RNLI New Brighton's Atlantic 85 B-837 Charles Dibdin
Credit: RNLI/Bob Warwick
Author: Bob Warwick
The unusual good weather has resulted in more people using our coasts and beaches and having a good time. As one of the busiest lifeboat stations in the north west we have noticed a big increase in rescues.
Having already exceeded last years total of 42 and with the school holidays just starting and following several poor summers there has been the inevitable increase in new, inexperienced to the water and perhaps some rather rusty users as well.
We would like to issue some general guidance to those who take a powered craft into the sea or river eg: fishing boats, motor launches, jetskis, dive and yacht safety craft etc. as the RNLI as well as carry out rescues also places great emphasis on the prevention in the first place through better knowledge and advice so please take into account:
Are you prepared for a potentially dangerous environment?
Have you undergone any training for going to sea, do you know how to safely use your equipment, can you navigate, can you handle an emergency. Getting suitable training and / or joining a club may be a good idea and learn from other peoples mistakes.
What are the conditions?
Find out the state of the tide and weather forecast for your area – the tide is very important particularly for the River Mersey who's tide range is second only to the River Severn and can have a big influence on when and where to launch and recover your craft. Knowing the weather and the likely effects of the sea are a must its always better to act on the safe side as sea and weather conditions can rapidly turn from the benign to killers. How confident are you of your own abilities and that of your craft if conditions become difficult?
Can anyone raise the alarm?
Always let someone know where you are going and your likely return so that the alarm can be raised if you become overdue and do they know who to call for help? - Ring 999 and ask for Coastguard
Will your craft get you home again?
Needless to say your craft must be fit for purpose being both mechanically sound, water tight, properly equipped with anchors, communication equipment etc. and carry an appropriate range of spares and tools should a breakdown occur. A fully charged and reliable craft battery is a must with ideally a spare and also an emergency power source eg: outboard motor. Sufficient fuel is carried for the journey with a suitable safety allowance plus emergency reserve – particularly necessary if you find yourself fighting an out going tide and you are trying to bet back to land. Don't forget a tow rope!
Can you handle the unexpected?
Personal safety equipment is a must with either a lifejacket or buoyancy aid that works if you are unfortunate and find yourself in the water. These need to be regularly checked and serviced at least annually as well as being worn at all times when on the water. In addition suitable waterproof and warm clothing needs to be carried even when its sunny as it can get pretty cold out at sea even on warm days. Don't forget the sun block and keep the shirt on, its easy to end up severely sun burnt, dehydrated and sun stroke can be a killer. Carry plenty of water and a supply of food as the unexpected can happen so you don't want to compound a difficult situation through lack of the basics. Don't forget the first aid kit and have at least a basic understanding of first aid.
Can you summon help if its needed?
The best solution is to carry a VHF radio and know how to use it. This has the big advantage of not only reliability but emergency services like the RNLI carry equipment on board lifeboats that can locate you. Carry emergency flares and understand their use and dangers but they can be lifesavers. A fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof container may help if you can get a signal which is not always possible at sea. Do you have navigation lights or at least powerful torches to help if you break down in low light or at night. These plus a whistle they can all be useful in attracting attention.
If you can communicate do you know who to call?
Ring 999 and ask for Coastguard – they co-ordinate all rescues on the coast and sea and involve the necessary agencies to assist of which the RNLI is one.
Can you get back on the beach?
OK you've had a good day on the water and now returning to the beach for recovery – how well do you know the landing beach – for instance on New Brighton beach there are areas where a vehicle can easily get bogged down in soft sand and mud and they don't look much different to areas of firm sand so it pays to do your homework. It would really ruin your day if your vehicle gets stuck and the tides comes in and drowns it!.
If all this sounds like preaching – everything on this list have been major missing factors in rescues carried out by crews from New Brighton lifeboat station since the 1st June this year! and no doubt from many of our lifeboat stations throughout the country. Its all common sense and not rocket science and remember the adage: 'If it can go wrong it will go wrong and usually at the worst possible time'
I hope you find this helpful and a free booklet can be obtained from the RNLI just phone the free phone number - 0800 328 0600