PLIRB in Multi-Agency Incident Response

On Saturday 16th May, the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat team was tasked to support multiple agencies in an incident on the Pett Level coastline.

Our teams were  tasked in response to an incident alongside other coastal rescue team colleagues at HM Coastguards and RNLI Hastings. Sussex Police and Border Force were also involved in the incident, of an incoming boat arriving to the local beach at Pett Level.

Many of our volunteers were able to respond to the call for assistance. Available individuals, including Helms, Launch Authority, crew members, trainees and base volunteers, all arrived quickly and responded as directed.

An extremely low tide made both the dinghy’s arrival and the involvement of larger rescue craft hazardous, so an inshore rescue boat was the only craft suitable for safely providing a tow. In response, our Margaret & John Pulfer inshore rescue boat was launched, with a crew of three.

Whilst providing a tow to the dinghy, our crew also gave safe escort for the 25 displaced persons who were on board. Once ashore, the occupants of the boat, who had sailed across from France, were supported by the multiple agencies who were present.

Our base crews then supported with first aid assistance, providing foil blankets and water, as required. Our base and boathouse was made available to emergency services and Border Force. In this way, we were able to accommodate the boat’s occupants and provide operational shelter and hospitality for our service colleagues.

As lockdown restrictions are not yet fully lifted and there was a significant number of services gathered to help with the incident, social distancing was maintained as much as possible in the circumstances.

Once the incident was stood down, our volunteer crews then spent an extended time cleaning and disinfecting all equipment and premises, before the Pulfer boat was finally returned to the boathouse.

Thanks to everyone who was able to respond this afternoon – we’re pleased to have been of assistance.

*All photos were taken by PLIRB volunteers John and Martin – please do not use without permission *

Whilst you’re here …

As an independent rescue service, we fundraise to buy all of our own equipment. We now urgently need to replace foil blankets and other resources used in this incident. But with our community fundraising still in lockdown, it could take us a while.

However, If you like the work we do and would like to support us, your donation would really be appreciated and would, ultimately, help us to help those in danger on our local coastline.

Thank you so much, from the volunteers at Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat.

Bank Holiday Weekend – Shout on Sunday

Sunday 25th August started with our usual training and maintenance session down at the boathouse. During the morning, the beaches continued to fill up with holiday makers, visitors and locals, so at the end of the session, crew member Shaun stayed on at the boathouse “on call” because it just felt like one of those days …

And so when the request for us to launch was given at around 14:30, Shaun was already in place. From there, it was a matter of minutes before enough crew were present to launch, in response to concerns about two children on an inflatable, reported to be drifting out to open sea.

At 14:32, a three-person crew of Steve, Shaun and Jo launched an headed off to the location given by the coastguards. After a time spent searching the area without success, reports came through that the children had been towed back to shore by a watchful kayaker.

During their lookout for the inflatable, the crew recognised how busy the beaches were, as well as the offshore coastline which was extremely buoyant with inflatables, families and swimmers. So, once Solent stood us down from the original call out, the team dropped off one team member, then set off for a patrol along the coastline.

Patrolling for safety purposes is something which the crews regularly do at this stage of the tide, particularly along the Cliff End where holiday makers are often caught out by the tide and stranded on the rocks. Happily on this occasion, there was nothing of any concern and no further launch requests from Solent.

By this time, the tide had also come in sufficiently to make recovery of our boat much easier in the context of the beach being so busy with visitors. By 16:00 all crew had returned safety to shore and the latest update we had from Solent was that the children were safely ashore too.

Then it was a matter of cleaning and refuelling the boat, ready in case Bank Holiday Monday proves just as busy. Our volunteers are happy to give up their time to protect the public as much as possible, so before everyone finally left for the day, a plan was put into place for crew members to also be down at the boathouse on Monday at around the time of the incoming tide (from 5 p.m.), just in case.

Don’t forget, if you are enjoying the beach on these lovely sunny days, please be aware of how easily a fun item such as an inflatable can become a real hazard for your children, and be mindful of tides, currents and submerged hazards at our beautiful local beaches.

Remember, if you see someone in trouble at sea, on the beach coastline or on the cliff top, please dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Two Rescue Launches in One Evening

The summer season has begun with a busy evening. On Monday July 1st, the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat shore and boat crews were tasked to assist in two emergencies on the local coastline.

