Documentary series following the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The Shoreham crew are paged in the early hours after a drunken festival-goer jumps in the river.
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We're an island nation,
drawn to the sea that surrounds us.
For many, it's a playground.
For others, it's where we earn our living.
But the sea's unpredictable.
It can change in an instant and when accidents happen,
they happen very fast.
The sea is a dangerous place.
If you don't respect the sea, the sea will bite you.
There to save our lives is a volunteer army
of nearly 5,000 ordinary people,
ready to leave their jobs, their families, to race to our rescue.
It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up
to know that, if it wasn't for you, that person wouldn't be here.
They rescued me but they also saved a mum, a daughter,
sister, a wife.
Oh, my gosh.
To see someone disappear under the water right in front of you
is brutal, it's absolutely horrendous.
Equipped with their own cameras...
-Is my light flashing?
-Yeah, is mine?
..the crews give us a unique insight
into every call-out, as only they see it...
-It's all right, just another little wave.
..speeding through the roughest weather,
searching for people who may only have moments to live.
Can you still hear me?
For those who risk their lives, it has become a way of life.
When those pagers go off, it's life and death.
The resort town of Salcombe lies
within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Its sheltered harbour and crystal clear waters
ensure the region is inundated with holiday-makers,
keen to make the most of their summer break.
Salcombe revolves around tourism now.
It can swell from 2,000 in the winter
to about 30,000 in the summer.
We all rely on tourism.
Without tourism, we'd be unemployed
and probably wouldn't live here.
Here, on Devon's most southerly point,
the coastline is also renowned for its dramatic tides,
and the fierce winds that batter the shore, even in summer,
can take the most experienced seafarer by surprise.
In 2012, on an apparently calm August day,
the Salcombe crew were called to one of their trickiest rescues ever.
When the pager went off, we were just finishing work.
The weather was clear, so there was no rain,
but there was a drop of wind.
Four miles along the coast, in Soar Mill Cove,
a surfer has been reported in trouble.
You're already on high alert. You've got a person in the water.
They could be injured, they could have swallowed water,
so speed is of the essence, really.
Once we're outside the harbour,
it goes from the nice calm water into the slightly rougher stuff.
Sort of turned the corner to the west
and we sort of realised that maybe, yeah,
the weather conditions are a bit worse than what we'd thought.
At the helm of the inshore lifeboat,
Sam soon finds himself heading into a southerly force 6 wind
and a three-metre swell.
It was quite lively and quite challenging to helm the boat,
with a bit of panic, at such speed through that weather.
And then, when we got to the bay, with the shallow water,
that's when it got particularly rough.
Ten minutes after launch,
the crew reach Soar Mill Cove.
On the edge of the bay,
a man is being thrown around by six-metre waves.
With each surge,
he's being pushed closer towards a wall of sharp rocks.
Among the crowd on the beach,
the man's wife has been watching in horror.
It was quite a nice sunny day.
There was quite a lot of people in the water.
It really didn't look like a dangerous situation.
One of our friends came over and said,
"Oh, Claire, do you think Pete's all right?"
Pete was surfing,
when he was overturned by unexpectedly strong waves,
and dragged into a rip current running along the edge of the bay.
It was like a thing from a horror movie.
I saw him get tossed around quite a few times, close to the rocks.
It was like he was in a washing machine.
When the RNLI lifeboat arrived,
I can just remember feeling such, I suppose elation.
I just thought, "Oh, the professionals are here.
"They know what they're doing, they're used to doing this.
"It's going to be fine."
As Sam and his volunteer crew of two reach the mouth of the bay,
the conditions they see inside are treacherous.
As helm, it's Sam's responsibility to weigh up the safety of his team
against the safety of the struggling surfer.
The conditions were a bit challenging
and it was just set after set of breaking waves.
The surfer was getting pushed up against the rocks,
so it wasn't only a risk of drowning,
there was, obviously, a potential head injury.
He was in breaking swell, very close to rocks,
so he was in a lot of danger.
They tried to come into the bay and got pushed back out
and tried, I don't know, three or four times.
It was terrifying.
I don't think I've ever been that frightened or scared.
We are only in a small boat.
It's seven and a half metres long, so the waves could swamp us,
flip us over, anything like that.
Ultimately, you've got to survive yourself,
so you're not going to put yourself in too much danger
that you can't rescue him,
cos a dead lifeboatman's a useless lifeboatman.
You and your crew, on that boat, you're looking at him,
but you're always thinking about how you're going to get
out of that situation as well.
The crew get within two metres of the casualty
and try to throw him a line.
But he's become tangled in the leash attached to his board
and can't catch it. Close to exhaustion,
he keeps disappearing under bigger waves.
He'd been in the water for quite a while.
He'd hit the rocks a few times.
He was tangled, he'd inhaled a bit of water, so communicating...
We couldn't communicate with him.
I don't know what's going through his head,
but he must have been having some pretty bad thoughts.
Slowly, it started to dawn on me
that actually the conditions now were so bad
they couldn't get in to save him, despite their very best attempts.
But after failing with the line, Sam decides to try a different approach.
Now he wants to go in even closer
to try to pull Pete out of the water by hand.
It's an incredibly dangerous manoeuvre.
