A special rescue, 39 years ago

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39 years ago on 21 March 1983, we got stuck on the sand bar trying to get back in to Rye three hours after high water. The station report on the midnight shipping forecast for Scilly Isles was calm. Dad thought the wind wasn’t going to come till later, so we would get the trip in and then be blown home.

Steaming out about 3am it was flat calm, but listening to Graham Coglan in St Richard off Hastings and Dave Peters in Our Pam & Peter off Bexhill talking on the radio, the wind was just making an appearance, albeit a gentle breeze.

Within half an hour, Dave Peters said the wind was starting to freshen up where he was.
Dad looked at the tide table, then the clock, then the tide table again. By now it was two hours after high water and we were an hour out, off Dungeness, the next minute we were heading back to Rye.

Back then, there was a sand bar across the mouth of river from the red light going east, so it meant coming inside where a gully had formed from the white light heading east.
By the time we got back to the harbour three hours after high water it was still dark. Even though we were well inside coming into the entrance, and looking like we were going ashore, we were still too far out and so we grounded and there we sat.

Fast forward to 9am and the wind was steadily increasing. By the time we floated again, Cass Heyes told us the wind was gusting 66 knots at Fairlight Coastguard Station, not that we didn’t know that as the waves were rolling in, lifting us up and dropping on the hard sand with what felt like every 30 seconds.

An RAF helicopter from Manston was scrambled and hovered above ready to take us off, but dad wasn’t leaving the boat and I wasn’t leaving dad. The coastguard rescue team were ready on the beach at Camber should the boat break up and we had to jump into the raging sea.

Dungeness Lifeboat was launched and stood by us in what was by now not very nice conditions. Coxswain Willie Richardson asked dad what could he do to help. Our problem was every big wave that rolled in just kept knocking us broadside. Dad said if we could get our bow to seaward we could get off under our own power. Willie said he would bring the lifeboat in close enough to throw a line and pull our bow round. Someone from above was looking down.

Before Willie could get the lifeboat in position, there was a lull between big waves, enough that we got our bow to seaward and away we went like a racehorse in the final furlong of the Grand National! How lovely it was passing the red light.

It’s surprising how in the middle of storm force winds and having the 48 tonne boat beneath you thrown around like a rag doll, not once did I actually feel scared. I think it was knowing we had a lifeboat, an RAF helicopter and a coastguard rescue team all standing by around us, giving me that feeling if the worst happened we’d both be saved whatever.
It’s great knowing we have some of the best emergency services anywhere in the world.

Image Credits: Dave Pepper .

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