In the early hours of Thursday May 7, the crew of the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat based in Rye Harbour received a distress call. Unusually, this was not from out at sea, but concerned a person who, it appeared, had fallen into the river near Strand Quay and was in trouble. The lifeboat was launched just after 1am and headed upriver at speed, on its lifesaving mission.
On the way, the RNLI reports, the boat hit an “unlit, submerged object”, injuring three of the crew and causing significant damage to the boat. The nature of the obstruction has not been disclosed. However the Harbour Master issued a Notice to Mariners on May 12 advising that new piling was now in place for pontoon moorings for yachts and, although conjecture at the moment, it is perhaps not impossible that this was the cause of the accident.
Two of the crew were taken to hospital by ambulance, but all three are now recovering. The original casualty responsible for the lifeboat’s call-out was finally helped out of the water by a passer-by and, unlike those who were attempting to rescue him, suffered no ill effects. A few days later, on May 10, the crew were exercising in a relief lifeboat when they were called to the assistance of an angling boat that had engine failure off Fairlight. For this more serious emergency all ended well, and the boat was taken in tow back to its mooring in Rye.
Rye Bay was the scene of one of the worst disasters for the RNLI when, in 1928, the lifeboat, Mary Stanford, was called out in severe weather conditions to assist the Latvian cargo vessel, Alice. In heavy seas, the Mary Stanford overturned and all 17 crew (volunteers, just as they are today) were lost.