The picture show both lifeboats with the casualty in between.
The RNLI crews at Weston-super-Mare were called away from their families three times during the Christmas holiday.
It was half past one on Christmas Day and for many families lunch was just beginning. The volunteers of the Weston crew were with their partners and children when their pagers sounded the alarm. A member of the public had seen a man entering the water near Uphill and the lifeboats were tasked to search.
The police and coastguard were also searching and soon the RAF Rescue Helicopter from RAF Chivenor joined in. However no one was found and the boats were stood down after about two hours. The crews were able to re-join the family festivities at half past four.
The rest of Christmas week went quietly until Saturday 29th. Just before ten in the morning Swansea Coastguard contacted the Weston RNLI Launching Authority as a member of the public had reported a dinghy drifting out of control in Sand Bay. The crew were paged and the boats began to launch. However it then turned out that the dinghy was not out of control and so the lifeboats were recalled and stood down.
Later that same day the pagers went off again. The coastguard had received several 999 calls about a dinghy apparently in trouble near Birnbeck Island. To make matters worse the weather forecast was dreadful. A gale was due to arrive within a few hours and a small dinghy in the Bristol Channel would have had little chance under such circumstances Both lifeboats were launched at half past two.
By the time the lifeboats reach the reported position, the dinghy had started its engine and was proceeding towards Clevedon. In view of the deteriorating weather both lifeboats chased after the dinghy to check all was well.
On reaching the vessel there were three men on board who appeared to be fishing. They had come from Clevedon and were poorly equipped. They only had two lifejackets which were not being worn, no flares to summon help and no VHF radio to communicate with the coastguard. Also, despite the fact that it would be getting dark before they could have reached their landing place they had no navigation lights. The lifeboat crews pointed out these problems to the fishermen but they did not seem to understand the danger they were in. They said they had a mobile phone if they need to call for help! They refused the help of the lifeboats and insisted on continuing to fish. Swansea coastguard then allowed one of the lifeboats to return to station but kept the other lifeboat standing by the casualty until the fishermen agreed to try to land at five o’clock. Even then the fishermen had great difficulty landing their craft and needed the help of the Clevedon mobile coastguard.
The RNLI volunteers eventually made their way home at half past six.
The RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, Pete Holder said,’ Our role is to save lives at sea. We do that with volunteer crews and depend on public donations. We are on call 365 days of the year and will always answer the call if someone is in trouble.’
Andrew Stone, RNLI Helmsman said; ‘It is important that anyone going to sea understands the risks and how to prepare for them. A mobile telephone is no use when calling for help or in communicating with the rescue services.’