The Exmouth RNLI inshore lifeboat, George Bearman was tasked at 6.17pm on 20 February by Brixham coastguard to rescue two men in the river Exe. The casualties had jumped onto a moored yacht as their dinghy sank in difficult sailing conditions.
The charity's three-man volunteer crew launched as darkness fell and winds were gusting force six, during an ebb tide. The team's trained navigation skills were tested as the emergency call gave only details of the location, near Cockwood harbour.
The two men had been attempting to reach a speedboat moored on the river as it had been reported to them that it was settling, due to taking on water. Lifeboat Operations Manager, Kevin Riley describes what happened;
'The two men were in a 12 foot dinghy powered by an outboard motor. They were swamped and managed to scramble onto a yacht as their dinghy sank in the river. The inshore lifeboat was launched to recover them. They were located and taken to Exmouth Dock where the casualties were met by a waiting ambulance. Subsequently, the men were brought back to the lifeboat station to thaw out, warm up and then they were delivered back to their car. Safety advice was given on conditions in the Exe and suitable clothing to be worn during darkness.'
The two men had phoned for help using a mobile phone with a torch application that flashes an SOS signal in Morse code. Coxswain Tim Mock advises;
'This light was visible for at least a mile so when the inshore lifeboat rounded the turn of the river opposite the marina, the crew volunteers could see the light that guided them directly to the casualties. This was obviously a great help. We try to discourage mobiles at sea because they cannot be located by direction finder kit on lifeboats. This phone was obviously useful, but should really be used in conjunction with marine band radio.'