Ilfracombe RNLI launch both lifeboats as they race to the aid of stricken kayakers.

Both Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboats were launched yesterday (Monday) evening to help two kayakers in difficulty near Morte Point.

Shortly after a fun packed day at Ilfracombe RNLI's Easter Eggvent had come to a close, the town was ringing with the sound of the crew's pagers calling them to action.

Reports had been made to the coastguard of several kayakers waving for help in the Morte Point area, with differing reports of their location.

Within minutes the lifeboats launched - the faster D-class Deborah Brown II arrived first, spotting two kayakeras on the beach.

They continued to search for two other reporter kayakers but returned to Rockham to aid the crew of the Mersey class all-weather lifeboat, after finding nothing.

As the crew of the Mersey passed Bull Point on their way down the Channel, the Mortehoe Coastguard team informed them that the kayakers had in fact made it to the shore at Rockham, and could now not make it off the beach with their kayaks.

Arriving on scene, the volunteer crew members found that one of the pair had managed to leave the beach and had gone to retrieve the car.

The second casualty paddled out to meet the lifeboat, towing his friend's craft along with him, and the inshore lifeboat crew helped him aboard the larger all-weather lifeboat.

Once the man and both craft were safely aboard the Mersey class Spirit of Derbyshire, both lifeboats headed back towards Ilfracombe, where they helped the casualty to get the kayaks ashore. His friend then arrived with the car to collect him and their craft.

Andrew Bengey, volunteer coxswain for Ilfracombe RNLI, said: “The casualty was cold and wet, and so we brought him into the wheelhouse to warm up.

“The pair had been enjoying the weather and the calm water, not realising the underlying speed and power of the incoming tide, and had found themselves powerless to paddle against it.

“Realising they were in trouble, they began to wave for help, and luckily were spotted.”

Safety message

Andrew continued: “With the fantastic weather we are having at the moment, it is understandable that people are drawn to activities on and around the water.

“We urge anyone planning to spend any time on or near the sea to make sure they are aware of the time of the high and low tides in the area they are in.

“With the huge tidal range in the Bristol Channel, there can be a difference of ten metres between low and high tide.

“This not only means that a large accessible beach at low tide can be completely cut off and underwater by high tide, but also that there is an enormous amount of water moving at speed either up or down Channel.

“One cubic metre of water weighs one ton, and there is far more water than that moving out there.

“Trying to paddle against that sort of weight will tire out even the strongest and fittest person very quickly, and it is easy for a pleasant day out to turn quickly into a disaster.

“Please do make sure that you are aware of the direction that the tide is headed in before setting out, and plan your trip accordingly.

“Be aware of when the tide will be turning, and do not plan to paddle against it. In case you do get caught out, you should make sure you have a means of calling for help, preferably a VHF radio charged and in waterproof casing, and a mobile phone as backup.

“Always wear a personal floatation device, and let someone on shore know where you are headed and what time you expect to be back, in order that they can raise the alarm if you are not on time.”

The RNLI's top tips for safety during water activities can be found online at www.rnli.org/safety, and there is a particular section on kayak safety and suggested equipment and precautions to take.