If you come in forwards to it, with the breaking swell behind you,
you'll surf just like a surfboard
and you'll end up on the rocks or the beach.
So, I had to come in backwards, under control.
We were very close to rocks, we had a live person in the water
and we have two engines which have propellers,
so there's always the risk that the boat gets pulled back on a wave
and it could end up on top of him.
It was a big challenge, keeping the boat away from him
and safe, whilst getting close enough to rescue him.
Eventually, we manoeuvred the boat into a position
where we could actually get close to him,
without the risk of the waves crashing over us.
It was just timing, really.
As one wave had gone through, then we can move across,
grab the guy and physically pull him onto the boat.
I guess they put their own lives at risk, actually.
They just made one more effort and pushed to get the boat in.
But the crew are not out of the cove yet.
The casualty needs urgent medical attention,
but it's not safe to bring him ashore here.
The only option is to take him to Salcombe, back through the waves.
We've just got this guy on board,
you're thinking about getting him home,
and as we're coming out, bang, this big wall of water hit us.
As I looked to the sea, I saw the boat...
..and I just thought the whole boat was going to tip then
and that the lot of them were going to end up in the water.
It is like a fairground ride.
Within milliseconds, you've gone from level to vertical.
It was quite scary, it was.
I think I apologised, cos we hit this thing
and they were, the guys were dealing with the casualty
on the back of the lifeboat.
I think one of them actually grabbed hold of him
to stop him shooting out the back.
Yeah, it could have gone wrong there, it could have.
The lucky surfer was 54-year-old IT consultant Pete.
It was like a cauldron in the cove there.
I guess I was caught in some kind of rip current.
I wasn't in a panic state but, yeah, I was definitely worried.
I knew I was in a very dangerous situation
and I thought, it crossed my mind I might not get out of this.
If we hadn't have got to him when we did,
there's every chance he would have hit the rocks
or ended up in deeper water and he would have drowned.
My feelings about the whole thing is a kind of deep embarrassment
about getting myself into that situation. I felt guilty about...
..you know, them having to risk their lives to save me.
I think probably both Pete and I feel how lucky we are
and that there are amazing people out there
who give up their time, as volunteers,
to do incredibly dangerous things
to help save lives,
and they certainly did on this occasion.
Once a small fishing village, the arrival of royalty and the railway
transformed Brighton beyond recognition.
Now the city is one of the biggest tourist resorts.
Last year, almost eight million day-trippers poured into the city,
the vast majority in search of seaside fun.
A lot of people come down to have a good time on the beach,
have a few drinks and have a barbie on the beach.
I think that's quite normal.
But it's the point where people go beyond that
and put themselves in danger and the fun then becomes a problem.
Since 1825, Brighton lifeboat crews have been saving fishermen
and funseekers alike.
For trainee helm Jade, it's in her blood.
My dad was on the lifeboat for most of my childhood.
Basically, I think we just went down there for the biscuits
to start with, but then it got more and more interesting.
Jade joined the team as an apprentice when she was just 16.
She's now a fully fledged member of the crew.
It is like a second home, a second family.
They have really helped me through the tough times
and the good times as well.
We're from all different walks of life, so some people,
you'd never meet in a million years, and that's what I love about it.
Jade's dad is now responsible
for the daily running of the Brighton station.
And just to keep it in the family,
boyfriend Dan is part of the crew too.
Dan and I met on the lifeboat.
We've been together, on and off, for about seven years now.
Yeah, a big orange boat brought us together, I guess.
Hasn't really torn us apart yet.
When that pager goes off, we're not a couple any more.
We're not boyfriend and girlfriend, we're crew,
and you've got to leave all that at the station,
before you go out on the boat. That all gets left behind.
Jade gets no special treatment from me.
In fact, she gets more grief, probably.
It's funny when we both run out of a restaurant
when our pager goes off.
Yeah, there's no-one left to pay the bill, sadly.
Following in the wake of her dad and boyfriend,
Jade's now seeking to make history on the Brighton boat.
So, if I get through the training,
I'd be the first female helm at Brighton.
It's definitely a challenge.
I'm enjoying the challenge and it's nice to be able to see, like,
the pathway my dad took, the pathway Dan took,
that I'm following in those footsteps.
The Brighton crew are called out around 70 times a year
and when the pager goes off,
whatever else they're doing comes to a stop.
I was sitting in the curry house with my brother and my dad,
as it was the night before Father's Day.
I flung my purse to my brother
and said, "Pay with whatever card's in there
"and come and meet us down the lifeboat station."
A warm Saturday evening in June.
The crew are used to responding to reports of people in the water
but, as the first information comes through,
it's clear this is no ordinary shout.
They've been called to two young men
who've jumped off the nearby pier, tombstoning.
Tombstoning is where people jump
off of an object like a groyne or the pier
from a height into the sea.
Tombstoning is a deadly craze,
known to all too many lifeboat crews around the coast.
It's not a very safe activity to be doing.
You don't know the depth of the water, it's deceiving.
You don't know what's under there, especially around the pier.
There might be submerged objects you don't know about.
It's a dangerous activity.
It's normally a life-threatening situation
and we have to act as fast as possible.
It's been estimated there have been 20 tombstoning fatalities
in the UK since 2005.
At low tide,
the drop from Brighton Pier to the water below is around 12 metres.
