Summer brings challenges for South West lifeboat volunteers
RNLI lifeboat crews in the south west have launched 653 times this summer, a slight rise on last year’s total of 627.
Despite the poor weather, the charity’s volunteers in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and the Channel Islands have been involved in a wide range of activities from the Jubilee celebrations and Olympics, to dramatic rescues in challenging conditions.
Nationally the figures, which cover the period from June 1 to August 31, are down two per cent compared to the 2011 figures, probably due to the rainy weather at the beginning of the summer.
The south west has seen a slight rise of 26 emergency call outs and the unseasonable weather has led to some extremely difficult rescues.
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The busiest stations in the south west were Poole in Dorset and Falmouth in Cornwall, each with 45 call outs, followed by Plymouth in Devon with 39 emergency launches and St Helier, Jersey with 33 call outs.
Tom Mansell, RNLI Inspector in the south west, says: "This has been an unusual summer with some tricky weather for our volunteer lifeboat crews to contend with.
"The recent rescue of a surfer in southerly force five to six winds and with a choppy two to three metre swell and larger breaking waves by the crew of the Salcombe inshore lifeboat showed just how much we expect from our volunteers, as did the rescue of a yachtsman thrown into the water when the boat he was on capsized off Padstow.
"These and the rescue of four groups of kayakers off Ilfracombe were all rescues carried out in very unseasonable weather.
"Then of course there was the role played by many of our south west crew volunteers in supporting the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events in Weymouth. Between them they crewed lifeboats and provided important safety cover."
The furthest distance travelled by a lifeboat in a single shout was carried out by St Mary’s lifeboat, from the Isles of Scilly, which launched to rescue a catamaran 80 nautical miles offshore and tow it back to harbour.
The Burnham-on-Sea lifeboat crews were out for the longest shout of the summer – 17.7 hours in total – when they joined the search for four-year-old Dylan Cecil, who was tragically lost at sea after slipping from a jetty.
Tom Mansell added: "Once again our volunteer crews have shown that they are committed and brave individuals, on stand by to save lives at sea come rain or shine even during the summer when they deserve their own time off to be with their families.
"I thank them for their continuing dedication and I thank their families for their invaluable support too."
The busiest lifeboat stations in the different areas this summer are as follows;
Cornwall – Falmouth (45), Penlee (24), Newquay (23)
Devon – Plymouth (39), Ilfracombe (31), Appledore (31)
Somerset – Weston super Mare (22), Minehead (15), Burnham on Sea (10)
Dorset – Poole (45), Weymouth (32), Swanage (29)
Channel Islands – St Helier (33), St Catherine’s (16), Alderney (10)