During the afternoon of Saturday 20 July, on a fine day with a moderate easterly wind, the duty watchkeepers at Froward Point were contacted by their colleagues at Prawle Point and asked to keep a look out for a dory with a single person on board which they had lost sight of in the tide race off Start Point, and had presumed to be in difficulty. Froward Point advised Prawle to contact Brixham Coastguard to alert them to the possible casualty, and divided its watchkeeping duties so that one watchkeeper scanned the Start Point area for the vessel, while the other handled communications.
Radio traffic during this period showed that the various Coastguard ground units in the area had been deployed to attempt to identify and confirm the status of the potential casualty. With visibility only adequate, and the effective working range of Froward Point’s visual watch hampered by haze at Start Point, the team identified two potential vessels that might have been the dory, both in the Start Point area, but soon eliminated one as being a motor cruiser. The other, a large dory with what appeared to be one person aboard was tracked by Froward Point, whose spotting and consequent ability to give Brixham Coastguard range and bearing of the approaching vessel together with its status, allowed Brixham to concentrate on searching for other vessels in the area.
As the vessel came close enough to Dartmouth to be described in detail Froward Point worked with Prawle Point to confirm that there was a 90% chance of the vessel matching the description. Prawle Point then contacted Brixham Coastguard to give them this information, and Brixham then confirmed to Froward Point that they considered this vessel to have been the potential casualty.
A duty Coastwatch watchkeeper at Froward Point said “This is precisely what we do. We keep a visual watch and help Coastguard narrow down the area of search. Our training teaches us to provide careful help and information to other members of the Search and Rescue services from our vantage point high on the cliffs. Today’s incident was straightforward and was resolved with a potential casualty being identified safe and sound. Alerting the Coastguard early is always the correct response when in doubt about any situation at sea, and we’re proud of our Prawle Point colleagues.”
Station Manager Mervyn Balson added, “Apart from congratulating our own team and that of our colleagues at Prawle Point for prompt action, I want to remind anyone seeing or even suspecting an incident at sea to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard. That simple action saves lives.”