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Two fisherman saved by RNLI crew after drifting off coast at Littlestone

Two fisherman who were drifting out to sea off the coast of Romney Marsh were helped to safety by volunteers at the RNLI.

On Sunday afternoon, crew from the Littlestone lifeboat station were preparing for their first on-boat training exercise since lockdown began when a member of the public reported seeing a small boat in trouble around 1.5miles off the coast.

The lifeboat attending the casualties at sea off Littlestone. Picture: Peter Leigh
The lifeboat attending the casualties at sea off Littlestone. Picture: Peter Leigh

Using long range binoculars, operations manager Matt Crittenden confirmed a small vessel was out to sea and making no headway.

After a short change to the training briefing, the crew and the Atlantic 75 lifeboat Fred Clarke were tasked to check on the boat.

On arrival the team discovered two men, in a two metre inflatable boat.

The pair, who had been fishing, told the crew they were fine.

But after shadowing the boat for a while, the team decided that it would not make it back to shore in the strong winds and choppy water.

Volunteer crew member Sarah Munnings holding onto the dinghy. Picture: Peter Leigh
Volunteer crew member Sarah Munnings holding onto the dinghy. Picture: Peter Leigh

The two men accepted the advice of RNLI helm Peter Leigh and a tow was suggested and quickly set-up but after a short distance it was decided to bring the boat on board the lifeboat along with the two men, as they were getting very wet and cold.

After checking the GPS on one of the casualties’ phones the lifeboat crew were able to ascertain what part of the beach the boat had launched from and returned them to their concerned families who were waiting.

RNLI lifeboat helm Peter Leigh said: "The two gentlemen felt they would be okay left to their own devices but they were actually in trouble out there and they had drifted three miles in a very short time.

"I’m really proud of the skill and professionalism of my crew under challenging conditions."

It was also volunteer crew member Sarah Munnings first ever real shout and first time back on the boat since January.

Crew member Heather Crittenden returning the casualties to their family and the safety of the shore. Photo: Peter Leigh
Crew member Heather Crittenden returning the casualties to their family and the safety of the shore. Photo: Peter Leigh

She said: "I was a bit concerned at first when we were told we were going to an actual job but those feelings soon go away and your RNLI training kicks in and you get on with helping the crew.

"Heather Crittenden, volunteer crew, and Peter Leigh, helm, were really supportive and soon made me feel like part of the crew rather than a newbie.

"It’s odd having to wear the Covid-19 PPE with full RNLI equipment but we’ll all be using it for a while yet I think.

"It felt great knowing I’d got my first one out of the way and turned out to be a great refresher exercise even though it was an actual rescue."

The two men both had lifejackets on and a means to call the coastguard.

Fred Clarke Atlantic 75 RNLI lifeboat launching. Photo: Gavin Munnings
Fred Clarke Atlantic 75 RNLI lifeboat launching. Photo: Gavin Munnings

But Peter added: "Always wear a lifejacket and always carry a means to call for help.

"If you feel unsure whether you need help or not or are having difficulty making headway, it’s always a good idea to call the UK Coastguard early to avoid bigger problems later on."

The boat returned to station and was made ready for the next volunteer crew members to carry on training exercises.

Also on Sunday, members of Dungeness Coastguard helped a mother and daughter who got into difficulty while paddle boarding off Littlestone.

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