The two men have chosen the worst possible time
for their dangerous stunt.
When he jumped off, we didn't know if he bent his legs
and landed safely or he kept his legs straight,
if he landed on his front or his back when he entered the water.
Is he going to be under the water?
Is he going to still be clinging onto the steps?
We are probably going to someone who's got a spinal injury
and a potential drowning.
The pier's only five minutes away.
The crew spots security guards and a young man standing on metal steps.
At the bottom is the casualty, barely clinging on.
His head was drooped down. We shouted at him to see if he was OK.
We weren't getting much response.
All we could hear was his friend shouting at him.
He was quite aggressive towards the staff on the pier
and also to ourselves as well.
He was just shouting over us and making it difficult
to give commands to the casualty who was in the water.
It adds an extra pressure to it, definitely, and an extra challenge.
The casualty's already been in the water for 20 minutes.
Blocking out the barracking of the man on the steps,
the crew still need to work out what injuries the casualty may have.
You have so much going through your head of what to treat him for
and I just said to the boys, "Right, we've just got to treat him
"for spinal, worst-case scenario,
"and if it isn't, at least we've prepared ourselves for that,
"so if it is that, then he's got the best chance of survival."
He didn't look to be in a very good way.
He looked cold and without the strength
to be able to pull himself out the water, so it was at that point
that Jade entered the water to go and assist him.
MAN ON PIER SHOUTS
As Jade reaches out through the heaving swell,
suddenly the casualty lets go.
He went under about a foot or two.
He was definitely in a life-threatening situation.
If we hadn't got there in time, he would have gone under the water
and taken in water and potentially drowned.
It was quite a scary thought when he just let go,
because you're thinking, "Oh, my gosh,
"I've got a guy that's twice the size of me in my arms.
"He's lost all the energy."
You're thinking, "Oh, my God,
"I've got someone's life literally in my hands here.
"I've got to get him to the lifeboat."
Just used all my strength I had to pull him up
and move him across to the lifeboat.
The crew still have no idea what injuries
the casualty has sustained in hitting the water.
But as he's drifting in and out of consciousness,
the priority is to get him onto the boat.
Him losing consciousness kind of makes it a bit more straightforward.
It does mean you can just focus on,
"Right, we need to get him onto the boat
"and we need to make sure that he's breathing under his own accord
"and we don't lose him under water."
Our priority is to get them out of the water so they don't drown -
as simple as that.
If that person has a spinal injury,
obviously, we'd like to get them out as carefully as possible,
but it's life over limb.
One, two, three, pull.
-We'll take him straight to the marina.
-No problem, mate.
He was obviously intoxicated.
You could smell it and you could see it from his slurring words.
He was very cold. Hypothermia had set in at this point.
He'd belly-flopped into the sea and was complaining of chest pains.
We can't internally examine the guy.
We're not paramedics, we're lifeboat crew,
so we just wanted to get him back to professional assistance
as soon as possible.
I don't need a collar!
An ambulance is already waiting back at the lifeboat station.
People definitely underestimate the sea when they're drunk.
They lose that key sort of judgment of saying, "No",
and not making those decisions that, later on, you probably regret.
I don't know how I felt.
It was quite a mix of emotions because you've saved someone's life,
in essence, but you also want to, like, go,
"Why did you do that? Why did you jump off the pier?"
Despite the initial concerns for his condition,
the Brighton tombstoner was discharged from hospital
the following day.
I think that that gentleman was particularly lucky, yeah.
He could have paralysed himself, jumping off the pier, quite easily.
Yeah, it's strange, it's strange
going back to our everyday life after something like that.
Last year, the three summer months accounted
for almost half of the RNLI's call-out,
and lifeboat crews and lifeguards round our coastline
have their own name for those days
when the great British public heads out for a bit of summer fun.
The silly season.
You mention it, any crew around the country will know
what you're talking about immediately.
The time when everyone flocks to the beaches
and does things which you just look back on and think,
"Why, why are you doing that?"
-There's your problem.
-Yeah, I can imagine.
We always call it a barmy Friday
when all the offices are coming out on a Friday night,
they're all having a drink before they go home.
Some of them are just innocently sitting on the wall
and lose their balance and fall in backwards into the water.
Two people think their superhumans
and they're going to swim the River Thames.
OK, in you come, fella.
Some of the people that come down to the beaches don't understand
that, if you buy an inflatable dinghy,
you should buy oars with it and they buy spades with them
and they think, "Yeah, these will get me back to the shore."
And you're thinking, "No, they really won't."
Hey-up, fella. What are you doing out here?
Why do people not understand these things?
-How you planning on getting back, like?
-I'll paddle back.
Here, we have small rubber rings, dinghies,
and the amounts of small children that we have to go out
and rescue in one summer, is quite shocking, really.
We can't leave you out here.
For one, you got no life jacket, you've got no safety gear.
If that happens, it's on us now.
It's always a crazy time.
By the end of the summer, you're exhausted.
Wait there a minute, mate.
The only respite we get is some rain which, you know,
sometimes the lifeguards pray for in the middle of summer
cos they just need a couple of days, you know,
to actually relax a little bit.
Just 40 miles from central London,
Southend-on-Sea is abuzz through the summer months,
with waves of pleasure-seekers coming to let off steam.
