Documentary series following the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. When two yachts capsize off Portsmouth, the crew must make fast decisions about who to rescue first.
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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 is 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, a 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.
Right, here's another little wave.
Speeding through the roughest weather,
searching for people who may only have moments to live.
Can you still hear me?
To those who risk their lives, it has become a way of life.
When those pagers go off, it's life and death.
Facing out into the Atlantic,
Newquay, on the north coast of Cornwall,
is one of the South West's most popular resorts.
Each year, it is inundated with visitors
keen to make the most of its sea cliffs, sand
and, above all, internationally renowned surf,
thanks to waves whipped up over thousands of miles of open ocean.
Little surprise, then, the lifeboat station here is busy,
with an average of 60 shouts a year.
We're really fortunate to have such a beautiful stretch of coastline
in quite a condensed area, so we've got so many coves,
really high-sided cliffs, it looks very dramatic.
But it is very exposed to the swells and the conditions.
So, with the beauty does come the danger.
We get a lot of people from inland and really,
they have no concept of the dangers of the sea.
You get a lot of shouts for people who have
literally got no idea.
Newquay's coves and inlets are often fully submerged
well before high tide,
which means a lot of repeat business for the crew.
We deal with a lot of cut off by the tide,
people coming down on holiday who don't know the area
and they go out on the beach
and don't really know what the tide is doing.
I can never imagine a world
without tidal cut-offs in Newquay, I'm afraid.
A warm weekend evening in mid-August.
-Attention - lifeboat launching.
Once again, some holiday-makers have been caught out by the rising tide.
This time, a couple have been stranded in a cove
by one of the town's most popular beaches.
With no way up the steep cliffs,
the husband has braved the waters to swim around the rocks and raise
the alarm, leaving his wife waiting on the ever-shrinking beach.
Every minute the tide is rising, the surf is becoming bigger, too.
And as the crews speed towards the cove,
they learn of a further complication.
Definitely thinking I'm going to have to be more careful.
Obviously, it is a more delicate situation
than the normal sort of person that you might rescue.
We've got to think of how we get her into the boat,
and then also coming out on the boat, it's not just like sitting in
an armchair, you're going to get wet and a few knocks from the waves.
Sea conditions on the day is the biggest consideration, really.
There's no way that we would like
to take a pregnant lady out through heavy surf.
The casualty is over half a mile away from the lifeboat station near
Tolcarne Beach, in a narrow bay fringed with jagged rocks.
Within three minutes of launching, the D Class inshore lifeboat arrives
to be faced with large waves breaking IN the cove.
First sighting of her, she was stood on the beach,
looked to be unharmed at that stage, from afar, anyway.
Then really, the situation sort of turns away from her
back into the boat again,
and how we are going to get in to get her?
If it was going to prove too much, then we would have to look at
other options of extracting her from the cove.
I stopped and had a chat with my crew,
not only for me to tell them what we could do,
it was to have a chat and see between us if we had ideas
we could bounce off each other -
they might have better ideas than me.
Do you want to get the paddle out?
-Just go in there quietly?
-Just to push off.
Get past any waves like that
and then we're just going to push in with the paddles, all right?
Are you ready to do it like a canoe if you have to?
Just stand up, like, paddle board or something?
Improvising, the crew decide to use the D Class's oars
to navigate a path to the shore.
-Got one here.
-Yeah, you're right.
Where she was situated on the beach,
there's quite a lot of submerged, semi-submerged rocks.
But low enough that it makes it difficult to see them,
but high enough that you'd take the prop off the boat if you hit them.
You've got a fairly clear channel right through there.
-Yeah. There's one.
If the engine had hit a rock,
it's quite possible we could have lost the engine.
If we had damaged the engine, we would have lost propulsion.
I think we're all right here.
Teamwork is extremely important. It always is really, like that.
You've got this one here.
-You've got one here as well.
-You can go right through there.
They were able to look all around,
I could concentrate more on steering,
and then they're ready to shout orders -
if they see a rock, I can respond to it.
To the right a bit. Through here.
-Yeah, you're in, you're in, you're in.
Across there. And straight up.
That's all right.
You've got a little one just in front of your nose here.
It's taken ten minutes to reach the pregnant casualty.
In that time, a passing surfer has stopped to offer help.
How are you doing, all right?
The rising tide is now only a few metres from the back of the cove.
The lady's reaction was that of joy, I would say.
She looked quite excited that finally help was with her.
I suppose just complete relief, really.
Nearly an hour has passed
since the casualty watched her husband swim out for help.
She was lucky.
Had the husband not made it round from the cove,
there's quite a treacherous patch of water there,
then the tide could have run in
and she would have had no dry beach to stand on.
So she relied on her husband to raise the alarm,
because from the beach you can't see inside the cove, so they were lucky.
As the tide continues to rise,
sea conditions in the cove begin to settle.
The crew's return journey will be much smoother.
But it's unlikely to be the last of this type of rescue they do this summer.
It does get frustrating, actually,
because a lot of these situations could be avoided.
