Skegness Lifeboats Search for Missing Boat in The Wash

Sunday 20 September 2009

Author: Russell Matthews

Both Skegness Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboats were called out last night (Saturday) to join a major search for a boat lost somewhere in The Wash.

The 30ft sailing yacht Alpha A, with three people on board including a 12 year-old child and teenage boy, had left Sutton Bridge earlier in the day with no radio, no charts, no compass, no GPS, no flares, no navigation lights and no lifejackets. As darkness fell they realised they had no way of returning home or even determining their location.

The all-weather lifeboat (ALB) and inshore lifeboat (ILB) from Skegness launched just before 9:30pm. Hunstanton's RNLI lifeboat and Coastguard teams were also requested to join the search by Yarmouth Coastguard. Intermittent contact was made with the casualty via mobile phone, although it could only be confirmed that they could see lights.

The ALB proceeded south down the centre of The Wash using radar to search, while the ILB searched along the coast to the south of Skegness, past Gibralter Point towards the Parlour Channel.

Coxswain of Skegness lifeboat, John Irving, said it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. "We were trying to find a small boat with no lights on, at night, with three people on board who had absolutely no means to assist in determining their location, in an area of about 200 square miles of sea. We could easily have been searching all night."

Fortunately for everyone involved, a boat aground was spotted off the Norfolk coast, near Snettisham, by a Coastguard search team at around 10:30pm. Hunstanton lifeboat investigated and confirmed it was the missing vessel and that all three occupants were safe.

The Skegness lifeboats headed home, reaching the beach just before midnight. After washing down and refuelling the volunteer crews were ready to get home to bed at about 1:30am (Sunday morning).

Coxswain Irving added that the actions of the boat's skipper were worrying. "Had conditions not been so good, this incident might not have had such a happy ending. Going to sea, particularly in The Wash, with no lifejackets, no method of navigating, and nothing but a mobile phone for communication is dangerous."

The RNLI provides free sea safety information online at http://www.rnli.org.uk/seasafety and through a nationwide network of Lifeboat Sea Safety Officers, the charity offers SEA Checks - a completely free, friendly, one-to-one safety advice service.

More about the RNLI's SEA Checks can be found at http://www.rnli.org.uk/what_we_do/sea_and_beach_safety/sea_safety/sea_check. Bookings can be made online or by calling 0800 328 0600.

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