On February 16, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station at Sheerness responded to a report of a burning watercraft near the Princes #5 navigation buoy, about seven miles off Herne Bay on the Thames Estuary, a very busy area for marine traffic.
At the request of the UK Coastguard, the station launched the all-weather lifeboat George and Ivy Swanson to aid the stricken vessel. [NB: the RNLI refers to its search and rescue launches as "lifeboats."] However, while en route, the crew learned that the fire was not a burning watercraft, but a blaze on the #5 buoy itself.
The lifeboat crew proceeded to the scene and arrived at about 0615 hours. As reported, they found the buoy's topsides in flames, and they deployed the boat's fire hoses to extinguish the blaze. The job was complete by 0635 and the lifeboat crew headed for home.
"In all my years at sea and as lifeboat coxswain this was one of the most unusual calls i have ever attended," Sheerness RNLI lifeboat coxswain Robin Castle said. "I have never heard of a buoy catching light before and can only assume that it was caused by an electrical problem, which is also strange as the light buoys are solar powered."
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charitable, non-profit lifesaving force with 350 rescue boats located around the British Isles. Its volunteers and full-time lifeguards have been saving seafarers in UK waters for nearly 200 years.
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