There is only one jut of cliff that separates them from safety.
So literally, if they had known about the tides,
and known not to be in that cove at that time,
they would never have got cut off and it could have been avoided.
The casualty's husband has been waiting on the main beach.
Her husband came down to the sea. He was absolutely relieved.
We even managed to get his bag of beers,
so I think he was doubly relieved!
Thank you very much. Guys, I should say thank you to all of you, OK?
All right, mate.
I'd like to think that we potentially just sort of saved
a disastrous ending to their day, really.
On average, the Newquay lifeboat crew responds
to over 20 tidal cut-offs a year - nearly a third of all their shouts.
Tide tables are a useful guide,
but the tide times and heights can vary hugely from beach to beach.
With this in mind, the crew here now carry out specialist foot patrols
to the spots where people are most commonly caught out.
Historically, we've always had lifeboat shouts to Bedruthan Steps,
but due to the popularity down here, they were just getting too frequent
and really spiked a couple of years ago,
so we had to do something about it.
We're two hours off low tide now and as you can probably see, we've got
the bays are starting to cut off, due to the tide.
You can actually see, if you look over my shoulder,
two people coming from one of the further coves along,
so they're literally going to have to get wet now to come back
around that cove already.
So there's potentially some more people around there as well,
so we'll have to go and do the checks to find out.
Twice a day, Lewis and his team do a complete sweep of the most dangerous
beaches to make sure that no-one is left high and dry.
How are you doing there, you all right?
Good, good. Just come for a little explore,
you'll probably see my colleague just bringing you back.
We've got big tides at the minute.
Hey, buddy, around the rocks!
It's the lifeguard, just come up to the main beach
before you're cut off by the tide.
It's quite a tight time frame.
We're actually sort of almost starting to be cut off ourselves.
I think there might be somebody in the southern side, so if we just...
We'll go through.
Here's two. How are you doing, fellas, you all right?
-Good, good. If you make your way back,
because the tide's going to cut you off pretty soon.
Nice one, cheers, boys.
At the end of the day, we're here to advise,
so if somebody doesn't want to listen to my advice,
that's their prerogative. I can't force anybody to do anything,
but most of the time, people are nice.
Around the country, lifeboats are launched over 8,800 times a year,
often into seas at their very worst.
With this number of shouts, even the best planned rescues can go wrong,
testing the mettle of crews to the limit.
Sometimes you have to deal with the unexpected.
Anything and everything can go wrong at sea,
and if it does go wrong at sea, it'll go wrong dramatically.
Fear of capsizing our vessel, it's something which we never want to do.
It's always the worry that's there.
I've been hit with rogue waves before,
where we've been out on a fairly moderate day and we've been clumped.
Yeah, things can change instantly,
it's split-second things and there is no safety net.
You all right?
If something goes wrong,
like a prop gets fouled or an engine breaks...
We've got problems.
..then you have to have an instinct to be able
to let you deal with that safely and effectively.
It's the not knowing, I think, that probably keeps people going,
and I think that's what keeps it... keeps it interesting.
On the north-east coast of Wales, Rhyl was a popular Victorian resort
that continues to pull in visitors in considerable numbers.
The coastline around Rhyl - huge, sandy beaches.
At low water, you can have up to a mile of beach.
Plenty of sandbanks and gullies in between and people sometimes
get into difficulty, stuck on sandbanks,
not realising that the tide's coming around them.
There's been a lifeboat station here for over 150 years,
and its pride and joy is the Mersey Class all-weather lifeboat.
We get a variety of shouts, Rhyl,
anything from commercial vessels
right the way through to people cut off by the tide,
children, inflatable dinghies, fishing boats...
The angling trips at Rhyl are very popular.
In the good weather, people come from all over the UK
to fish off our coast.
But any fishing trip out at sea has its dangers.
Mid-April - the Coastguard has received a report
of a medical emergency on a fishing boat.
What we were told was that
an elderly gentleman had fallen over and he was
screaming in pain and they just wanted us to get on the scene
straightaway and assess the situation.
On shouts like these, time is of the essence,
but the lifeboat's launch is often delayed by Rhyl's extreme low tides,
which is where the station's fully waterproof 19-tonne launch tractor
comes into play.
Low tide can be quite frustrating at times.
We can take sort of eight to ten minutes to get to the launch site.
You know, you can hear it coming on the radio and you just want to be
in the water and on the way to the casualty.
After a mile-long haul, the lifeboat reaches deep enough water to launch.
On the way to a casualty,
you're trying to get as much information as you can,
from the Coastguard and from the angling boat.
Main concerns are, what state is he in himself,
like, how is he coping with it, what's going on inside?
You just don't know, it could be anything.
Nearly half an hour after the initial call came in,
the fishing boat is located, seven miles offshore.
He looks in pain. I'm ready to go.
Helm Martin tasks Andy and trainee midwife Tara
to provide casualty care.
I like to do the first aid shouts.
I love doing them, actually.
Knowing about CPR and things like that, we get taught that,
so it's helped me with, like, the first aid side of things.
