LIFEBOAT volunteers had their busiest weekend of the year as temperatures soared and sun worshippers headed for the seafront.
The RNLI in Eastbourne takes delivery of its new £2.7million lifeboat today (Tuesday, May 29) but could possibly have done with it a few days early as the crew was inundated with emergency calls.
The soon to be replaced larger boat and its smaller inshore sister were called out a dozen times over Saturday and Sunday, signalling the start of the busy season for the volunteer life-savers.
Both boats and a rescue helicopter were in action on Saturday morning after an empty kayak was found washed up on the beach at Pevensey Bay.
And, once that was dealt with, the crew was in almost constant demand.
Later on Saturday the inshore lifeboat was launched to help a sailing club’s safety boat when it developed a mechanical fault and returned it to Sovereign Harbour and later in the evening they were relaunched following a report that two swimmers were in difficulty near Cooden Beach and were clinging to a marker buoy.
After a fruitless search which carried on into the evening the volunteer crew were stood down, the conclusion by the combined rescue services being that the call out was a false alarm.
Sunday was no quieter, a small sports boat with six people on board needed help; an adult and child were tipped out of their kayak and two swimmers had to be plucked from the sea and returned to shore when they became exhausted – all of which were dealt with by the inshore lifeboat.
Finally, shortly after midnight, both boats were despatched to Beachy Head to help Coastguard officers with the recovery of a body from the foot of the cliffs.
Eastbourne is one of the country’s busiest lifeboat stations but even by local standards last weekend was considered busy.
The boats are manned by volunteers and, as a charity, the RNLI relies almost exclusively on donations. With part of the £2.7million lifeboat bill still to be found, a spokesman for the Eastbourne boathouse said public support was as important as ever.