the Coastguard advised us that the Weymouth Lifeboat (already in the vicinity on exercises) would come to investigate the casualty’s medical situation, and that a SAR helicopter was on standby. I let off a flare to mark our position (a night flare – duh – but it did the job) and the lifeboat soon found us.
The lifeboat crew dragged the casualty onboard – a big chap – and decided to take him to hospital. His huge kayak (he was paddling a double alone) was a bit of a mess – multiple rods and a huge sail trailing in the water – so to save us the hassle of towing this, the lifeboat took that onboard as well. We paddled back to the beach, escorting the other paddler with us.
News is coming through of another major sea kayak incident in the south west – two paddlers have been airlifted to hospital from the south Cornish coast, near Falmouth. Our hope is that they are unharmed and will make a swift recovery.
I will collate news reports on the SWSK Facebook group as they come in… www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=139419152740954
The report below is from the BBC…
Rescued Falmouth kayakers airlifted to hospital
An RNAS Culdrose helicopter airlifted the kayakers to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro
Two kayakers have been rescued after their boats capsized in stormy conditions in Cornwall.
The men had left Maenporth, near Falmouth, en route to the Helford River when they became separated.
Falmouth Coastguard said the alarm was raised at 1410 GMT when a flare set off by one of the kayakers was spotted by the public.
The pair, who were suffering from suspected hypothermia, were flown to the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
Their condition is not known.
RNLI lifeboats from Falmouth and a tanker were also involved in the rescue.
Experienced kayakers The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the rescue was carried out in heavy seas with poor visibility and with the support of the tanker Cape Daly which was anchored in Falmouth Bay.
The Falmouth inshore lifeboat found one kayaker who had capsized and was in the sea.
Minutes later the second man, whose kayak had also capsized, was found by a search and rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose.
Peter Bullard, MCA watch manager at Falmouth, said the men were lucky to be rescued.
“We understand they are experienced kayakers and were well equipped but they’re still lucky that in such poor weather their distress flare was seen,” he said.
“We always advise anyone venturing onto the sea in such challenging conditions to be realistic about their abilities.”
Video from Weymouth Lifeboat
Unfortunately, a huge sea kayak group from a local canoe club got into major difficulties in the Portland Race yesterday. This is the strongest and most extensive tidal race in the south west, forming off the headland of Portland Bill. The tidal race is particularly awkward as it generates massive back eddies running down the sides of the headland, which can make escape from The Race difficult if you do not time your passage precisely.
Multiple helicopters and lifeboats were summoned to assist the sixteen paddlers from Upper Hamble Canoe Club. Thankfully, reports seem to indicate that all were safely rescued and are unharmed.
I have collated news reports on the SWSK Facebook group… www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=139419152740954
The report below is from the Dorset Echo…
SIXTEEN kayak instructors are lucky to be alive after being plucked to safety in a dramatic rescue operation off Portland.
The experienced group were swept into the notorious Portland Race as they attempted to paddle around the Bill as darkness fell yesterday evening.
The Race is a fierce area of sea caused by a combination of tides and shelving seabed.
But a disaster was averted thanks to a slick rescue involving Weymouth’s two lifeboats, two rescue helicopters, coastguard teams and the HM Customs patrol boat Valiant.
All 16 kayakers were safely picked up unharmed by lifeboat crews. A man and a woman were later airlifted to Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester suffering from shock and seasickness.
The lifeboats also managed to retrieve every kayak from the water.
The kayakers, coaches and instructors attached to the Upper Hamble Canoe Club in Southampton, did not want to comment as they were brought ashore and checked over by paramedics at Portland Marina last night.
They had set off from Portland Castle earlier in the day and made their way around the island to Chesil Cove before making the return journey in the afternoon. The group were equipped with radios and lifejackets and had notified coastguards of their trip.
Portland Coastguard received a mayday call just before 4pm as members of the group started getting into difficulty and become separated from each other.
Members ‘rafted’ their kayaks together in different groups and waited for help. All stayed afloat despite the violent seas.
Lifeboats arrived to find the sea lit up by searchlights from the Portland and Solent coastguard helicopters and from Valiant, making the recovery operation easier.
Philip Chappell of Portland Coastguard said: “The first mayday call we got was from a woman who was hysterical.
“It was only on the second mayday call that we were able to confirm a position and get resources out there.”
He added: “Happily, all 16 were taken from the water safely but it so easily could have gone the other way.
“We could have had a horrendous situation here last night.
“They got into trouble in an area which is the fiercest tidal race on the south coast.
“We’ve had big powerboats come to grief in the Race so you can imagine what it would do to a kayak.
“A combination of tides and geography create a one-sided whirlpool.
“Questions need to be asked about expedition planning and timings.”
Coxswain of Weymouth Lifeboat Andy Sargent said that the operation had been very successful and that he was proud of his crew.
He said: “It was a trip that went wrong.
“There was a mayday put out to request a launch, saying that there were 16 kayaks in difficulty. A rescue helicopter was on scene first and saw that no one was in the water, they were rafted up in their kayaks.
“The inshore lifeboat went to rescue three kayaks that had become separated.
“Once we had recovered everyone to the all weather lifeboat we set about recovering the kayaks.
“I’m very pleased with the job, we got everyone back and the kayaks too.”
He added: “One of the kayakers was in shock and so after ten minutes she was airlifted by the rescue helicopter to Dorset County Hospital. Another kayaker was suffering from seasickness so he was also airlifted.”
South West Ambulance set up a medical check point at Portland Marina and the lifeboat brought the kayakers into the harbour at 6.30pm.
They were checked over by the ambulance service and given tea and coffee by nearby restaurant, The Boat That Rocks, before they went home.