Both Minehead Lifeboats launched this evening. Lifeboat officials in Minehead warning of the dangers of the Bristol Channel’s huge tides after volunteer crews carried out two rescues in the space of an hour.
In the first a day tripper had to build a pile of rocks and climb on it after becoming trapped at the foot of cliffs. And in the second a woman’s relaxing evening swim ended up with her clinging to a rock surround by a whirlpool caused by the incoming tide.
Both the station’s boats were launched soon after 6pm this evening (Tuesday) to locate the first casualty, a 38-year old man from Gillingham in Dorset.
He had gone for a walk along the beach at East Quantoxhead, near Watchet, but after stopping for a sandwich found he had become trapped by the tide and was unable to move in either direction.
Although he could get no mobile phone signal he managed to text his girlfriend, who alerted coastguards. The crew of Minehead’s D class boat finally located him with the help of directions from a local fishing boat which was keeping him under observation.
The man was taken off and landed at Watchet marina, unharmed, but shaken by his experience.
D class helmsman Andrew Escott said: “He was in a pretty desperate situation. He had built this pile of rocks which he climbed up to keep clear of the water but the tide was still coming in. Another hour and he would have been swimming.”
While the rescue was in progress Minehead’s Atlantic 85 was ordered to make a 15-mile dash west to Hurlestone Point, near Porlock, to look for another victim of the highest tide of the month.
She was a 23-year old Bristol woman who had gone for a swim off Bossington Beach but who had been carried by strong currents onto the rocks underneath 800-foot cliffs.
The location was so dangerous the boat was unable to approach her but crew member Jim Whittaker swam in 50 yards with a line and secured her. Both were then hauled back to the boat and the woman was taken back to Bossington Beach and handed over to local coastguards.
Helmsman Richard Gay said the woman was in a horrific situation.
“She was wearing a wetsuit so she wasn’t too cold. But the tide had just ripped her out of the bay and swept her in among the rocks. She ended up hanging on in the middle of a massive whirlpool. There’s no way she could have got out of there with the tide running like it was.
“When we got her out she was very shaken up – and very grateful.”
Minehead RNLI chairman Bryan Stoner said both casualties had been extremely fortunate.
“We are getting a steady stream of calls like this where people just don’t realise the force and magnitude of the tides in the Bristol Channel and how quickly a swim or a walk can put them in a really perilous situation,” he said.
“Thankfully we have not yet had to deal with any fatalities, but as these two incidents show people have had some very narrow escapes.
“We don’t want to discourage people from enjoying this beautiful piece of coastline but we really feel more needs to be done to highlight just how dangerous it can be, particularly when big tides are running.