In a daring operation Wednesday, the Newhaven RNLI lifeboat helped evacuate a crew member with a serious medical emergency from the deck of the sailing training tall ship London Pelican.
At approximately 5:00 a.m. on May 18, HM Coastguard received a distress call from London pelican request assistance for a crew member with compromised airways. Coast Guard tasked RNLI station Newhaven to order the launch and rendezvous with the vessel at a position approximately 15 nm southwest of Newhaven Harbor. A rescue helicopter was also dispatched from Lee-on-the-Solent.
“The Pelican was heading towards Poole avoiding the worst of the storms as she set out with a new trainee crew who had joined Folkestone, ”said Adrian Ragbourne, CEO of tall ship operator Seas Your Future. “One of the new crews fell ill in the early morning, and his condition deteriorated so much that shortly before 5:00 am it was felt that his life was in danger and the decision was made to evacuate immediately.
The Pelican – a 1940s beam trawler converted to a square-rigged sailboat – not outfitted with an abundance of open deck space, but with the help of the RNLI crew, the crew of the HM Coastguard did finished the medical evacuation. The RNLI lifeboat stood ready as the helicopter lowered a lifeguard swimmer onto the Pelican poop deck, then moved in and transferred two of her own staff on board to assist her.
Newhaven RNLI coxswain Lewis Arnold said the operation required careful maneuvering to avoid stabilizers on the sides of the Pelican’s hull, which could damage the lifeboat. Leaving the stabilizer about three feet away from the stabilizer, Arnold brought the lifeboat alongside and transferred two crew members to the tall ship. After consultations, the interveners decided to win the victim aboard the helicopter for a quick evacuation.
The rescue helicopter departed at 6:25 am, delivering the victim directly to Brighton General Hospital. The lifeboat brought its two crew members back on board and returned to base.
The London pelican resumed her scheduled stint at Poole, arriving later the same day. Before returning to sea, HM Coastguard scheduled additional helicopter training with the Pelican, making additional transfers to the tall ship.
“Speed and precision are essential when responding to a task of this nature. We are very happy to have contributed to a positive outcome for this sailor,” said Arnold.