Coastguard rescues two men after dinghy floats three miles out to sea


This is the moment two friends were rescued after their inflatable boat ran out of fuel and drifted for six hours – ending up three miles out to sea.

Hapless Justin Lett, 40, and Alastair Melville, 27, had been using the 12ft vessel near the beach at Budleigh Salterton in Devon.

But after drifting a few hundred metres out to sea the outboard engine ran out of fuel and the pair could not get back to shore.

They attempted to row back but the tide and wind were too strong and they would have been unable to swim against the current.

Their wives and six children watched from the beach but were unaware they were in trouble – and even took their photograph as they floated off.

They were drifting for six hours into the English Channel and ended up around three miles from shore amid large waves and strong winds.

Eventually after setting off at 11.15am their families raised the alarm and they were rescued by an RNLI lifeboat at 5.15pm.

They had no supplies and when they were found the men were sunburnt, dehydrated and hallucinating from lack of water.

Father-of -four Justin, of Exeter, Devon, said he thought they would never see their families again.

He said: ”We were drifting out further and further. We started to row but we were going backwards.

”We then realised the gravity of the situation. We were just out there in the ocean. As it got windier and colder, the waves got bigger and we got wetter.

”The waves were smashing against the side and soaking us. I thought this could be it for us. We could not see anyone on the shore anymore.

”We had a complete sense of hopelessness. The sea was rough and scary and we were rolling with the waves.

”If we had flipped over we would have gone very quickly. It was a humbling experience. We just tried to stay calm for each other.”

Justin, a Curry’s shop manager, and dad-of-two Alastair, his co worker, took the boat out on Sunday after visiting the beach with their families.

Alistair’s wife Sarah, 25, and Justin’s wife Katie, 29, sat on the beach with all the children and watched as they drifted out to sea.

Justin said: ”We knew at some point they would realise something was wrong. We thought that this would be when the parking ran out.

”To pass the time we tried to guess which member of our families would decide something was wrong first.”

Sarah said they would have alerted authorities earlier – but thought their husbands would be ”annoyed”.

She said: ”They went out of view really quickly. They were supposed to be showing the kids the boat. When they were rescued Alastair was shaking and Justin was hallucinating.

”It was five hours before we rang anyone because we were expecting them to turn up having come ashore elsewhere.

”We thought they would get annoyed with us if we called the coastguard for nothing.”

The wives alerted coastguards at 4.15pm and Exmouth’s RNLI Lifeboat and Sidmouth Independent Lifeboat Rescue Boat were scrambled along with an RAF Rescue Helicopter.

They were found at 5.15pm by Exmouth lifeboat about three miles south of Otterton Point and taken for first aid at a nearby lifeboat station.

Justin said: ”The relief that we felt when we saw the boat coming towards us in indescribable.

”They told us that we were very lucky and that one of the crew nicknamed ‘Eagle Eyes’ had spotted us.

”You don’t appreciate how much you need these people until you are in that situation. We want to say a massive thank you.”

Alistair added: ”We tried not to get too scared out there and were just trying to stay calm for each other.

”The coastguard were fantastic. We could not have thanked them more. If it was not for them we would not be here.”

A spokesman for Exmouth RNLI urged people to ensure boats are well stocked with supplies – and fuel.

He said: ”These guys were very lucky – they could easily and drowned or been swept away even further.”

Justin has children Cerys, five, Ethan, six, Aimee, 12, and Bethany, 14.  Alistair has children William, one, and Isabel, four.


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