Southend comes alive in summer.
We have coachloads of people coming down. Some even want to sit
on the beach while it's raining and have their picnic.
You get all walks of life of people coming from everywhere.
They just don't appreciate the fact
that it's not always golden beaches and suntans.
With so many people taking to the water,
Southend is Britain's third busiest lifeboat station.
And the main reason for that is the dramatic tides,
which catch people out all year round.
The tides do move very fast.
You think that it's right out and you're going to be OK
but, within minutes, the tide could be round your feet.
They just don't appreciate how quickly the tide can come in
and how the tide doesn't get tired but you do.
Unless you're some kind of athlete who can run across mud,
you'll never outrun it.
To ensure they're ready for action, whether the tide is in or out,
the Southend crew can launch from either end
of their mile-long pier and, unlike most stations,
they have crews who volunteer to be on duty at the boathouses
every weekend, giving them the best possible head start
when a call does come in.
Sometimes you get five or six jobs in a day
and you'll be rushed off your feet.
Other times, you'll sit here all weekend and nothing will happen.
-What you guys do to keep busy?
-Tea, a bit of telly.
We've got plenty of jobs that we do.
Run through all the kit on the boats, keeping it all clean as well.
Yeah, and we clean the boathouse, you know,
keep it all looking spick and span.
A hot Saturday in June.
The Southend crew receive a call from the coastguard.
A family with three young children visiting a local landmark
have been caught out by the tide.
We were told that the casualties were by the Mulberry Harbour,
which is a popular spot at Southend.
Southend's Mulberry Harbour,
the remains of floating harbour
constructed during the Second World War,
has become an attraction for hundreds of visitors every year.
It was towed out, back in the Second World War,
and it broke in half and sank and it stayed there.
And the public like to walk off, and climb on it, and it's got
quite a deep cool of water around it, so they jump off and swim.
At low tide, the Mulberry Harbour's a pleasant mile-long walk,
out across the sand.
But when the waters return, there's no way back.
They don't appreciate the fact that the tide comes in behind them
and cuts them off from the shore.
And you can be going from a perfectly happy day
to serious trouble.
Dover coastguard, Dover coastguard,
Southend hovercraft, Southend hovercraft, over.
From either end of the pier, a hovercraft
and a D-class inshore lifeboat are launched.
The danger for the family
was that they were with two particularly small children
and, knowing the local area like we do,
we knew that they weren't going to get back to shore safely
without our assistance.
The currents can be five, six miles an hour,
which will basically just take them away.
You know that they may well be off the bottom already
and they could well be treading water when you get there,
so you know you have to move fairly quickly.
The crews head for the area where the family was last seen.
I was concerned that they may try and make their own way ashore
through what I know to be some considerably deep gullies
and it would have been above their heads
and we were just worried about them getting washed away, really.
Can we see anyone?
Small children are very vulnerable in the sea.
There's just not enough strength, not against the water.
It doesn't take a lot for them to panic.
Within minutes of launch, a group of figures is spotted.
-That's all right.
Dover coastguard, Dover coastguard...
The family of five have been fortunate.
As they tried to wade back from the Mulberry Harbour,
a passing kayaker, realising the danger they were in,
stopped and took the two younger children on board to keep them safe.
They were lucky they came across a canoeist cos otherwise,
they'd have had to carry the children and, obviously,
two adults carrying two children
puts a far bigger burden on yourself,
and walking across mud, with an incoming tide behind you,
I think panic would have set in a lot more
and they could have been in a lot more trouble.
The rescued family are Southend locals,
Sally and James and their three boys.
Nice big donation coming up for you guys, I can tell you.
I'm so sorry to drag you out here.
We'll get a visit from the hovercraft in a second as well.
Oh, you're joking! No! The hovercraft is coming for us.
We were absolutely mortified.
Growing up on a beach, you see these things happen all the time,
and you look at people and go, "Look at those idiots!
"What have they done? They've got themselves trapped."
And there's us, a family of five,
doing exactly what we would have laughed about on the beach
or, you know, been tutting and waving our fingers about.
-It's all right.
-No, it's not. It's so stupid.
We were at the station anyway.
We were getting bored anyway, to be honest.
-We were doing cleaning and stuff.
The day had started as a summer outing to the beach.
We'd been sitting on the sand for about five or ten minutes
and Jake, my 14-year-old, stood up and turned round and said,
"Dad, I think we're in trouble."
We all stood up, turned round
and realised that there was no sand left.
It was a mile and a half of sea to get back to the shore.
We started walking back
and it wasn't until we were actually in the water,
it got deeper and deeper and, all of a sudden,
it was hip height, which is chest height on Oscar,
and that was the point when we started panicking, really.
I can't believe how quick that came in though.
We were talking, we were sitting there,
then all of a sudden it just went whoosh and came in.
The problem is, where you are, it's really high,
really, really high and it's coming all the way across here,
behind you, and it's still dry there.
By the time you know it, as you saw, you're up to chest deep in water.
The instinctive dad mode in that position, would have been,
"I can save everybody and it's all going to be fine,"
but when we realised how fast the tide was coming in,
you could actually feel the pressure of the water against your legs,
that's when I really realised that we were in trouble.
