The winter of 2013/14 saw some of the worst storms in living memory relentlessly hit the UK, one after another. This resulted in massive flooding inland and around the coasts, damage to buildings and loss of life. Being an island, it’s not just those on land that suffer, sailors navigating our coasts have had a torrid time too.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was incorporated to save lives at sea, but that remit has changed over the last few years and they are now also very much in the thick of it inland these days too. As a result our brave, and largely unpaid volunteer, crews had a really busy time since the beginning of December 2013. Here are some of the challenges they have faced…
Plymouth Lifeboat searches for missing person
Friday, 3rd January, the Plymouth lifeboat was tasked with searching for a missing person in rough weather by the Yealm river.
Unfortunately, conditions worsened and the lifeboat search had to be postponed, whilst the coastguard and RAF helicopter continued. But within half an hour of returning home, the volunteer crew were back out in Plymouth South looking for a kayaker in difficulties.
Pwllheli Lifeboat assists caravaners
Modern lifeboat crews work on land to rescue flood victims as well as out at sea and around our coasts.
Here the Llyn Peninsula crew are seen assisting five people evacuate their caravans that have been flooded as a result of strong onshore winds, abnormally high tides and low pressure; all conspiring to raise the sea level even higher.
Penlee Lifeboat searches off Loe
Penlee Lifeboat was called out shortly after the New Year’s celebrations to search for a missing person washed off a beach near Porthleven on the 1st January at 01:00. Four people were paddling in huge waves when one was caught out and washed away.
Penlee’s Severn lifeboat, Ivan Ellen, and their inshore Atlantic 75, Paul Alexander, were launched in to extreme weather conditions to cross Mounts Bay.
Unfortunately, half-way across, the cox of the Atlantic deemed the seas to be too severe for the small boat and she had to return to the station, leaving the Severn to battle on alone.
Joined by an RNAS search a rescue chopper and the Lizard’s new Tamar lifeboat, Rose, the search proved fruitless and Ivan Ellen returned to her home in Newlyn Harbour at around 05:30.
Brave volunteers risk their lives to save others
The majority of the crews of the RNLI’s lifeboats are unpaid volunteers. They risk their own lives to save those of others in awful conditions and the crew of the Penlee Lifeboat are only too aware of this.
On the 19th December, 1981, the Solomon Browne, stationed at Penlee Lifeboat Station, was launched in to mountainous seas to rescue the crew of the Union Star, who’s engine had failed eight miles east of Wolf Rock lighthouse. All eight crew of the lifeboat and that of the coaster, were lost as bits of the lifeboat started to appear on beaches along the south-west coast of Cornwall along with the upturned wreckage of the Union Star.
The brave crew had managed to rescue four of the ship’s crew, but turned back to bravely rescue the rest. Nothing else was heard from the lifeboat as the radio went silent, except for the anxious voices of the Coastguard trying to raise the stricken lifeboat.
Help us to raise money for the RNLI
The RNLI is funded almost entirely by voluntary donations and legacies. This invaluable support enables the RNLI to save 22 people every day.
During 2012 lifeboats launched 8,346 times, rescuing over 7,900 people around the coasts of the UK and Ireland.
Similarly, the RNLI’s Lifeguard service attended to over 14,500 incidents and aided just short of 16,500 people.
Finally, the new Flood Rescue Team attended 8 locations throughout England, Wales and Ireland to rescue 85 people inland.
Your money helps to keep this invaluable service running, saving lives at sea, on the beaches and, now, inland too!