- Launch date: Sat 09 Jun 12
- Time Launched: 11:00
- Crew: Chris Ashman
- Cause of Service: Other
- Sea State: Moderate
- Wind Force: 4
- Wind Direction: West
- Visibility: FAIR
- Lifeboat: B-822 Spirit of Friendship
- Return Date: Sat 09 Jun
- Time returned: 20:00
- Lifeboat: Arancia 75
Spirit of Friendship
3 shouts in one day - Aberystwyth Flooding
The below has been written by one of the crew as his personal recollection of the day. As you can see from the crew list and times on the left, the crew were at the station for over 9 hours on Saturday and a lot of people were involved in different aspects of a very long day.
"Its Friday evening on the 8th June 2012, it has been raining hard all day. Low water has just passed at 1831pm, however with the amount of rain that has fallen, the Afon (river) Rheidol outside our house appears to be on a high spring tide. High water isn't until 1146pm, I am discussing with my partner Em, who is a crew member on Aberystwyth Lifeboat whether we should consider moving furniture upstairs just in case the flood waters come over the flood defence. In the end we decide to monitor the situation and wait it out. We both stay up until high water passes that night, watching and waiting. In the end we go to bed thinking the worst has passed.
At 0700 on Saturday 9th June 2012 a friend of ours, from the Divisional Flood Rescue Team phones to say they have been deployed to the Aberystwyth and Borth area, is our house OK? I race down stairs to find that the house is dry, I look out of our window to find that Afon Rheidol has risen a bit, but is maintaining a high spring tide level, the flow is immense though.
The both of us rush our breakfast and make haste to the lifeboat station. Aberystwyth town centre appears dry. On arrival at the station we switch on the TV to find out what the news is saying. We hear that our flank station, Borth Lifeboat, have been up since first light giving assistance, they themselves needed to make a tactical retreat, leaving their boat moored safely, and were winched by Rescue 122, an RAF rescue helicopter from Valley, on Anglesey.
Some of our friends have asked us to keep an eye on their small holding whilst they were away. This means that we will both have to briefly pop out of town to do this job, we let other crew know that we are heading off, and will be back soon. On our way out and on the return we find that many of the villages outside Aberystwyth have suffered badly as the Afon Ystwyth and Afon Rheidol have topped their banks further upstream. The animals on the small holding however, are all fine, they are above the flood plains. As we make our way back into town, and the town starts to wake up, chaos descends. Road works and road closures due to floods mean that the roads back into Aberystwyth have long tail backs on and lots of emergency service vehicles.
After coming back home I receive word that the RNLI Divisional Flood Teams are making their way to Glanrafon Industrial Estate, this is to be their rendezvous point. They have no milk for tea or coffee though. I have been asked if I can get some to them. As we make our way around the town, walking along the banks of the swollen rivers behind the flood defences and towards the Co-op our lifeboat pagers go off alerting us to someone possibly in trouble.
Its 1037am Em and myself are running as quickly as we can back to our car to drive to the station. I arrive at the station to find another helm already on station phoning the Coastguard to find out what we have been paged too. Word is that we are to launch both the Atlantic 85, Spirit of Friendship, and our Arancia Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) and to stand by in the harbour acting as a goal keeper to pick up anyone who floats down stream. As a helm I take the Spirit of Friendship with Em and two others, the other helm takes the IRB with another crew member. As more crew arrive they are directed to go upstream on foot and to stand on a bridge to give us eyes ahead, warning the lifeboats should anyone come down stream. As it happens for the next 3hrs, with a crew change in between no on is washed down stream. At 1330 we are put on immediate readyness and remain on station for a quick launch, this means all the crew waiting around in the boathouse on full alert.
As we are tucking into a belated, but much welcomed lunch we get an urgent launch request for a yacht which has broken free from its moorings. At this point we don't know if anyone is on the yacht or in danger. Myself and another helm rush down stairs, and get suited up rapidly and deploy the IRB to catch the yacht. As we launch we can see the yacht making way down stream towards us. We catch the yacht bringing it to a controlled decent, and move it out of the very strong flow and temporarily moor it up. At this point Spirit of Friendship is launching to assist with the recovery. The flow is very strong particularly for the smaller engine on the back of the IRB. We set up a tow and pass it to Spirit of Friendship who moves the yacht onto the Marina pontoons, where the assistant marina manager receives it and moors it safely out of the way.
We return to station, and recover the boats again and refuel them. At this point we have used 30Ltrs of fuel between the two lifeboats. It is now going on towards 1500 and the crew are tucking back into the lunch which was previously interrupted.
Just before 1600 the station telephone rings, I pick it up, it is our station Lifeboat Operations Manager with an urgent message “person in the water Pen-y-bont Bridge”. I alert the crew and quickly pass the phone onward to the senior helm to organise a response.
Myself and another helm quickly suit up again and launch the IRB and head to where the Afon Rheidol joins the harbour watching and waiting for the person to drop into the harbour for us to pick them up. The river flow is very strong now, low tide is coming and the dams further up stream are pumping to release the flood water. It would not be safe for us to progress up stream to search for them, the best we can do is sit, wait and keep a good lookout. More lookouts are posted slightly upstream again and we sit and wait for 20mins, expecting them to have already been with us. We eventually get word from the station that it could possibly have been a large amount of debris which looks like a person. False alarm with good intent. As we head back to the station another report of four persons in the water and an upturned boat comes in, this time coming in from the Afon Ystwyth. Again we sit, and wait, and keep a good look out, once again it is just to dangerous for us to go up river. The coastguard have alerted the divisional flood rescue teams to our area as well, requesting they search up stream. It is too dangerous for them to do this as well. Rescue 122 from Valley is also tasked to the scene, ETA 40mins. Spirit of Friendship is launched with another crew, they are tasked to head out of the harbour to see if they can spot anyone out to sea, and to catch us should we end up capsizing! They perform an area search as requested by the coastguard. The river flow is continuously increasing. So much so that it is becoming too dangerous for the IRB to remain on scene, so we stand down with nothing found. As we return to station I take up a vantage point on the entrance of the harbour with a radio should anyone come out of the river. The other helm goes into the station to take up a vantage point overlooking the sea.
Rescue 122 arrives on scene and hovers low over the harbour, searching the Afon Ystwyth using their thermal imaging cameras. From the station vantage point, the other helm, spots something in the water, its blue and upturned, believed to be the missing boat from up river. The crew of Spirit of Friendship make their way towards it. As they arrive they find no one with it, the crew make a thorough search of the boat, however unable to re-right it one member has to enter the water and sweep under the boat to see if they can feel anything. Nothing and no one found, phew. The coastguard take account of the boat and its location. The lifeboat is given the all clear to stand down. The four missing persons have been found safe and well ashore by the local coastguard units.
Arriving back on shore, and after refuelling the boats with another 20ltrs of fuel we receive a phone call from the Divisional Flood Team requesting to stay at immediate readiness until 1900. As it is nothing else happens from their onwards and once formally stood down the crew pack all the kit away and rehouse both boats.
The crew are rewarded with fish and chips and eventually make their way home. Tired and worn out from an arduous days work. All of us know full well that we could easily be called back into action at any point in the next 24 hrs. Luckily we aren’t, the remainder of the weekend sees us going about our daily routine, all of the crew turn up for the 10am Sunday morning weekly exercise, dedicating more time to the Lifeboat station and their continual training. After all practise makes perfect."