All of a sudden, all these things start going through your mind,
where you're like, "We've brought our children
"into this really dangerous situation
"and how do we get out of it?"
It's every parent's nightmare.
The family had checked the tide times
but they're not always 100% accurate
and tide heights can fluctuate dramatically.
The tide on the day, cos we were checking it
while we were at the boathouse, was actually half a metre
above prediction anyway, and it was coming in earlier than they thought.
Even the most experienced people can get caught out by things like that.
We had a laugh and a joke about it with the kids and the parents,
saying, "Everything's fine now."
We could understand their mistakes
and we went back to the station with smiles and grins.
-Thank you so much.
-It's all right, no problem.
-It's what we're here for.
-I'm so sorry.
Come here, little man, give us your hand. Jump.
I learned so much about the tidal system that day.
I actually got home and googled it so much,
I feel like I'm quite an expert now.
Cheers, mate, thank you.
I know that people always think it would never happen to them,
but it happened to us and it was petrifying,
and it doesn't matter how much homework you do
or you think you've done,
it's never quite enough.
Knowledge and experience are vital assets
for anyone taking to the seas around Britain.
But if you've got what it takes and can commit to the training,
you can join a lifeboat crew as young as 17.
The seaside resort of New Quay on Wales' spectacular Cardigan Bay,
is home to 18-year-old rookie Ollie.
I think it's fairly cool
when you walk around with the pager.
Everyone's kind of staring at you a bit.
Or you hear the occasional, "He's in the lifeboat."
Or when the pager goes off and you're running up the street
everyone's, like, "Oh, look at him go!"
When he's not saving lives at sea,
Ollie works alongside his mum, Karina,
in the family shop overlooking the harbour.
-Cappuccino, regular one?
OK, £2.25 then, please.
Yeah, it's fairly seasonal but, in the summer, obviously,
it picks up quite a lot
and it's rammed down here most of the time, so it's good.
If there's a long queue on ice cream and his pager goes off,
sometimes I think he's fixed it,
just so he can skedaddle on a really busy day.
No, usually they're pretty cool about covering me
when I've got a shout, so it works quite well. She's a good boss.
She can be harsh at times but she's not too bad at all.
My father is in the coastguard,
so he's always tried to drill it into me
that it's a good thing to do for the community,
and I've just always loved the RNLI since I was a young boy.
Watching the boat go out has been quite exciting, so it would be nice
to join, and I thought that's a great idea, so I joined up.
In the winter months, if it's windy outside and it's dark
and raining and his pager goes off, that's the time I really worry.
Yeah, I never go to sleep until he's home.
Not everyone wants to be on a boat at two in the morning in the cold
and the waves, with it raining down on you, but you deal with it,
you get on with it, because you've got something important to do.
In his short career so far,
Ollie's already racked up a fair bit of experience.
Cardigan Bay's cliff-lined coast
and dramatic tides keep the lifeboat crews busy.
I think for a lot of people,
it's quite a novelty to come down and see the sea.
I think they think of it as quite a large swimming pool,
so they don't really understand the dangers.
The coastline has quite steep cliffs,
lots of shingly beaches, which shelve away quite sharply,
so there's quite deep water close to the shore.
The cliffs can be quite hazardous
if people get cut off by the tide and start to climb.
People walk across, like, a tidal path, thinking it's fine,
but before you know it, you're trapped in this little cove.
On a warm July afternoon, a call comes in from the coastguard.
I think I was just serving someone ice cream as it went off,
so I kind of threw the scoop down and said,
"Can you cover this? I've got to go."
Two young girls have gone missing, while out walking their dogs.
Both New Quay and the Aberystwyth lifeboat station,
20 miles up the coast, prepare to launch.
When you hear it's children, it's a bit more scary,
a bit more worrying for us, cos you know,
no-one wants anything to happen to children.
When you hear a young child's in distress, you do react differently.
They don't have the experience that adults have, so you always react
a bit faster and kind of be a bit more keen to get there to help them.
If I was that age, I definitely would panic.
It would be a scary situation to be in.
I wouldn't like to be in it at all.
The 12-year-old girls set out for their walk over two hours ago.
No-one knows where they are now.
With a search area of ten miles of coastline,
both the New Quay inshore lifeboat
and Aberystwyth's larger Atlantic 85 are deployed at the same time.
We headed up the coast while the Aberystwyth lifeboat came down.
We were going to meet halfway, eventually.
The Atlantic is very fast.
It's a very good search and rescue platform
and it has quite a lot of equipment on it. The D class is quite small.
so it's quite good for picking people up close inshore.
Quite good to have two different types of boat,
working on a job like that.
Both crews are heading towards the area
near where the girls were last seen,
scanning the coastline as they go.
We get training on how to search and then, basically,
the idea is you kind of do a single sweep, a focused sweep,
and you do it in kind of 15-degree arcs.
The idea is you're moving your whole head instead of your eyes
because you can pick out detail a lot better
than if you're not looking at it directly.
I suppose it's always quite tense to think, "Where are they?"
If you can't see them, I think the longer it goes,
the further you go up the coast,
you're thinking, "Where are they then? Have we missed them?
"Shall we go back, shall we check?"
But you've just got to go on until you find them.
The two missing girls have been staying
in a local caravan park with their families.
