Windsurfer Rescue in 1984  -  Lifeboat Service report from RNLI Magazine

This report from the RNLI magazine in 1984 describes the rescue of a windsurfer, in gale force conditions off Fleetwood, by Stephen Musgrave (who is a descendent of William Swarbrick), and the crew of Fleetwood Lifeboat.

ILB and windsurfer rescueLiverpool Coastguard informed the honorary secretary of Fleetwood lifeboat station at 17.49 on Friday March 23rd, 1984, that a board sailor was in trouble a short distance from the shore opposite Rossall Hospital. Maroons were fired at 17.52 and at 18.00 the station’s D class inflatable lifeboat was launched; Second Coxswain Stephen Musgrave was at the helm, with Barrie Farmer and David Owen as crew, and the lifeboat was driven at full speed towards the west-south-westerly inshore passage to Rossall Point, known as The Neckings.

A near gale, force 7-8, was blowing from south south east at the launching position, well sheltered from the prevailing wind, and seas were slight.  It was 2œ hours after high water.

On the falling tide, the depth of water in The Neckings was decreasing rapidly, but Second Coxswain Musgrave was confident that this passage, close inshore, could still be negotiated, and this would save considerable time. As the western end was approached the sea became rougher and speed had to be reduced. Off Rossall Point the seas were breaking and they were estimated to be some six to eight feet high.

Rounding the Point, course was altered south towards the reported position of the casualty.  With the weather deteriorating, the south-south-easterly wind had increased to gale force 8, gusting force 9, with eight to ten foot seas and a moderate to heavy swell, and the lifeboat was now experiencing the full force of wind and sea.

Throughout the passage south from Rossall Point the lifeboat was being buffeted by rough seas. The heavy spray thrown up together with the rise and fall of the swell and sea meant that visibility from the low vantage point of the inflatable boat was poor. Using his skill and experience, and with judicious use of the engine, Second Coxswain Musgrave brought the lifeboat to the reported position of the casualty, arriving at about 18.15.

Close radio contact was being maintained with the Coastguard mobile on the beach, which was trying to keep the sailboard under observation.  The lifeboat was just asking for further directions when she was lifted up on a high crest and her crew caught sight of the sailboard some 50 yards further out to sea, and about three quarters of a mile offshore.

ILB and windsurferThe man was sitting astride his board, which was being taken rapidly out to sea by the wind and tide. He had already jettisoned his mast and sail. As there would be serious risk of damaging the inflatable lifeboat if an attempt was made to take the man off the sailboard, second Coxswain Musgrave told him to slip into the water, pushing clear of his board. This the man did and, as the lifeboat came alongside, he was quickly pulled on-board.

The board sailor was wearing a dry suit and a buoyancy aid and, for additional safety, he was helped into a survivor’s lifejacket.  The board was then recovered, at the first attempt, and lashed to the top of the sponson.  Because the sailor was well clad and fit, Second Coxswain Musgrave decided that trying to beach the lifeboat at Rossall Hospital was an unnecessary risk; it would be better to go back to the station via Kings Scar and Lune Deeps, as The Neckings channel would be drying out.  The Coastguard mobile confirmed that, with the falling tide and rough water, The Neckings was no longer navigable, so Second Coxswain Musgrave headed north for Kings Scar buoy.  The inflatable lifeboat, half full of water, and with an extra person onboard, was sluggish, and the seas were too rough for her to be driven at full power so that she could drain off the water through her self-bailer.   Slow progress was made, however, with the helmsman once again having to use all his skill to control his heavy craft in the rough seas.

Inshore lifeboatOnce round Kings Scar Buoy and turned on to an east-north-easterly course, some respite was afforded by the lee of the North Wharf sandbanks. Entering the Wyre main channel, and turning south-south-east for home, speed could be increased and the majority of the water was drained from the boat.

At 19.20 the inflatable lifeboat arrived back at station, where the board sailor and his board were landed.  The lifeboat was re-housed and once again ready for service at 19.30.

For this service the thanks of the Institution inscribed on vellum were accorded to Second Coxswain Stephen. J. Musgrave, helmsman of the D class inflatable lifeboat. Vellum service certificates were presented to crew members Barrie. E. Farmer, and David B. Owen. Subsequently, on the 26th June 1985 the RNLI Committee of Management conferred the Ralph Glister award on Stephen Musgrave and crew members for ‘the most meritorious service carried out in 1984 in a lifeboat under 10 metres, in the UK.’

The windsurfer was Richard Hurst;  the younger  brother of former Fleetwood lifeboat coxswain Chris Hurst MBE.

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