Gig boat crew rescues drifting holidaymaker

ILFRACOMBE S pilot gig boat turned lifeboat when its crew rescued a holidaymaker who was floating out to sea in a child s inflatable dinghy. The Men s A crew of Ilfracombe Pilot Gig Club were on a training session off Rillage Point near Hele Bay on Thursd

ILFRACOMBE'S pilot gig boat turned lifeboat when its crew rescued a holidaymaker who was floating out to sea in a child's inflatable dinghy.

The Men's A crew of Ilfracombe Pilot Gig Club were on a training session off Rillage Point near Hele Bay on Thursday evening when they spotted the tiny boat half a mile out to sea.

They discovered a man in his 30s, wearing just T-shirt and shorts, attempting to row against a five-knot tide back to Combe Martin, blissfully unaware the only thing between him and the Atlantic Ocean was the odd seagull. In fact, he was in real peril and could easily have been swept down the channel and lost, so unable to raise the coastguard on the gig's radio, it was decided to row him and his toy dinghy back to Combe Martin.

"If we hadn't picked him up he could have been in real trouble," said crew member Lee Kift, who served with Ilfracombe Lifeboat for 17 years.


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The rest of the crew included Keith Barclay, Jason Chubb, John Stanbury, Dion Hunt and Jeremy Webb, with coxswain Alan Kift.

Lee continued: "If he had floated past Ilfracombe he might never have been found, especially at that time of day. He had no life jacket and not even a mobile phone."

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The man had been staying at a holiday park in Combe Martin and had drifted from the beach earlier in the day, assuming he could row back when he needed to.

"I think he was quite grateful, he just did not really understand the position he was in - I explained that we had six guys rowing and we were not making much headway against the tide, so he stood no chance in that," added Lee.

He said people needed to be aware of local tidal conditions before taking to the water and ensure they had both safety equipment such as life jackets and flares, as well as a means of communication.

In bygone days, pilot gig boats were often used as lifeboats because of their speed.

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