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Seal of approval for novice Whitstable RNLI helmsman on his first rescue mission to Sheppey

Liam Sidders was given the official 'seal of approval' on his first mission in charge of a lifeboat.

The trainee helmsman's first 'shout' was to rescue a man seen in the sea off Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey.

Whitstable lifeboat helmsman gets the 'seal of approval' after dashing to Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey. Picture: RNLI Whitstable
Whitstable lifeboat helmsman gets the 'seal of approval' after dashing to Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey. Picture: RNLI Whitstable

Liam, who is based at the RNLI's station at Whitstable, said: "Although I have taken the helm on training exercises, this was my first call running the boat from the helmsman’s perspective on an actual call.

"I had to start planning our operation right from the moment I was told to take on the role by helmsman Andy Mayo who, of course, was observing everything I did.

"It was exciting but I felt concern for the person in the water and my crew and was keen to get on with the job."

But things didn't go the way he had planned when Sheppey Coastguard Rescue Team radioed in to say the 'man' was actually a seal.

Liam said: "Obviously there was relief when the coastguard confirmed that it was a seal rather than a person in the water. I can commend the actions of the first informant who did exactly the right thing in contacting the coastguard. It is far better to be safe than sorry. We do not have any problem attending calls that turn out to be false alarms with good intent.

A baby seal found on the seawall at Leysdown in May. Picture: Daniel Ward
A baby seal found on the seawall at Leysdown in May. Picture: Daniel Ward

"But the rest of the crew keep joking that I've been given a seal of approval on my first mission."

The four-seater Atlantic 85 lifeboat was launched at 2.38pm on Thursday.

An RNLI spokesman added: "The seal was not in any difficulties and quite content to stay offshore."

It was the 24th call of the year for the Whitstable volunteers.

Read more: Stories from the Isle of Sheppey here

Read more: Stories from Whitstable here


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