Warning to beachgoers amid spate of rescues
Lifeguards have issued a stark safety warning after a week which has seen them relentlessly called into action to save dozens of lives.
In the last five days, lifeguards have rescued snorkelers, kayakers, surfers and, on one day, more than 30 swimmers from a Devon beach. In the latest mass rescue, four separate groups of kayakers were pulled to safety by RNLI crews in North Devon.
Keith Colwell, divisional sea safety manager for the RNLI South, said people must be aware of potential dangers.
"This is not about being a killjoy," he said. "We are not trying to stop people from having fun, we just want people to remember that there are very serious consequences.
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"When you are out on the water things can easily spiral out of control. Something small happens and then something else on top of that and all of a sudden you are in deep water."
On Thursday, RNLI lifeboat crews in Ilfracombe spent much of the day hauling kayakers to safety from heavy seas.
The volunteer crews were called out at 2pm after a local angler reported two adults and two children with kayaks in trouble on a beach under Hangman Cliffs, near Combe Martin.
When the crew arrived on scene they found the four people were stranded, with surf of over two metres high preventing them from getting off the beach. However the inshore lifeboat found the swell to be too strong for them to get safely on to the beach and instead were forced to deploy a smaller inflatable craft to put a crewman ashore.
In order to rescue the group, a breeches buoy rope pulley system was rigged between the land and the all-weather lifeboat.
Once all the party were safely on board, they told the crew that other members of their group were still missing, having been swept further up the coast. Both lifeboats immediately began a search for the kayakers, eventually locating them a mile away.
That wasn't the end of the drama after coastguards reported a further two kayakers were overdue.
Another search located the duo trapped at Wild Pear Beach, from where they were escorted back to the harbour.
The final incident that day involved three more kayaks reported missing to the west of Coombe Martin.
The RNLI found them near Watermouth Harbour, where they were paddling in a large swell, and escorted back into harbour.
Andrew Bengey, volunteer RNLI Coxswain at Ilfracombe, said all the rescues on Thursday involved kayaks which had been hired. He urged people to check the weather forecast, sea state conditions and even take advice from locals more familiar with conditions before heading out.
"These incidents prove just how easy it is to get caught out by bad weather and big surf," he said. "The RNLI are always keen to prevent incidents and some simple tips can help you avoid getting into difficulty. For instance always check the weather and tides before setting off, and ask for local information."
August is normally the RNLI's busiest month, however a combination of the wet weather and the draw of the Olympics have conspired to keep many people off the beach and out of their boats.
This week has, however, seen a rash of rescues; on Thursday two teenage girls on holiday from Manchester were plucked from the sea after getting into trouble in choppy waves off Godrevy. The girls' father and brother tried to rescue them in a kayak initially, but then they too were overwhelmed by the powerful sea conditions.
The same day, a surfer, a swimmer and a windsurfer were rescued from Porthtowan, Perranporth and Greenaway Beach in the Camel Estuary, respectively.
Earlier this week, a total of 30 people caught in a rip current ay Croyde in North Devon were rescued.
and last weekend, a nine-year-old girl was brought to safety after being pulled out of her depth by currents at Blackpool Sands, near Dartmouth.