In an emergency call 999 and ask for the Coastguard

Whitstable RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews had another busy day on Friday when then stations Atlantic 85 lifeboat Lewisco was launched to three incidents two of which involved inflatable beach toys.

The first call of the afternoon was an to an inflatable dinghy with 2 persons onboard drifting 300m offshore from Leysdown. The occupants were reported to be struggling to get back to the shore against the breeze. On arrival at the scene the lifeboat crew found that the those on the inflatable had managed to reach the beach and were safe. The lifeboat patrolled the busy area for a few minutes and then returned to station.

Later in the afternoon the lifeboat launched following a report of a yellow canoe or inflatable being blown out to sea, up to a mile from shore between Shellness, Isle of Sheppey and the Kentish Flats wind farm.

The lifeboat arrived ‘on scene’ and located a 3ft inflatable toy. There was no one with it and after checking that there was no one in the water, the lifeboat returned to station.

Whitstable Lifeboat Operations Manager Mike Judge said ‘Whenever an inflatable is spotted being blown out to sea we have to be certain no one has fallen from it or is struggling to swim back having abandoned the craft. When we catch up with an inflatable we then have to ‘back track’ its movement to where it may have started to make sure all is well. It helps greatly if people report the loss of any inflatable or paddle board to the coastguard immediately’.

Mr Judge repeated his advice given out the previous day following a beach toy incident off Whitstable ‘Whilst we do not want to spoil enjoyment of the seaside the RNLI have urged people not to use inflatables, blow-up toys and airbeds which are designed for pools, not the sea where they can easily be swept offshore’

‘If you do use them at the beach, then be aware of wind and tide. When one gets caught in even a light breeze it can travel really quickly and ‘out pace’ even the strongest swimmer who may go after it’.

‘Adults should supervise children by being in direct contact with the inflatable to prevent any drift seaward. If an inflatable does get blown beyond someone’s depth, they should not pursue it. Urge the occupants to stay on the inflatable until help comes and call 999 for the coastguard. Keep watching so you can direct the lifeboat or lifeguards where to go’.

The lifeboat was called again when at around 7.30pm following a report from the UK Coastguard of a jet skier broken down about 9 miles north east of Whitstable and in a busy shipping lane.

The jet ski had reportedly set out from Minster on the Isle of Sheppey some hours previously and had run out of fuel.

The lifeboat crew located the jet ski still drifting in the strong offshore breeze and ebbing tide. The lone jet skier was immediately brought aboard for assessment and the craft taken under tow.

Progress was then started back towards Sheppey and the assistance of a lifeboat from Sheerness was requested because of the distance to be covered.

However during the passage the condition of the male jet skier deteriorated so the lifeboat crew noted the position and dropped the tow. The lifeboat then proceeded unhindered to Sheerness docks where the casualty was landed at the lifeboat station and into the care of an ambulance crew. The lifeboat then put back to sea, searched for and located the jet ski and towed it back to Whitstable.

There is further advice on all sea safety issues on the RNLI websites.

Photograph by Andrew Hastings