The volunteer crew of Eastbourne’s all-weather lifeboat were requested to launch in challenging sea conditions on Saturday evening in response to a 999 call from a disabled motor cruiser.
The initial request from HM Coastguard indicated that a 25ft motor cruiser with two persons on board had suffered a catastrophic power failure in the Beachy Head area and was drifting out of control. Battling breaking waves and near gale force winds the lifeboat was soon at the given position but the casualty was nowhere to be seen. The search area was expanded until finally the stricken vessel was located, guided by the beam of a torch being frantically waved by the terrified occupants, two miles offshore and drifting towards Newhaven. The prevailing sea conditions dictated that it would have been too dangerous to attempt a tow back to Eastbourne so lifeboat Coxswain Mark Sawyer decided the safest option was to return the cruiser to Newhaven from where it had set out some time earlier. Once safely in harbour the cold and disorientated casualties were taken into the care of the Newhaven coastguard team.
It later transpired that the inexperienced pair had left Newhaven bound for Eastbourne with limited equipment and had managed to call for help on a mobile phone to a family friend who in turn contacted HM Coastguard by dialling 999. The only means of determining their position was an app on their phone which only gave an approximate position and could not take account of the strong wind and tide.