Taking the search out of search and rescue

With the sailing season now in full swing, the RNLI and HM Coastguard are reminding boaters that the tracking and alerting tool, RYA SafeTrx, is freely available to anyone who wants to be safer afloat.

A number of recent incidents around the country have highlighted the importance of keeping a friend or relative ashore appraised of your plans and having a suitable means of communication on board for routine messaging and emergency situations.

The RYA SafeTrx app allows you to enter your journey details directly from a smartphone and plan a trip knowing that should you not arrive by the time given, a nominated emergency contact will be alerted and advised to initiate appropriate action.

Where an emergency contact calls HM Coastguard about an overdue trip, they will have access to the boater’s location and SafeTrx trip data through a secure SafeTrx server.

Tangled with wind turbine

Last month saw a sailor have to be rescued after falling into the water when his boat ran into trouble and tied up against a wind turbine.

HM Coastguard and Margate lifeboat were called to the windfarm off the Thanet coast after a vessel was reported to be in difficulty and had lost a mast.

The lifeboat crew attended and towed the sailing boat back to Ramsgate Harbour after the boat suffered engine and rudder faults.

Windfarm staff alerted the emergency services and were first on the scene to help the man and locate him in the water before the lifeboat arrived.

Two lifeboat crew members were transferred to the sailing boat and the mast secured for the tow after cutting it free from the turbine before embarking on a “slow and uncomfortable journey” to Ramsgate.

Ian Lowe, Deputy Launching Authority, Margate Lifeboat said: “This was a long and tedious job for the volunteer lifeboat crew who assessed the yacht not to be adequately equipped for a sea passage. Our thanks go to the professionalism of the windfarm support vessel who quickly recovered the casualty from the water and transported him to medical care.

“We would recommend that any vessel putting to sea be properly equipped with lifesaving equipment ensuring it is fit for the intended passage including the competence of the crew. When undertaking a passage of any length consideration should be given to registering it using RYA SafeTrx.”

Picture: Mark Stanford

Ghost yacht prompts call for RYA SafeTrx

Swanage Coastguard have also urged boaters to join its voluntary boat registration scheme by signing up to RYA SafeTrx, after a ‘ghost yacht’ was discovered on the sands at Mowlem.

After reports came in of the washed-up vessel, two Coastguards in water rescue responder suits, and, protected by the rest of the team acting as spotters and armed with throwlines, walked out to the yacht, to check there was no-one in difficulty.

Having confirmed there was no-one on board, the team checked for any damage or resulting pollution and then tried to find the yacht’s owner. A note and phone number on the cabin door led HM Coastguard to a local person who was able to contact the owner, who attended.

Swanage Coastguard said: “We urge boat owners to join our voluntary boat registration scheme whereby they can their register details and, when a boat ends up in situations similar to the Swanage one, it’s easier for the Coastguard Operations Rooms to identify and contact them.

“Regular sailors may know it as the CG66 scheme, although these days the register is run in conjunction with the RYA and is called RYA SafeTrx. Since RYA SafeTrx periodically sends your location data back to a dedicated server, HM Coastguard’s response team can get help directly to you, and quickly,” said the Coastguard.

Picture: Graham Hunt

Capsized kayakers stranded off Essex coast

Two kayakers who capsized off the coast of Essex were also rescued after a lifeboat spotted an oar being waved. The coastguard received a call from one of the kayakers in the sea near to the Gunfleet Wind Farm, four miles south of Clacton.

Clacton RNLI was dispatched to find the stranded pair. On nearing the wind farm, a black dot was spotted towards the western end. The black dot turned out to be one of the oars being waved to grab the volunteers’ attention.

One kayaker was pulled to safety from the water while the other was found on top of his kayak.  Both were suffering from the effects of exposure and immersion, the RNLI said.

Adrian Rose, helmsman of the lifeboat, said: “We are glad we could help these two kayakers today and feel that their lives have been saved due to our ability to make a quick response, and that they managed to request help using a mobile phone.

“Due to their position they were unlikely to have been seen from the shore, and the wind today was pushing them further out to sea. We highly recommend the use of dedicated means of alerting distress, such as the RYA SafeTrx App which can save vital minutes in an emergency.”

Whilst components of the GMDSS system remain the preferred means for communication and distress alerting, the RYA SafeTrx app is a useful backup and particularly helpful for solo boaters and those on the many small craft that do not have the ability to fit or carry standard GMDSS equipment. RYA SafeTrx does not replace GMDSS, EPIRB, PLB or AIS.

Picture: Pete Inman

Visit the RYA safety hub to find out more about RYA SafeTrx.

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