I'll go first.
It was quite sloppy with the waves,
there was a little bit of a swell running,
and the most difficult part of the incident,
you've got to place two of your own crew on board a fishing boat
that might be rolling and pitching.
It can be heart-in-your-mouth a little bit.
You all right?
-The casualty is a 71-year-old man.
He's fallen while fishing and is in extreme discomfort.
He needs urgent pain relief,
but first, the crew have to assess his condition.
Where's the pain coming from?
-It's coming from your hip?
Any movements, he's...
Right, OK. What we've...
Do you feel out of breath or anything?
-Do you feel out of breath or anything?
You're not hyperventilating, so your breathing's normal.
The crew decide to give the casualty Entonox,
a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen
which provides pain relief without inducing a lack of consciousness.
Otherwise known as gas and air,
it is used in many clinical procedures, including childbirth.
What's his name again, sorry?
Roy, he's called Roy.
-Roy, my name's Andy and this is Tara.
If you could keep on breathing the Entonox,
and then let us know how your pain relief is,
we can then make an assessment
of whether we'll be able to get you into our stretcher.
It looks like he has possibly a fractured hip.
The biggest concerns would be internal bleeding.
We just want to get him back as quickly as possible to the hospital,
so that they can make sure he's OK.
Is the pain OK, is it going, or...?
It's going? Good job. Keep on supping.
It was good that he kept a sense of humour in the condition he was in.
Yeah, a really nice chap.
-How are you getting on?
Initial assessment, casualty's in pain, can barely move.
Andy and Tara relay updates to helm Martin,
who in turn keeps the Coastguard informed
of the casualty's condition.
The man needs urgent medical attention,
but the tide is now so low
that the fishing boat cannot get into the harbour.
Andy had called me and said, you know,
it might be worth getting a helicopter,
he's in considerable pain. He was quite elderly.
So we spoke to the Coastguard, and it came back quite quickly
that the helicopter was already on another incident,
so it suddenly became apparent to us
that it was down to us to get him ashore.
With no airlift available,
the quickest way of bringing the casualty ashore
is on board the lifeboat,
and then up the beach on its launch trailer.
First of all, the crew need to lift him over to the boat.
We'll secure you in the stretcher and pass you to the lifeboat,
and then we'll take you back to the beach,
where we'll be met by an ambulance.
You keep on supping.
We've got another bottle of this left on the lifeboat, so...
HE SHOUTS IN PAIN
He wasn't happy with the plan.
He knew that it would be painful to move.
Being strapped into a stretcher isn't the best of places to be,
let alone when you're in a lot of pain.
Unfortunately we haven't got...
We don't carry those sort of drugs, I'm afraid.
We did have to persuade him somewhat,
convince him that the plan that we'd made was the best for him.
He knew that either way, he would have to go into a stretcher.
He's got room...
ROY SHOUTS IN PAIN
You're doing great.
When we started moving him,
any slight bit of movement, you know, he was sort of yelping.
HE GROANS IN PAIN
I think anyone in that situation would be exactly the same.
HE SHOUTS IN PAIN
We could hear him screaming from across the way
where we sat with the lifeboat, waiting for a report.
HE SHOUTS IN PAIN
We were probably 60-70 foot away.
He was quite a character, I remember him.
He was certainly in shock and he was certainly in a great deal of pain,
so it was probably his way of coping.
Just give you a sit-rep, Martin.
The casualty's now in the stretcher with some delicate manoeuvring.
We're just going to fasten him in, get him strapped up,
get the life jacket on before we pass across, over.
Getting the casualty into the stretcher is only half the challenge.
The stretcher now needs to be transferred to the lifeboat waiting alongside.
So we've got to put the two boats together,
and get the stretcher across as well.
So one of the ways we do it is do what we call a slow speed transfer,
so we get them to put the boat in gear,
so the boat's travelling and we have to try to and gauge the speed,
so it's not rolling and wallowing.
At the same time, while he's steering one direction,
we put the lifeboat alongside him.
If you can steer the boat as best as you can,
pick up speed just a couple of knots.
One, two, three, lift!
Rest him on the handrail, there we go, that will do.
It can be challenging,
things can go wrong.
Hang on there, don't push.
You're holding your breath.
I don't know why, it's just like a natural thing.
You're holding your breath till he gets across, because, you know,
it would be the worst thing ever if you dropped someone.
OK, one, two, three.
OK, you got him? All yours. Hands clear, everyone.
Thanks for all your help, guys, you've been great.
Your fingers are moving all right?
Let me just test the blood in your fingers.
Casualty care doesn't stop as soon as you put a casualty into
the stretcher, it's constant.
So there's constant assessment that needs to be done,
until you can hand over to the paramedics.
The tractor coming out to us, they're going to attach a line
to the boat and then pull us up onto the beach, out of the water.
When the elderly fall over and hurt themselves,
they don't recover as quick as what a younger person would,
and they might not recover.
You have to try and, not in a bad way,
but you have to try and block it out
and just think how you can help them.
The casualty was met by a waiting ambulance onshore
and taken to hospital.
X-rays revealed he'd not only fractured his hip,
but also one of his wrists.
He had a realisation that if he was going to hospital,
there'd be nobody to feed his cat that evening.
I think he was more concerned for his cat
than he was his own wellbeing.
This seaside town of Tenby lies
on the rugged southern coast of Pembrokeshire.
Its picturesque Victorian houses are surrounded by a 13th-century
fortified wall, built to protect residents from marauding invaders.
Tenby's on the west coast of Wales, right on the end of nowhere.
There's one road in, one road out.
A lifeboat station has been keeping the seas here safe since the 1850s.
A lot of the locals have pleasure boats
which they bring down in the summertime.
There's a lot of kayaking, or windsurfing as well is quite common,
and we do get the occasional commercial fishing vessel
that has broken down.
On a calm June day, the station receives an emergency call.
This time, it's not the usual suspects.
I was in the harbour when the pager went off.
You never know what's going to happen,
the adrenaline starts running and you just, you know,
you do get that buzz of excitement
that you don't know what you're going to.
Got to the boathouse and found that we were waiting for the police,
so, a bit strange.
I have never used the lifeboat for support before.
I've worked in Tenby on and off for ten years.
But personally, I don't have any experience at sea.
I didn't realise that, having never been there before,
how powerful and how fast the boat is.
From the moment of launching down the slip
and turning around to look back at Tenby,
we'd travelled an immense amount of distance
in a very, very short space of time.
A sailing boat has been reported stolen
from neighbouring Saundersfoot Harbour.
It's been sighted heading out to sea.
On the way out, you're thinking,
why steal a boat, what's the guy's intentions?
Is he stealing it, you know, to make money out of it or, you know,
is he drunk? You do get a lot of that, where people just, you know,
pinch a boat because they're drunk.
Our initial concerns were not so much of dealing with a crime
and needing to apprehend an offender or recover stolen property,
but you had to start questioning the person's skill level and knowledge
when it came to sailing,
and was he putting himself or other seafarers at risk?
We had actually established that this male had been seen the previous
evening within the harbour and had been sleeping rough.
We didn't know what his state of mind was
or what his intentions were.
We'd had quite a detailed description,
and it was quite a distinctive boat,
in that it had a green hull and a red sail.
So I knew pretty much early on
from the outset that that boat was going to stand out to us.
25 minutes after launching, two miles offshore from Tenby,
the stolen boat looms into view.
I thought it would have been, like, a nice luxury cruiser
or something like that,
not a wooden, old, rickety yacht with a big, red sail!
You know, somebody sailing away and thinking they're going to get
a fast getaway and they're doing about three or four knots!
Yeah. Looking guilty.
We called out initially, demanding he lower the sail.
At that stage, he sort of pretty much blanked us.
He totally ignored the big orange lifeboat heading towards him,
he just played dumb. He just didn't have a clue
what was going on and he just kept going
in the direction he was sailing.
There was a little bit of concern
in the fact the male was ignoring us,
because we didn't know what his intention was,
we didn't know what his state of mind was.
People do try and get away from the police.
You don't know if he's carrying a knife or a weapon
or if he's going to be aggressive,
so you try and stay back a little bit on a boat.
It was a different adrenaline feeling, having the police on board.
It's like, what's going to happen, is this guy going to kick off?
Are we going to be dealing with all sorts?
It was quite surreal, really.
The skill of the lifeboat crew, very skilled as they are,
they managed to manoeuvre the lifeboat
alongside the stolen vessel.
The lifeboat crew sort of grabbed a piece of the rigging, as it were,
and pulled the boat closer,
and one of the lifeboat crew boarded the vessel.
There was an element of concern for their safety as well.
You know, were we putting him in danger?
As coxswain, Phil is responsible for his crew's safety.
He chooses nightclub bouncer Matt to board the boat.
I am usually the first person to jump in the water
or offer my services to the skipper.
I wasn't concerned how he was going to react.
I mean I've worked the doors for 20 years,
so I'm used to dealing with aggressive people,
if he did turn aggressive.
He appeared sort of dishevelled,
which tied in with the fact that we'd received that information
about him sleeping rough.
He spoke very little, he didn't really engage with us,
and, for his safety, he was taken below deck
to prevent him either jumping off or harming himself.
Once questioned, the boat thief reveals to the police
that his intention had been to sail round the south coast
and across the Channel to France.
Once I jumped on board,
we realised that he was navigating with a 20-year-old AA road atlas -
I don't think that was going to get him to France,
I don't think it even covered France -
and a couple of tins of random food.
I think he might have had a Pot Noodle and some
red salmon, you know, it's just ridiculous.
But then, I don't think he was in the right frame of mind
for sailing to France!
Had we not had the support of the lifeboat that day,
I dread to think what would have happened to the individual,
how far the individual would have gone
before he would have succumbed and either capsized or fallen overboard,
or indeed injured other sailors at sea.