Two hours after setting off with their dogs,
one of the girls called her dad to say they were lost.
Alarm bells start and you're thinking, "Where have you gone?"
"We've walked down the coast." "Right, towards Aberystwyth?"
They said, "No, the other way," and that's the way we've always said,
"Don't go to that way cos we've never been down there.
"Never go round that corner."
Then they said, "The water's coming in,"
We were starting to get worried. I said, "How much is it coming in?"
They said, "It's up to our knees." So, of course, you start panicking.
You don't want to think the worst-case scenario,
you try and stay positive.
You think, "Right, what can I do to save these girls?
"What can we do as a team?"
And you try and tackle that problem as quickly as possible.
It's the helplessness,
being stuck there without been able to do anything.
You see telly, you see what happens when people get cut off
and the tide's coming in and they're clinging on to the last bit of rock.
And when she said she was up to her knees, you're just thinking,
"What's she going to do? Is she going to try and climb the cliff?"
With the tide still rising, there's a danger
the girls could find themselves with no more beach to stand on.
If they'd panicked and started climbing the cliffs,
things could have gone really badly wrong really quickly.
The shale and shingle and mud that the cliffs are made up of
is really quite dangerous to climb.
20 minutes after receiving the call,
the Aberystwyth crew are first to spot some figures on the shoreline.
But there's a problem.
Their larger lifeboat can't navigate
through the shallow water to the shore.
We have to be cautious we aren't going too close to rocks
because there's a chance of the fibreglass hold being damaged,
so we nudged in as close as we can comfortably.
With the boat unable to get closer than 30 metres to the beach
and the New Quay inshore lifeboat still ten minutes away,
Sam only has one option.
-We're scratched a bit.
-Where have you scratched yourself?
When I got across to them, they seemed relieved,
but they seemed quite quiet and shy,
so I just sat and introduced myself and tried to put them at ease.
Hello, you all right?
What's going to happen...
The girls had started to clamber up onto the rocks.
Though subdued, they're unharmed.
When we saw how young they were, it was clear that was the reason
that the coastguard had said they were as frightened as they were,
so we were pleased that we were able to find them quickly
to reassure them, let them know it was OK and get them home safely.
-Do you want to talk to my dad? He wants to talk to you.
Hello, sir. I'm from Aberystwyth lifeboat.
The New Quay lifeboat is coming as well.
While the crew wait for the smaller boat to arrive,
Sam confirms to Martin
that his daughter and her friend are in safe hands.
Well, the tide's come in and it's getting a bit tight.
We're going to extract for their safety.
And then we'll get them down and deposit somewhere a bit safer.
When the lifeboatman actually spoke to me on the phone and said,
"We've got them. We're bringing them back and everything's fine,"
yeah, you just think...
I'm not a great emotional guy but, deep down,
you're feeling, "Thank God for that!" Yeah.
There you go. Door-to-door service.
When 12-year-old Sarah and her friend set off earlier that day,
they thought a different route would make a nice change.
My parents told us not to go round the corner
but we just wanted to adventure really,
cos we didn't go past the corner before.
But the sea was kind of going out while we went.
Two hours later, the girls realised they'd run out of path,
then the tide started rising around them.
Where we were, it was crashing on the stones and we didn't know
if it was going to come in quickly.
It felt scary that I didn't know where I was.
We were starting to panic a bit.
We did feel that the water was coming in
but we didn't really know what was going to happen.
When we saw the first lifeboat,
we were relieved and happy that we phoned the RNLI.
It's a nice feeling hearing someone saying it's safe.
Take my hand, if you want. Nice and slowly.
-I think if the conditions weren't like they were,
it could've been worse. I think we got them at the right time.
I think they called at the right time as well.
Your shoes will be on the radiators!
I'm really impressed, yeah, to just say, "We're scared. Let's phone."
It's the best thing they could have done because, you know,
the stories are out there and people do die, don't they?
So, yeah, I'm ever so glad.
-Always nice to have a nice happy outcome on a sunny day.
Two lovely young ladies and two lovely dogs.
On Portsea Island, off the coast of Hampshire,
Portsmouth is the UK's only island city.
The Romans used its sheltered harbour to ward off pirates
and the British Navy have had a base here for over 1,000 years.
Today, these waters remain a hive of activity.
Last year, the lifeboat station here responded to over 100 incidents.
We're getting launched to a real variety of things,
so broken down boats, sinking boats, kitesurfers, windsurfers,
capsized dinghies, all sorts of things.
Like all crews, the team here train regularly for every eventuality.
On a summer evening session,
they're interrupted by an unexpected visitor, shouting for help.
We'd just recovered the boats
when a member of the public entered the station, saying,
"My wife and kid and friend's stuck on the mud
"round the back of the lifeboat station."
Three kayakers, one a young girl,
are completely stuck in Langstone Harbour.
At high tide, the area is full of water.
At low tide, it becomes a vast oozing lake of mud.
It's 9pm and the light's fading
and there's no deep water close enough to get a lifeboat to them.
-They're just round here. You know the bit of water there?
That's going to be dry in another 20 minutes' time.
The problem is, they're on the island just behind there.
If you go around there,
you've got 300 yards of mud before you even get to them.
The Portsmouth station is kitted out with thousands of pounds-worth
of state-of-the-art life-saving kit.
