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Clacton RNLI volunteer crews investigate mysterious ‘MAYDAY’ call

Lifeboats News Release

On Sunday 17 June, during a routine exercise both of Clacton RNLI’s lifeboats were tasked by UK Coastguard to search the Clacton-on-sea area after an incomplete ‘MAYDAY’ message was heard on channel 16.

At 11.10am while the volunteer crew were carrying out training scenarios, an incomplete distress call of ‘MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY’ was heard over the radios, as well as by UK Coastguard, who monitor Channel 16 for distress calls. There was no further transmission and no response to the Coastguard’s replies to the call.

As all calls of this nature are taken seriously by the coastguard they were able to use the distress calls signal strength to narrow down the search area and called out to other vessels in the area to ascertain what they heard, and hopefully narrow down the search area even further.

With the limited information to hand the coastguard requested Clacton’s Atlantic class lifeboat David Porter MPS to search the area from Clacton Pier to the Naze tower (seven miles along the coastline to the N.East) up to approximately 0.5 miles off the shoreline. Once completed, the volunteer crew searched the Buxey Sands (four miles south of Tower holiday camp, Jaywick), again nothing was found.

During this time the D Class lifeboat Hicks’ Help was searching the shoreline area towards the mouth of the River Blackwater (seven miles along the coastline to the S.West). On reaching the River Blackwater the lifeboat crossed over to the St Peters’ Flats side before returning towards their start position on a parallel track, stopping to investigate any vessel that was at anchor on route. Nothing was found to be amiss.

Once the coastguard was confident the area had been comprehensively searched both lifeboats were stood down to return to station at 1.05pm, where they were washed down and prepared for the next service.

Helm Eddie Vaughan-Chatfield said; ‘We take all distress calls seriously, no matter how vague or incomplete they are, so we would ask that anyone making one in error please send a cancel message to let everyone know you are ok.’ Mr Vaughan-Chatfield went on to say; ‘We urge anyone planning on setting out to sea to learn the correct MAYDAY procedure, as this will help insure you pass across all relevant information quickly and concisely, saving vital time in distress situation.’

Notes to Editor

The current D Class lifeboat at Clacton on Sea is the Hicks’ Help from the relief fleet while Clacton’s own Damarkand IV is away for a refit.

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland