Reliability, Performance, Compliance


Parachute flare used in search for lost sailor

Norma Ethel Vinall

A white parachute flare was fired during the search for a lost and stranded sailor off the Essex coast.

The Clacton RNLI Atlantic-class lifeboat, Norma Ethel Vinall, was launched one night in November at the request of the UK Coastguard.

They were searching for a lost sailor and his dog on a 31ft converted yacht that had suffered engine failure.

Initial information suggested the boat was three miles south of Jaywick, but this was later changed to three miles south of the Gunfleet Windfarm. The lifeboat had its blue light flashing in the hope that the sailor would see it.

The three-person crew made their way to the Swin Spitway, around five miles south of Clacton Pier, to await further instructions, as the Coastguard was trying to locate the sailor via his mobile phone, but the signal was weak.

The UK Coastguard then asked the lifeboat crew to search near the Barrow No.4, around eight and a half miles South East of Clacton Pier, where it saw a fishing trawler.

The crew was asked by the Coastguard to fire a white parachute flare to light up the sky while it had the lost sailor on the phone, to get an idea as to where he was.

The lifeboat was then requested to search the mouth of the Blackwater, near Bradwell Power Station. By this time, a Coastguard rescue helicopter was brought in to the search and it located the stricken vessel approximately one mile from the power station.

The Coastguard helicopter hovered above the vessel with its searchlight trained on it until the lifeboat arrived alongside.

Once the welfare of the sailor was checked, the helicopter left the scene, while the lifeboat crew towed the vessel to West Mersea, where there was a UK Coastguard mobile unit.

RNLI crew member, Steve Oaks, says, “Services in the dark are extra challenging due to the limited visibility, even with Radar, especially with such a large potential search area.

“Of the 56 services carried out in 2016 by Clacton RNLI’s volunteers, 21 were during the hours of darkness.”

Dec 12, 2017