Back in Saundersfoot Harbour, a police car is waiting for the thief.
"Who dobbed me in?"
He later pleaded guilty to stealing a boat
and was sentenced to 14 days in prison.
We don't get too many shouts like it, to be honest.
We do have a blue light on top of the boat,
but we haven't got any sirens!
160 miles south-east is the city of Portsmouth,
which lies on Portsea Island in the Solent.
The port's strategic position in the Channel has given it a central role
in naval history.
At the height of the British Empire,
it was the world's most fortified military base.
Today, the local lifeboat crew keep the sea safe from their base
on Langstone Harbour.
Right, chappies, we're just practising some rope work.
If you can all tie a bowline for us.
24-year-old Brittany has been volunteering here
for over five years.
So, I'm from Portsmouth, lived here all my life, grew up here.
It's basically an island filled with water around it,
busy station here, as well.
A lot of the time in the summer, you're kind of looking more for
casualty care jobs, or people going missing
and spending a bit more time out on the water,
and we'll go and search for them.
The Portsmouth lifeboat station is at the centre
of three linked natural harbours,
between them, home to hundreds of dinghies and yachts.
You've got people out there that are really experienced,
and yet stuff still goes wrong, so sometimes we are our worst enemy,
but then sometimes, things just go wrong.
A warm day in June - the inland waters appear calm,
but beyond the harbour, a strong wind is creating
choppy seas with large swells.
A call comes into the station.
Two dinghies have capsized.
Four people are in the water, over a mile out to sea.
The casualties that we went out to
were quite a long way offshore for the size of the boats they were in.
I think the wooden dinghies they were in
were 10-12 foot long, so they weren't big.
Sailing dinghies have the potential to sink -
I wouldn't say they were in the safest place that they could be.
When you capsize, it's a lot more serious
and a lot more time critical that you need to get there,
because someone can drown in 90 seconds.
It's really important that you get there quickly.
It was quite choppy.
The wind had picked up a little bit as well, so you're kind of thinking,
how far have they drifted?
Have they managed to get any of their boats back up yet?
Are they with their boats, or is it four singular people
in the water just kind of bobbing around
and we've got to search for them and try and find each one?
It takes four minutes for the Atlantic Class
to reach the casualties' last known location,
but there's only one dinghy and just two people clinging on.
A passing motorboat has picked up the other two sailors,
but this dinghy has now drifted
over a half a mile away from their friends.
As we got to the first casualties,
they were pointing over to where this motorboat was,
but as we were with them and the fact that the other casualties
were in or on another vessel,
we went for the first capsized boat,
as they were still in the water and the other ones weren't.
The challenge now is getting these two men out of the water.
It can be quite difficult, depending on the size of your casualty,
especially when you've got kit on that then weighs them down as well,
so they've got water on their kit or soaked into their kit,
so it weighs a bit more once you start lifting them out of the water.
The exhausted casualties have been clinging on to their dinghy
in choppy seas for nearly an hour.
-There we go.
I'll hold that.
When you're dealing with people in the water,
you kind of just look at getting them in and assessing how they are.
If they're cold at all, have they swallowed any water,
have they inhaled any water?
Just to see if they're going to need treatment from us.
With two casualties now safe,
the crew must locate the other members of their group.
But as the lifeboat approaches the motor cruiser,
it becomes clear that one of these sailors
is not completely out of danger yet.
I saw that there was one gent sitting on the back of the swim deck
and the lady that was on the boat had handed him a towel.
I thought at first it was just to kind of dry him off a little bit,
and as we got a bit closer, he said that he'd hurt his leg.
A crew member needs to board the motor cruiser to properly assess
the sailor's injury, but as they come alongside,
they learn that this boat has problems of its own.
The motorboat had actually got a rope around its propeller,
so it was just drifting in the swell and with the wind.
They'd only just picked up that motorboat that day,
so they were quite new to that boat themselves,
and had attempted to rescue
and then got into a sticky situation themselves.
Manoeuvring the 27 foot, 1.8 tonne lifeboat alongside a drifting vessel
in these seas is no mean feat.
But Lewis must get Brittany on board.
The laceration that he had, it was a bit more than just a cut,
it was quite big, probably say maybe 6-7 inches long.
There were quite a lot of waves coming over
and almost washing the blood off,
but he was also quite cold as well, so that was, I believe,
kind of almost stemming the bleeding that was coming out.
I asked for a first aid kit to be sent over,
along with another crew member.
Kim joins Brittany on the motor cruiser.
He did seem quite kind of relaxed,
but I think it was more just trying to keep himself calm.
He was quite cold, as well.
We did need to get his leg treated properly,
because we can only do so much on the boat.
While Kim runs preliminary medical checks,
Brittany dresses the man's laceration.
Can you imagine getting out of a swimming pool onto the side?
He'd tried to do that onto the boat, but as he was doing it,
he'd actually caught his leg on the propeller.
The injured sailor, Phil, and his crewmate, Paul, were adrift
in the sea for nearly an hour before the motor cruiser spotted them.
