Appledore RNLI has called on visiting mariners to beware of Bideford Bar after two recent rescues in the treacherous mouth to the estuary.

The sandbar is reputed to be the second most dangerous in the UK and constantly changes, with high tide the safest time to cross.

The inshore lifeboat was called out to three people on Sunday (June 16) who had abandoned their yacht on the bar and had tried to make it to safety in a rubber dinghy.

Their yacht was spotted by a member of the public who had called the coastguard to report it aground on the North Gut when attempting to come over the bar at low tide.

The inshore lifeboat rescued the shocked, cold and very wet casualties, bringing them back to the lifeboat station.

The RNLI volunteers returned to try and retrieve the yacht, but it had slipped its anchor and ended up aground on the beach, where it is likely to remain until the next spring tide.

An RNLI statement said it was understood the skipper had recently bought the yacht, a bilge keel Westerly Centaur, from Swansea, and was taking it around to its new home on the south coast via Ilfracombe and Appledore and it was the crew's first passage on her.

The incident followed one which last week when a visiting motor boat came in over the bar four hours after high tide and ended up running aground as the estuary was too shallow.

On that occasion the boat and crew were safe and no RNLI assistance was needed. The boat remained high and dry for a few hours until it refloated.

The RNLI said pilot books and maritime charts warn the Taw Torridge Estuary should not be entered other than two hours either side of high tide and that the sand banks constantly change.

Once through the river mouth and into the estuary there are very few markers to show the channel and Appledore RNLI has urged caution to visitors.

It is always happy to provide visiting boats with local knowledge before their visit.

If you see anyone in difficulty at sea, phone the Coastguard on 999.