Sheerness Lifeboat in dramatic rescue in Medway

From Vic Booth, RNLI Lifeboat Press Officer (Sheerness), 21 June 2015:

Multi agency crews worked together to rescue three persons stranded off the Isle of Grain after escorting a complete novice sailor to safety. The drama began at 7.10pm when the volunteer crew of the Sheerness all weather lifeboat (ALB) the ‘George and Ivy Swanson’ was called to the assistance of a 30 foot cabin cruiser ‘Attila’s Glory’ with one male person on board. The boat had been recently purchased by the occupant and was travelling from Lowestoft to Rochester. Having had little or no experience of boats or sea conditions the occupant had become disorientated off the Essex coast and called on the services of the Southend lifeboat to help him across the Thames Estuary. He was duly taken under tow to be met in the Medway Estuary by the Sheerness ALB who took over the tow. The boat and it’s occupant were towed to Queenborough Harbour whereupon the ‘new sailor’ decided this was not where he wanted to be and said he would continue his journey up the Medway to Rochester. It was decided by the crew of the ALB that it would be safer to escort the cabin cruiser up river to its destination at Strood Marina.

Whilst escorting the cabin cruiser, at approximately 9.30pm, an upturned dinghy was found drifting in the river off the Isle of Grain at Saltpan Reach. The dinghy was secured and righted, a crew member was put on board and managed to secure it to a mooring buoy. A search of the area was made but nothing untoward was found so the ALB continued up river to Strood Marina where the cabin cruiser was moored and made secure.

At 11.50pm whilst on the way back to station the ALB was called by the Thames Coastguard to reports of cries for help being heard in the area of Stoke Creek. Due to the low tide the ALB could not get into the creek so the Sheerness Inshore Lifeboat (ILB) was called to assist. On arrival at the scene the ILB crew found three persons,two male and one female, in difficulty and it was confirmed that they had been aboard the previously found dinghy which had floundered and tipped them in to the river. The two males then managed to swim and clamber on to the old Bee Ness Jetty at Thamesport. The female tried to make it to the shore but became stuck in the mud and unable to move.

A crew from the Medway Coastguard was now on scene along with the two Sheerness lifeboats. The Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter from RAF Wattisham and the RNLI Hovercraft from Southend were called to assist. The helicopter was guided in to rescue the female casualty by the crew of the ILB using the lifeboat onboard searchlights whilst the Hovercraft rescued the two males from the old jetty and then passed them to the waiting Sheerness ALB which then took them to the Sheerness Lifeboat Station where they were transferred to a waiting ambulance. In the mean time the helicopter had landed the rescued female on the New Road, Sheerness, playing fields where she was also transferred to a waiting ambulance.

All three were taken to Medway Hospital. The Sheerness Lifeboats returned to station at 0158 am.

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