The reason the dinghy capsized
was mainly because a freak gust of wind just came straight at us.
There was no warning.
Initially, it was quite worrying.
My heart did pump and my adrenaline did kick in.
It was just total shock.
Without the life jacket, I wouldn't be here now talking about it.
I wasn't too sure how far we were getting dragged out, because you get
quite disorientated and getting tired, getting very, very tired.
As time went by,
I was getting colder and colder and colder and I was thinking,
is there anybody going to come and get us?
I did say to Phil, we need some help soon because I'm not sure how long
I can hold on for.
I was just so pleased when this passing vessel come in to get us.
Phil's leg needs urgent medical attention,
so the priority now is to get him and Paul off this boat.
But while Paul can board with little assistance,
the bigger challenge is transferring a wounded man
off a broken-down motor cruiser, which, without engine power,
is now rolling in increasingly choppy seas.
The injured guy, we managed to get him up and onto his feet.
He was actually pretty good.
He managed to hop over quite elegantly, actually!
Finally, four casualties,
two dinghies and a drifting motor cruiser
are all transported back to harbour.
The guys were reasonably lucky to be spotted by the passing motorboat.
If the vessel had sunk, we'd have run the risk
that we were just effectively looking for heads in the water.
We could have been out there until the hours of darkness.
If they started to lose consciousness,
they might have drifted away from their boat,
they wouldn't have stayed with that, they might have let go and, yeah,
trying to find four people that aren't with their boats
compared to four people that are with their boat is a lot harder.
How lucky was I that day?
It's the closest I've come to death, I think.
Yes, very lucky.
You're clear, you're clear.
Safely ashore, the casualties are met by a waiting ambulance crew.
The people that we rescued,
they came round to every crew member afterwards and said their thanks,
which, for us, it means a lot.
I met Phil a couple of weeks ago,
we had a little survivors' drink down in Eastbourne.
Phil's OK. Because the wound was quite wide, it's still healing,
but hopefully, he should be back fighting fit soon.
Four lives have been saved today,
but the Portsmouth crew won't be able to return to their families
and friends just yet.
We've got another job to go to, so hop back on.
-No rest on a Sunday, then?
Oh, no, never is!
By the time we got back from the second shout,
it must have been about seven o'clock.
My barbecue was finished.
With limestone cliffs rising hundreds of feet,
the Gower Peninsula in Wales is home
to some Britain's most breathtaking scenery.
Its many beaches and bays are popular with surfers and kayakers,
but with strong tides and currents, the waters here can be dangerous.
The Gower Peninsula's quite an interesting piece of coast.
We have a mixture of cliffs, which are followed around
by the Welsh coastal path,
and we also have little coves and sandy beaches
which offer a really good place for people
to come and enjoy the coast,
enjoy the sea and hopefully enjoy the sun when it comes out.
22-year-old Aidan has been a lifeguard here for three years.
I've always loved being around water.
I swam from when I was very young
and grew up swimming and being in the sea and in the pool and stuff,
and it just seemed pretty cool
to be able to work at the beach every day.
The lifeguards here are supported by the Mumbles lifeboat crew,
and the popularity of their patch
means that this station is the busiest in Wales.
Mumbles, yeah, we have a lot of people involved with watersports.
On the water today, there's people kayaking,
fishing, paddle boarding, swimming.
The sea looks so inviting,
it's definitely tempting to get involved.
But there's one small watercraft
which is the bane of life-saving crews here
and around the country.
When you hear "inflatable",
you definitely don't think of it as the most seaworthy craft,
so if there's any chop, they're going to struggle in it,
and if it's windy, they're going to struggle to maintain
their position against the wind.
So if you're in something inflatable that sits on top of the water,
you're most likely going to be blown away from the land,
so you're going to struggle to get back to your safety.
A warm spring day in the Gower.
The lifeboat station is paged.
Two young men have been seen drifting out to sea
in a small inflatable kayak.
The questions that we generally sort of want answered as we're sort of
processing the information coming in, I guess,
are what ages they might be,
what kind of clothing are they wearing,
how far away from the shoreline are they,
are they in the water, holding on to their kayak,
are they in the kayak and, you know, safe enough?
I've got my keys in my shorts if my parents are asking for them.
The lifeboat station is a few miles
from the kayakers' last reported position.
-How long, 15 minutes?
While the inshore boat makes its way to the scene,
Aidan can see the unfolding emergency from the beach.
On the binoculars, the boys were quite far out in the kayak.
You could see the boys were trying to paddle in the opposite direction
and they were making no leeway at all,
so it was obvious from that point
that the boys may need a bit of assistance.
Watching the kayak continue to drift out to sea,
Aidan decides to take action.
I was already in my wet suit and the board was at the water's edge
ready to go, so I ran down
and paddled the board out in the direction of where the boys were.
By the time the lifeboat arrives on the scene,
Aidan has reached the drifting inflatable
and secured it to a passing boat.
But it's soon apparent that the bigger problem
is the state of the kayakers.
Oh, no, that's good.
