Video: HM Coastguard Medevacs Sailor From a Square-Rigged Tall Ship

Published May 27, 2021 10:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a daring operation Wednesday, the Newhaven RNLI lifeboat helped evacuate a crewmember with a serious medical emergency from the deck of the sail-training tall ship Pelican of London. 

At about 0500 hours on May 18, HM Coastguard received a mayday call from the Pelican of London requesting help for a crewmember who had a compromised airway. The coast guard tasked the RNLI Newhaven station with orders to launch and rendezvous with the vessel at a position about 15 nm southwest of Newhaven Harbour. A rescue helicopter was dispatched from Lee-on-the-Solent as well. 

"The Pelican was heading to Poole avoiding the worst of the storms as she set off with some new trainee crew who had joined in Folkestone," said Adrian Ragbourne, the CEO of tall ship operator Seas Your Future. "One of the new crew was taken ill in the early hours, and his condition deteriorated such that at just before 0500 it was assessed that his life was in danger and the decision was made to medevac immediately."

The Pelican - a 1940s-era beam trawler converted into a square-rigged sailing ship - is not laid out with an abundance of clear deck space, but with the help of the RNLI crew, HM Coastguard's aircrew completed the medevac. The RNLI lifeboat stood by while the helicopter lowered a rescue swimmer onto the Pelican's poop deck, then moved in and transferred two of her own personnel aboard to assist. 

Lewis Arnold, the Newhaven RNLI coxswain, said that the operation required careful maneuvering to avoid the outriggers on the sides of the Pelican's hull, which could cause damage to the lifeboat. Leaving about three feet of safe distance to the outrigger, Arnold brought the lifeboat alongside and transferred two crewmembers over to the tall ship. After consultations, the responders decided to winch the casualty aboard the helicopter for rapid evacuation. 

The rescue helicopter departed at 0625 hours, delivering the victim directly to Brighton General Hospital. The lifeboat took its two crewmembers back aboard and returned to base. 

The Pelican of London resumed her scheduled passage to Poole, arriving later the same day. Before she set sail on her onward journey, HM Coastguard scheduled extra helicopter exercise training with the Pelican, carrying out additional high-line transfers to the tall ship.

"Speed and precision is of the essence when we’re responding to a tasking of this nature. We are very pleased to have assisted in a positive outcome for this sailor," said Arnold.