Lifeboats launch in early hours to search for vessel in distress – find signal coming from bin

At 1.42am, during the early hours of this morning (Monday 15 May), on a wet and windy night, the crew pagers at Penlee sounded and a launch request was received from HM Coastguard at Falmouth.

Sennen lifeboat was also launched to find the source of the distress signal that only activates when in water, coming from somewhere in Mount’s Bay – only to find the beacon had been dumped in a bin on Newlyn harbour by a thoughtless sailor who hadn’t bothered to switch it off – and it had been set off by the heavy rain.

The disposed of EPIRB Photo : RNLI/Patrick Harvey 

The RNLI statement reads –

The Coastguard reported that a vessels emergency locater beacon (EPIRB) had been activated and the signal from this beacon was thought to be coming from an unused fishing vessel in Newlyn Harbour.

This vessel was quickly located and boarded by some of the Penlee volunteer lifeboat crew, they did a cursory search but the beacon could not be found. During this search the directional finder onboard the Penlee Severn Class all-weather lifeboat Ivan Ellen started to pick up a weak distress signal.

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At 2.10am, in the hope of pinpointing this signal, Falmouth Coastguard requested the all-weather lifeboat Ivan Ellen to launch. The crew were tasked to search Mount’s Bay using the lifeboats directional finder and radar to try and locate any vessels that maybe in distress.

Later in the night the Sennen Cove Lifeboat City of London III also launched and carried out a similar search towards Pendeen – nothing was found

After a thorough but negative search of Mount’s Bay, the Ivan Ellen lifeboat was stood down, returning to station at 3.15am. She was washed down and made ready for her next service.

ivan ellen.jpg
Penlee lifeboat Ivan Ellen

RNLI Coxswain Patch Harvey said, “It’s imperative to locate any distress beacon to ensure that no one is in trouble. Turning off these beacons is critically important whether on the sea or on land”.

The emergency beacon was located by the Newlyn Harbour Master, dumped in a metal bin on the North Pier in Newlyn, it is now switched off in safe hands at Penlee Lifeboat Station.

Extreme care and caution should always be taken when disposing of an active EPIRB. If in any doubt make contact with your local RNLI Lifeboat Station. Unfortunately this situation meant the unnecessary launch of two RNLI lifeboats and volunteer’s time. The weather was a southerly force 6, rough sea with a 2m swell and heavy rain

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On Saturday the crew of Penlee joined in a joint operation with the Devon & Cornwall Police and Porthleven & Mullion Coastguard Rescue Teams to assist with the recovery of a fatal casualty at the foot of cliffs between Porthleven and Loe Bar.



Both the all-weather lifeboat Ivan Ellen and the Inshore lifeboat Mollie and Ivor Dent launched from Newlyn shortly after 7.00am at the request of HM Coastguard at Falmouth and were quickly on scene. The volunteer crew of the Mollie and Ivor Dent carried out a shoreline search and located the casualty on the beach below the cliffs.

At the request of HM Coastguard, the Inshore lifeboat and its crew of four then made its way through the breaking surf – three crew members, two from the all-weather lifeboat and one from the Inshore lifeboat, were dropped off on the beach. RNLI Coxswain Patch Harvey said, “This was a very difficult and challenging manoeuvre for the Inshore lifeboat to make, but our volunteer senior helmsman did a first class job. It’s a very dangerous section of the coast between Porthleven and Loe Bar with a shelving beach and large waves breaking on the shore, but due to great skill and seamanship the three crew members were safely placed on the beach”.

The volunteer crew then assisted the Porthleven and Mullion Coastguard Rescue teams with the recovery of the casualty – care was the handed over to police officers on scene.

RNLI Coxswain Patch Harvey said, “This was a very difficult shout for both our volunteer crews but, as always, they dealt with the situation in a calm, compassionate and professional manner. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the casualty’s family and friends”.