As the kayakers take refuge on the motorboat,
it's clear they've been having a bit of a party.
Yeah, I can imagine.
So, when we approached the vessel that had taken the guys on a tow,
it was pretty apparent that they'd had a lot of beer
and there was still quite a lot of it in the boat as well, yeah.
There's no way this is going to get towed round to there,
it's waterlogged. They're in a bit of a state.
The casualties are transferred to the lifeboat.
They're safe, but worse for wear and freezing cold.
Right, do you want to put that on? Put that on, please.
Can you see that hole? Just put your head through.
I think the type of clothing they were wearing reflects, sometimes,
how often they use the water.
These guys didn't have the kit,
they were wearing jumpers and coats and things - no life jacket.
And it's not just the kayakers' clothes that are unseaworthy.
The kayak was quite an old inflatable kayak.
It was afloat and it was pumped up fine,
but it had taken on quite a lot of water as well. It looked quite old.
Just for your information,
we've currently got the boys on board...
The priority now is to get the merry mariners warmed up
and back on dry land.
Are you carrying all these cans back up with you?
Yeah, sound. You can have one if you want, like.
One of the lads, you know, was pretty aware that he was like,
OK, I need to have my serious head on here,
and the other lad, I think, just wanted to carry on drinking.
-Can I say one little preachy thing?
-Go on, then.
just get life jackets next time you're on the water.
-Promise? Because that'll save your life.
I think they were pretty unaware
of potentially how severe that situation
could have been for them, so... Yeah.
If the lifeguard wasn't there
and the vessel that helped them wasn't there,
they could have easily been adrift and continued to go out
into the Channel, which would have made searching and locating them
very difficult as well.
So, yeah, it could have been quite serious.
For now, the lads' booze cruise is over.
They took the beers with them.
They were appreciative.
I think they were happy to get out of that situation,
pleased to be back on dry land.
Each shout presents its own challenges.
I think you've got to have a level head, I suppose,
and with that comes patience.
Patience to listen to people, patience to not panic somebody,
patience just to kind of go with the flow, I suppose,
a little bit, if someone's being a bit silly.
Our job isn't to judge anyone for their behaviour
or what they're doing on any given day.
I think the only thing to bear in mind is that on that day,
two lifeboats were launched and a lifeguard was taken
off the beach that they were meant to be patrolling.
For volunteers and their families,
one of the hardest things to adjust to is the fact that they have
no idea where, why or when they could be called into action.
If there's a Sunday lunch, you're sat down,
your pager goes off, you go.
You're bathing your kids, pager goes off, you go.
You're reading a story to the kids, pager goes off, you go.
One of my first shouts was my boy's first birthday.
The party started at two o'clock and the pager went off at five to two,
so I missed his first birthday.
Christmas Day was the worst.
Just about to sit down for Christmas lunch and the pager went off.
To be fair, they did keep the dinner on hold,
but it was a bit dry when we got back.
-Please, clear the area.
I don't think my colleagues really realise what it involves.
If my pager goes off in the middle of the night,
I do have to get up and cycle down the cliff in a storm
and get on the boat.
Just gone half-past three.
Two hours before work.
There was a time, the pager went off at my nan's funeral.
It was a bit like...
all right, we've got to kind of respect you, Nan,
but at the same time, you know that this is what we do.
I make sure now that when we go out, I've got spare house keys,
mobile phone and money for a taxi,
because we can be anywhere and he's gone.
He's just left me.
Mid-May in Cornwall,
and the Newquay lifeboat station has been paged again.
Someone's been cut off by the tide.
The crew have only just returned from another shout.
Got home, went to Sainsbury's, bought myself a four-pack of beer,
it's the Heineken Cup final, isn't it?
I thought, I'll watch the rugby, have a couple of beers.
It can be frustrating sometimes if you've just rushed down
through the middle of doing something you're enjoying doing.
When you get tasked, it's something that's easily avoidable,
but that's the nature of the beast.
A woman and her dog are trapped by the incoming tide
at Bedruthan Steps beach, over five miles from Newquay by sea.
That area is notorious, really.
Over a matter of only a few days, maybe a week,
we had been called to the same place, Bedruthan Steps,
three times in a row.
To increase their chances of finding the casualty,
both of the station's boats are launched.
The larger, faster Atlantic Class
and the smaller D Class, better suited to beach landings.
It's a woman and her boxer dog. She sounds like she's rang it in.
I think they said on the southern side, so I think, like,
they're this side of the cave. Yeah, turn left.
Bedruthan Steps, there's lots of rocks,
some that you can go behind, some you can't.
Very flat beach.
One minute they're walking along with 10, 20 metres
of golden sands in front of them, and then 20 minutes later,
they're stood on the rocks,
wondering how they're going to get back.
First thoughts when we're going up there is finding her.
They're going to be frightened and afraid if they've had to make
an emergency call. As soon as she's got eyes on us, she's going to feel
a whole lot better about the situation.
Unfortunately, at Bedruthan Steps,
the tide actually cuts you off only a couple of hours
after low tide, so there would have been nowhere for her to escape.
She's probably in here somewhere.
The Atlantic arrives on the scene first
and the crew set about trying to locate the casualty.
There's something blue there.
What's that there? Is that a person with a blue jacket?
Oh, yeah, and the brown dog. Right.
When you spot the person and you can see that they're on sort of
dry land and at that time look to be unharmed, it's a relief straightaway
because you know that then you've got time to be able to sit back
and assess the situation.
The two crews decide to send the smaller D Class in through the surf
to the beach to pick up the casualty and her dog.
Engines on tilt, just going straight for clean beach, straight in,
we'll get in and beach it.
If you go up and grab her...
With a flood tide, the sooner we've got them in
and the more beach we have to aim for,
the easier it is for us as crew.
If we get in and it's tight up against the cliffs,
trying to hold the boat in place can be very difficult.
You're all good behind.
Dog's loving it!
The woman has been stranded for over half an hour with the tide still
coming in fast all around her.
When I saw the boat arrived, there was a tremendous sense of relief.
You do feel lonely when you're in trouble near the sea.
When you're faced with a rising tide,
it was something that I couldn't see my way out of.
-Are you OK?
-I'm just a bit upset that I did it wrong.
-Are you sure?
No, it's fine. It's a really notorious place to get cut off,
so it happens a lot, so don't worry at all.
-She was distressed, understandably.
You know, it's a lonely experience.
You're generally cut off, isolated, you know, you look around you,
there's high cliffs, you think nobody's ever going to see you.
It's quite mentally stressful.
-What's the dog's name?
Cooper? So, is he quite friendly to be picked up and that, yeah?
I was upset because I was having to ask for help,
because I'm a fiercely independent person and I really didn't like
to ask for help, and I kept wanting to find my own way back,
but I realised I couldn't.
I couldn't believe that it was so high so soon,
because high tide was at least three hours away, and I started to panic.
I then tried to climb over some of the rocks,
calling Cooper to come with me,
but they were already wet and my feet were slipping
and I bashed my shins, and I realised that if I didn't stop,
I could be in far greater danger,
I could hurt myself.
What we'll do is take you out through the small, little waves
on the small one and we'll get you on the nice big one.
It's really solid.
I panicked because I was worried for my safety and I was worried
for Cooper as well.
He puts his absolute trust in me.
I felt totally powerless.
So if you put this one on you.
Let's pop that up because it's going to get splashed a little bit.
I was still quite upset,
because I still felt I should have done something
to not get myself in that situation.
But I felt that I'd done everything right.
I didn't realise I would be in that situation.
OK. I'll just help you hold Cooper there.
The tides and the conditions change daily,
obviously, the size of the tides,
but actually, the sand shifts a lot as well on a daily basis.
So, the particular cove she was in is the first one that gets cut off.
So, you know, really, everything was sort of against her,
even though she'd tried her best.
You know, she had made the effort.
It's not like she's naively gone down there and taking risks, so,
you know, things just went against her.
But she did everything right.
Just little splashes over the top.
Nothing coming into the boat.
Just hold on. Cooper, it's all right.
-On these sort of shouts, a little bit of continuity
with dealing with someone is really beneficial for the casualty.
So, obviously I was the first one to speak to Linda, so I remained
sort of close to her, reassuring her
while we were in the D Class, smaller lifeboat.
Good boy. Good boy. Nearly there, mate.
And then I actually transferred with her
and Cooper the dog onto the Atlantic,
just for that continuity of, you know, a familiar face.
OK? I'm going to stand you up, Linda.
I'm going to pass you on to these hunky gentlemen on the other side.
Turn around, put one foot on.
Good. Come on.
Come on, boy. Good boy.
Good boy. Good boy. That's it. Good boy.
The 10 or 15 minute journey back to the harbour,
it seemed like a lifetime because it was so cold, windy and wet.
Are you all right there? Comfy?
All the while we were on the boat, he was crouched down,
his arms round Cooper,
reassuring him and telling me that he was fine.
Cooper the dog, he was fantastic, behaved very well.
He's a very good dog. I'm sure he had a few treats when he got home.
Hey, there's Mummy. Are you OK there, Linda?
-Bit windy when you're going along, isn't it?
But it's nice and quiet now.
If I could see the guys that rescued me now, I would say,
thank you for being so understanding and non-judgmental,
and thank you for looking after Cooper.
Whoa! Big shake.
I would say there's absolutely no reason for you to be embarrassed.
Mistakes happen. Accidents happen.
It's not a big issue for us. It's what we're here for.
-No problem. Take it easy.
Keep enjoying the beach, keep walking your dog on the beach.
You learned the hard way, but don't be embarrassed about it.
It's one of those things.
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.
In Tenby, police searching for a boat thief call for lifeboat assistance. The Mumbles lifeguards and lifeboat crew race to help two kayakers adrift in a boat laden with beer. And when two yachts capsize off Portsmouth, the crew must make fast decisions about who to rescue first.