Rescue service kept busy this year

EVER-changing sandbanks at the entrance to a river kept a rescue service exceptionally busy this summer – dealing with a record number of incidents.The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service helped more people than ever before, many of them in boats stuck on the Deben Bar.

By Richard Cornwell

EVER-changing sandbanks at the entrance to a river kept a rescue service exceptionally busy this summer – dealing with a record number of incidents.

The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service helped more people than ever before, many of them in boats stuck on the Deben Bar.

Shifting sands, changing the course of the channel, depth of the water and the shape of the shingle banks in the estuary, caught out many sailors.


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Even those who used the estuary regularly found the situation changed when they sailed in again a few days or weeks later.

It meant many craft, large and small, were stranded on the bar – needing the help of HM Coastguard, Felixstowe Ferry assistant harbourmaster Duncan Read and his vessel the Three Brothers, and the volunteer patrol service.

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Patrol service chairman John Cresswell said: "We have seen a marked increase in incidents mainly because of the unpredictable changes to the entrance to the Deben and its hazardous bar, which has caused numerous vessels to go aground.

"On one occasion we have five vessels aground at the same time."

Another of the incidents saw a 41ft sloop stranded on her beam-ends with the crew – who were later treated for mild hypothermia and minor hand injuries – in grave danger of being swept overboard.

The patrol and rescue service kept its craft Volunteer alongside as a safety precaution while the Three Brothers worked to free the sloop.

Mr Cresswell said this summer season – the fifth the group has served the resort – crews had attended 79 incidents involving 174 people, compared with 44 incidents and 86 people last year.

The incidents had included ones at sea and onshore, and on 21 occasions crews had been tasked by the Thames Coastguard.

Their work had included assisting in rescues, giving safety warnings, administering first aid, one pollution incident, and a number to give help to customs and immigration officials.

"We think it's not a bad achievement for an organisation some said would never last a year. We gave the resort and surrounding area some 57 days of marine safety cover without any charge to the local authority," said Mr Cresswell.

Volunteers had started their winter training programme, and would also be doing vehicle patrols on the seafront, especially when high tides were forecast.

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