RNLI volunteers have been presented with bravery awards for their skill and courage in rescuing two capsized kayakers near the Witches’ Cauldron at Moylegrove, Pembrokeshire.
The awards were presented during a ceremony at Cardigan Lifeboat Station.
RNLI Helm Mark Williams was presented with a Letter of Thanks from the RNLI’s Chairman for his excellent seamanship, sound command and decision-making during the incident in August 2022. For their collective efforts, courage and team-work, Chairman Letters of Thanks were also awarded to RNLI volunteer crew members Louise Francis and Simon Mansfield. The presentation was made by Jo Partner, Head of Region for the RNLI in Wales.
HM Coastguard requested the launch of Cardigan RNLI lifeboat to assist the kayakers, who were reported as having capsized and attempting to scramble onto rocks for safety.
Cardigan’s D class inshore lifeboat RNLB John Darbyshire was launched with clear visibility, a stiff breeze and moderate seas of between 1.5 to 2.5 metres high. Sea conditions were particularly challenging throughout. The lifeboat headed to the scene in a westerly wind blowing 20 knots, at the upper limits of the D class lifeboat’s capabilities.
The crew made best speed in the challenging weather conditions arriving in approximately 25 minutes. On arrival at the scene, sea conditions within the Witches’ Cauldron were unpredictable, rapidly changing, and presented a difficult environment in which to operate safely, particularly in recovering casualties from the rocky shore.
The volunteer crew commenced a search and located the casualties, who were now out of their kayaks, having scrambled ashore, and were sitting on the rocky shoreline. The crew assessed the sea conditions and determined that bringing the lifeboat alongside the shore would have presented significant risk to the crew and lifeboat. It was agreed that a crew member would need to enter the water to reach the casualties.
RNLI volunteer crew member Simon Mansfield entered the water, swam to the rock and conducted an initial casualty assessment. This assessment confirmed that both casualties were well and did not need any immediate medical assistance. RNLI crew member Louise Francis then passed a throwline to the shore. With the assistance of Simon Mansfield, both casualties were then safely manoeuvred out to the lifeboat away from the rocks and recovered onboard. Helm Mark Williams skilfully continually adjusted the lifeboat position in turbulent waters to ensure the safety of all involved and the vessel.
Once both casualties were safely onboard, the lifeboat headed to a shore location at Ceibwr where both casualties were then handed over to the HM Coastguard team.
Roger Smith, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager said:
“This was a protracted and demanding service in challenging conditions for a D class inshore lifeboat and is most deserving of a meritorious award.
‘The lifeboat crew demonstrated a high degree of professionalism and teamwork. Helm Mark Williams demonstrated excellent seamanship in a very challenging tidal surge, ensuring the crew could rescue the casualties whilst maintaining the safety of crew and lifeboat. He also demonstrated sound command and decision-making in committing a crew member ashore whilst retaining the other onboard to assist in the recovery.”
The entire service had a duration of two hours including a 25-minute passage to the casualty location.
Mr Smith added:
“Crew member Simon Mansfield demonstrated courage and physical fitness in entering the water, reaching the casualties safely, assessing their condition and then assisting them to the lifeboat. Crew member Louise Francis played a crucial role in launching the throwline, safely bringing the casualties onboard and assisting in the recovery of her crewmember afterwards.“
During the presentation, the entire team at Cardigan RNLI also received a second surprise accolade. The station was presented with an Excellence in Volunteering award in recognition of the entire team’s selflessness and dedication to saving lives at sea. The station received a Certificate of Thanks from the RNLI’s Chief Executive Mark Dowie to reflect the charity’s gratitude to the entire team at Cardigan for their collective efforts in saving lives at sea.
Stuart Wallace, RNLI Lifesaving Lead for Wales who made the Excellent in Volunteering presentation said:
“I cannot think of a more deserving station to receive such an award. The team at Cardigan embody the RNLI’s ‘One Crew’ ethos. Volunteers from every area of the organisation from water safety to engagement are working together effectively with the same shared goal. I’m incredibly pleased at what Cardigan have achieved as a station and would like to congratulate them on two very special awards.“