But when a mud call comes in, there's one special tool
they've been using for years that's perfectly suited to the job.
They refer to me as the Mud Man on station.
Pete's relationship with mud? He's rather partial to it.
He rather enjoys going on a mud job, if there is one.
I'm probably one of the biggest guys on station, but I have the ability
and a bit of knowledge on walking on mud.
You all right?
When you hear there's three people stuck on the mud,
your mind can go crazy.
Are they stuck? To what depth are they stuck? Are they on kayaks?
If they're on kayaks or a board of some description,
that's a relief, because they're on something safe.
They're on a safe platform.
Pete and his crewmate Neil need to pick their way
through hundreds of metres of mud and silt deposited by tides.
In places, mudflats can suck in the unwary like quicksand
and if either of them get both feet stuck above the ankle,
they could soon be as helpless as the casualties themselves.
I have, in the past, walked through mud only a foot deep
to then suddenly take one step forward
and lose my whole leg into a soft mud hole.
What you do, is stay away from these.
They're the mooring blocks, so it'll be soft all the way round them.
Knowing that area very well, I knew some places
the mud can be knee, even thigh-deep.
You all right?
He kind of has developed his techniques over years
and then knows exactly where to go and how to do this,
so he's our kind of secret weapon when it comes to the mud.
Stay there, guys!
The mud goes back to when I was child.
We used to do a lot of cockling, winkling
and digging bait as a child, as pocket money,
so, yeah, it goes back quite a few years.
Sorry, it's tricky, mate.
After five minutes, Pete and Neil decide on a change of strategy.
You do fall over, you do end up crawling.
On occasions, you end up swimming on the mud
because you need to put your whole body weight there.
I was quite out of breath. It is a task.
It is a gruelling, heavy task.
But it's a case of just getting through it
and pretty much just knowing your abilities,
knowing when to stop and take a breather
and then went to push on.
It's not the most pleasant smelling of mud.
It's not like having a mud pack in a spa, that's for sure.
Pete and Neil crawl through the mud for ten minutes
before they finally reach the casualties.
I believe the casualties done the right thing
in staying where they were with the kayaks.
If they'd attempted to get off the kayaks and walk back,
the mud would have been too deep for them to get anywhere.
The mud can be so unpredictable and very dangerous.
To confirm, we have two adults and one child of nine years old.
We're going to keep that individual in the kayak, dry. Over.
The young girl was getting cold and was frightened.
But we reassured her that she was safe and well,
she didn't have to get off the kayak
and we were going to pull her back to the safety of the shore.
OK? Don't be afraid, will you? OK, you're nice and safe in there, look.
As the light continues to fade,
the only way out is the way they came in,
but this time, with two kayaks.
In this situation, to get those casualties back,
it was 90% brute force, not much skill involved.
Very hard work. It definitely took the wind out of my sails.
Right, I'm going to follow as soon as I've got my breath back.
-No, that's all right.
-If I can push you.
Halfway back to shore, Pete and Neil finally get reinforcements.
They came out to an area where the mud was still soft
but not dangerously deep.
There's four of us now.
Two behind each one and in your own time, as a pair, just push.
No rope. Give that a go.
The less people in those conditions, the better.
But they were there to help us towards the end,
which was much welcomed
because we were getting very tired at that point.
After half an hour of lugging the kayaks back through the mud,
the casualties' ordeal is over, as is Pete's.
Portsmouth mobile, confirm all casualties
and all crewmembers safely ashore. Over.
This situation could have been a lot worse.
If they'd stayed put, they would have got very cold,
and if they attempted to come ashore,
things could have been a lot different.
Oh, exhausted, mate.
To get them out as quickly as they did was really good teamwork
and they did a really good job.
I should go for a swim, shouldn't I, really?
There are times you do think to yourself, "Why? Why, why, why?"
Especially when you come out of it and you look at yourself
and you have to get yourself hosed down.
So much thick mud that stays in every crevice for weeks.
Ears, fingernails, nostrils.
The mud in Langstone, it really does stink.
Along the coast from Portsmouth
and just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of Brighton,
is the more sedate town of Shoreham-by-Sea -
population, 20,000, nightclubs, none.
But once a year, in the summer, this sleepy town almost trebles in size,
as 35,000 fans descend for the Wild Life music festival.
When the festival's on,
you see an influx of people jumping off the train,
coming down from all parts of the country,
people who haven't been around Shoreham before,
don't know the local area.
Two days, people of all ages. The town, it gets manic.
It's definitely a different place during Wild Life.
Saturday night on the weekend of the festival.
A call comes in from the coastguard.
I was in bed when the pager went off that night.
I was fast asleep. It was, like, 1am in the morning,
something silly like that.
I knew the festival was on at the time, cos I could hear it still,
so I had a good idea that it was going to be
something to do with that.
A festivalgoer has jumped off a bridge and into the Adur,
a fast-flowing tidal river that runs through the town.
You're thinking in your head, "How much have they had to drink?
"How long have they been in the water for?
"What sort of state are they going to be in when you get them?"
Obviously, people have been drinking.
They've got less awareness.
They don't necessarily know the dangers they're going to be facing.
When you've been drinking,
it can reduce your chances of survival in the water.