At 17:38, the Pulfer boat launched in response to a request from Solent Coastguard. This followed reports of windsurfer who was possibly in difficulty, approximately a mile out to sea from the slipway.

Our crews assembled and scramble extremely quickly in response to pagers going off. This facilitated a speedy launch within minutes of initial reports. Once in position, the boat crew was requested by Solent to carry out an expanding box search. This search specifically targets locating a person in the water.

At 18:00, the boat was given new directions, searching farther along Cliff End, heading westwards towards Ecclesbourne Glen. Following this, it was identified that the windsurfer had already come safely out of the water and crews were stood down.

At 19:06, teams were tasked on a second emergency. In response, the Pulfer boat re-launched with change of crew, to assist Hastings Coastguard Rescue Team. This followed a report of a person at potential risk of suicide towards the cliff edge in the area of Old Fairlight. Thankfully, the individual was assisted to safety by police at the cliff top. Our crews were then stood down and boat ashore at 19:35.

Also involved in these incidents were Hastings Coastguard rescue, Rye Bay Coastguard Rescue team, both lifeboats from RNLI Hastings and Search and Rescue Helicopter colleagues from Lydd (Rescue 163).

Remember, if you see someone in trouble at sea, on the beach coastline or on the cliff top, please dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Mayday Shout after training

On Sunday 22nd October 2018, just as our morning training session was coming to an end, Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat was tasked by Solent Coastguard to attend at a location in the Dover Strait. Instructions given were that a diver had failed to surface following a group dive on a local wreck.

At 11:54am, with a response time of less than 10 minutes, our John and Mary Pulfer boat was launched  with an experienced three-person crew: Andy Crompton, Shaun O’Hara and Isaac Dyer.

Also part of the search were both Hastings lifeboats (their new 13-28 boat as well as their older boat) and Eastbourne lifeboat.  Professional colleagues who we were with earlier in the week, the helicopter team from HM Coastguard Maritime Search and Rescue at Lydd, were also scrambled and in attendance. Other vessels in the immediate area, including local fishing boats and a private boat also assisted in the search.

The search location was 8 miles out to sea, with an approximate bearing to the Ecclesbourne Glen area of the coast. Sea conditions had been very calm and flat earlier in the morning whilst training, but from approximately noon it became breezier out in the Dover Strait, although conditions remained fair.

Once they reached the search location, the crew took part in parallel searching with other vessels. Parallel searching allows a significant area could be closely covered in the search for the missing diver, whilst the Search and Rescue helicopter team conducted an aerial search of the area. 


Back at base, the onshore crew moved into comms and contingency planning, including monitoring and calculating the fuel situation for the boat involved in the search. As a precaution, the smaller Tornado boat was refuelled and additional fuel canisters filled, so the Tornado could be launched to take fuel out to the Pulfer boat. This would allow the larger boat to refuel without having to return to base.

As these type of searches often continue until dusk, additional helm and crew members were also put on standby. This way, the Tornado boat would also be able to take other crew out on the same run, for a crew change, as required.

In the event, this was not necessary as our vessel was stood down around 3 p.m. and our crew returned safely to the boathouse for a full debrief.

The overall operation was stood down at 17:30 BST, as reported by BBC Sussex:

Mayday shout in July

On Sunday 15th July 2018, after a busy (and hot) morning of base and boat crew training, the crew received a call out.
Around 3.15 pm a “mayday” call was received, initially with the position of Dymchurch. After some uncertainty about reported position, the “mayday”  was given out again, this time picked up by the Fairlight aerial and coastguards.
As this is close to us, crew were put on standby, especially as many were still at the boathouse undertaking additional repairs to equipment. Several other crew members who had already left after training also returned to the base after receiving the initial alert.
After being stood down by Dover, and closing up the boathouse, the call then came through from the coastguards, requesting launch from the PLIRB.
Tornado boat (archive image, not from the day).
With launch and base crew support, the Tornado boat launched with 3 crew members on board, and searched along the coastline to the unused Fairlight coastguard station. Nothing out of the ordinary was identified and the crew returned safely and were then stood down.
The coastguard helicopter was also in attendance, first along at the Rye end of the area, then back along to Pett and Fairlight.
For information about our other call-outs, please check out our SHOUTS page.