The volunteers of RNLI Rye Harbour Lifeboat Station demonstrated their commitment to saving lives at sea as they responded to four separate emergency calls within a span of just over 24 hours.
The series of incidents began on Sunday afternoon when the pagers sounded at 3:37 pm, summoning the crew to action. HM Coastguard had received reports of three individuals in distress near the Harbour mouth. As the Atlantic ’85 lifeboat was being launched, a fortunate turn of events occurred, with the casualties managing to reach safety on their own. Consequently, the lifeboat crew was stood down.
Simultaneously, a yacht was spotted exhibiting erratic movements in the channel, prompting the Launch Authority to dispatch the lifeboat to investigate the situation. HM Coastguard subsequently requested that the crew escort the troubled vessel back to its moorings in Rye. After accomplishing their mission, the lifeboat was swiftly recovered and back in service by 5:30 pm.
The third shout occurred at 6:49 pm on the same day when the pagers blared once more, directing the Rye Harbour lifeboat to search for three distressed paddleboarders between Pett Level and Rock-a-Nore, Hastings. Tim Dickinson, Rye RNLI helm, recounted the incident. Strong winds and tides had swept the paddleboarders off course, pushing them toward Fairlight and rendering their return by sea impossible. Upon reaching the scene, the lifeboat crew discovered one paddleboarder still afloat, while the other two sought refuge on the shore beneath towering cliffs.
With the rocky nature of the shoreline making it unsafe to beach the lifeboat or approach closely without risking hull damage, the crew devised a plan to rescue the stranded individuals. A courageous crew member swam ashore attached to a line, reaching the two casualties who were understandably shaken but otherwise unharmed. Recognizing the urgency of the situation due to potential cliff falls, the decision was made to transfer the individuals to the lifeboat using one of the paddleboards. The crew member retrieved the only inflated board, allowing the casualties to be safely pulled through the treacherous rocks back to the waiting lifeboat. Once on board, they were swiftly returned to the beach at Rock-a-Nore, where grateful Coastguard personnel and their families eagerly awaited. The successful rescue brought relief to all involved.
As the day turned into evening, the tireless volunteers of RNLI Rye Harbour and Pett Level Independent Rescue engaged in a joint-training session focused on towing. However, their training exercise was abruptly interrupted when the pagers interrupted once again. HM Coastguard urgently requested the assistance of the Rye Harbour lifeboat in aiding a yacht that had suffered a breakdown in Rye Bay. Acting swiftly, the lifeboat arrived at the scene in record time and proceeded to tow the stricken vessel back to its berth in Rye. What began as a training drill quickly transformed into a real-life scenario, underscoring the constant readiness and preparedness of the dedicated crew.
Paul Bolton, the Lifeboat Operations Manager, expressed immense pride in the unwavering professionalism and dedication exhibited by the entire crew during these intense two days. Acknowledging the demanding nature of their voluntary roles and the sacrifices they make, Bolton stated, “It’s been a busy time for the station, and everyone stepped up and used their training to save lives at sea.”