You don't know how long someone's going to be able
to keep themselves afloat for.
They're running out of time.
We've really got to get to that person as soon as we can.
-Shoreham coastguard, you are tasked to a person in the water,
last seen drifting south towards the bridge, the Ferry Bridge.
Police are on scene.
The man is believed to be a mile upstream from the sea,
but his exact whereabouts are unknown.
They were drifting with the outgoing tide.
That person can only swim and fight for so long
and that tide will take them, quite quickly, hundreds of yards away
from where they were initially reported.
And at night-time, with limited visibility,
finding a body in water moving this fast requires extra concentration.
As soon as you get into that river, you need to have your eyes up,
you need to have lights up, because information can be misleading,
so we don't know where he's going to be really.
It's really hard to spot somebody in the water in the daylight,
let alone in the dark, so you've got to be wary of your speed,
wary of where you actually think they're going to be,
and then you've just got to keep a really sharp eye out.
-Towards the bridge, the Ferry Bridge. Police on scene.
Moments after launching,
the crew receive an update from the coastguard.
Obviously, you've got to remain positive
and positive that you're going to find him,
but a lot of them scenarios,
where they do go under the water, they don't get found.
Your heart sinks when you hear that someone's head has gone under,
because it can very easily turn into a search for a body.
You've kind of got to know your local surroundings,
where you think he's going to pop up cos, at the end of the day,
we're not a submarine, we can't look under the water,
so we're thinking of places where he might pop up
and we really need to sort of get a move on, get there.
20 minutes after receiving the call,
the crew notice activity near the bridge
where the casualty was last seen.
When we arrived at the Ferry Bridge,
we saw somebody waving a torch on top of the bridge
cos they'd actually spotted the guy in the water.
And, as soon as we made our approach to him, they lit him up for us.
There we go, just there.
It looked like he was pretty close to going under the water.
-Right, OK, you got it, Chrissie?
-This side, Chrissie.
I'll shine him up, OK?
Two, three metres.
The chap looked really tired, really tired.
He was swimming quite lethargically.
He looked quite distressed, poor chap.
Steady, one, two, three, go.
In you get. You all right, mate?
When you are in the moment,
pulling in a casualty feels like lifting a feather off the floor.
It's so easy. There is no weight, as such.
You just want them in the boat.
-Go to the boathouse.
-Yeah, tell the ambulance to go to the boathouse.
You all right, mate? Do you want to sit down?
-How you doing? Are you cold?
The casualty looked drunk.
But I don't think he knew what was going on, to be honest with you.
Shoreham, ambulance on the way to you.
We've got a casualty onboard. Over.
He was quite confused. He was asking to go to sleep.
I think he thought he was having a great time in the river,
but he didn't realise the dangers he was in.
He just wanted to go to bed, to be honest,
like we all do when we've had a night out.
We wanted to keep him upright
and keep him talking, keep him conscious,
keep him talking to us, just in case it got to the point
where he was going to drift in and out of consciousness.
I don't think he enjoyed the ride back that much
because it was a bit bumpy for him but, at the end of the day,
he's the one who jumped in the river, so...
Calling Shoreham boathouse for information. One person onboard.
Shoreham RB, we're coming up the Shoreham slip. Over.
Can we get some blankets ready?
I know, we'll get you in the shower in a minute, fella.
Paramedics are on their way but, in the meantime,
the crew need to get the casualty warmed up quickly.
He was still pretty intoxicated.
We've all had nights like that and, yeah,
we just had a bit of a laugh about it really.
We knew he was safe.
Did you jump in then, mate, did you? Did you jump in?
People go out and have fun.
Inadvertently, they do silly things. It happens.
He was just like your standard drunk guy, but a lot wetter.
The paramedics arrive at the boathouse.
After a quick assessment, the diagnosis is
that what this man really needs is a warm shower
and a good night's sleep.
That sort of shout could have ended quite badly for him,
for his family as well.
If he'd have gone under the water,
then we would have struggled to find him.
It's a good job, a good outcome.
You've made a difference to somebody's life.
At the end of the day, you've made a difference.
That is a good feeling when you do bring someone back like that.
Not a great feeling the next day, when you've got to crack on
and go to work, but, yeah, it's something I suppose.
Show me your other hand.
When you see somebody face down in the water,
you immediately think worst-case scenario.
First I'll take the dog.
He was balancing on the bottom one like a tightrope
and he was holding on to a dog with one hand as well.
Are you all right, fella?
In the grand scheme of things, against an angle grinder,
you could say he got off lightly.
Every day around the UK, an army of unpaid volunteers put their lives on the line to try and save complete strangers. Saving Lives at Sea tells the story of the ordinary men and women of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) who, across the country, are ready to launch their boats and race to the rescue within minutes of a cry for help - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whatever the weather. Using footage shot on crews' own cameras, this series takes us right into the heart of the action, capturing the unpredictable work of the RNLI in never-before-seen detail.
As the summer sun comes out, so do the fun seekers, and crews around the country get ready for action. In Southend, a family of five out sightseeing are a mile off shore and waist-deep in water after being caught out by the tide. The Shoreham crew are paged in the early hours after a drunken festival-goer jumps in the river. And the Brighton crew fear the worst when a man tombstones off the pier at low tide.