Filey lifeboat crew to receive RNLI bravery awards

Lifeboat Helmsman Michael Farline (40) has received the Institution’s Bronze Medal for Gallantry for his courageous part in the daring rescue of a woman and teenage girl in treacherous sea conditions, on the 15 August 2003.

Michael Farline (top centre) who has received the RNLI's Bronze Medal Award and
Francis Speak on the left and Stuart Lane on the right who have received Bronze Medal Certificates


Inshore lifeboat Crew Members Stuart Lane (23) and Francis Speak Jnr (20) will also each receive a Medal Service Certificate for their part in the rescue, which took place close to Reighton Sands, south of Filey.

The lifeboat launched at around 1.30pm and arrived in the search area within minutes, the crew catching sight of the two stranded swimmers almost immediately. One was 200 metres away inside a ley, clinging to a broken body board, the other – a teenage girl – was spotted on top of a ley being knocked down with each breaking sea.

 The rescue was hampered dramatically by 4-metre dumping seas breaking onto each of the leys where the two struggling swimmers were seeking refuge. The inshore lifeboat was itself constantly buffeted during the rescue and was swamped by the breaking seas.

 However, the skill and courage of the crew won the day as the helmsman manoeuvred the lifeboat between every swell and ley. The crew members along with the helmsman dragged the first survivor aboard and – after going aground themselves –  Helmsman Farline eventually managed to move the lifeboat towards the second swimmer and drag her aboard before quickly getting crew and survivors to the shore and into the care of the emergency services waiting on dry land. The rescue took place in an area well known as dangerous for swimmers with strong tidal streams, undertows and where offshore sandbanks called ‘leys’ form with each tide, but which are quickly engulfed on the flood tide.

 RNLI training divisional inspector, Robin Warrington, says:

 ‘The rapid launch and positive actions of the Filey inshore lifeboat crew certainly saved the life of the young girl who was in extreme difficulty, and it is doubtful whether the woman rescued could have made shore without the crew’s help, as the shore rip and heavy surf could only get worse in the flooding tidal conditions.

‘Helmsman Farline was well aware of the dangers both to the swimmers and to the lifeboat crew. However, his philosophy is selfless and he believes entirely that he should put his own life in danger if the need arises, based on the fact that it could be him in need of help one day.

 ‘Both crew members were full of praise for Helmsman Farline, and commented on his leadership and their confidence in him. All three showed great determination in extreme circumstances. A service for all concerned to be proud of.

A full account of the Service is detailed below:

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Filey inshore lifeboat – 15 August 2003

Two people saved

 At 1.20pm on the 15 August 2003 Humber Coastguard requested the launch of the RNLI inshore lifeboat at Filey to search for a girl in difficulties at Reighton Sands, some 2 ½ miles to the south of Filey. The lifeboat operations manager, Mr Green authorised the launch and the crew pagers were activated at 1.23pm.

 The crew assembled by 1.28pm and the Filey D class  lifeboat (RNLB Rotary District 1120, D563) was launched from Filey coble landing beach. The weather at the launch site was a northerly wind, force 4, a slight sea with good visibility and clear skies. High water was at 7.39pm, one day after spring tides.

 The lifeboat, with Helmsman Michael Farline in command and crew members Stuart Lane and Francis Speak Jnr aboard, set course, making best speed to the reported casualty position and established communications with Humber Coastguard and the coastguard mobile unit at the scene on the beach. It was now clear that there were at least two people in the water, one adult and one child.

 The lifeboat headed south at about 20 knots, and, as she left the lee of Filey Brigg, became exposed to the residual northerly swell. At this point Helmsman Farline slowed the boat and asked the crew to check his, and each others equipment, particularly the security of the lifejackets, as he realised that conditions would be particularly severe in the area that the casualty had been reported. The lifeboat continued to the south coping easily running down sea. With about one mile to run the Coastguard mobile unit was clearly visible, but the casualties were not.

The search area is known as Reighton Sands and is a well known danger spot for swimmers with strong tidal streams and undertows. During periods of heavy onshore weather, offshore sandbanks, known as ‘leys’ form. These offer a source of refuge that disappear quickly on a flood tide. The dynamics of this stretch of coastline are such that the size and position of the leys change with each tide.

 At 1.33pm the lifeboat arrived in the search area, the casualties were still not visible. The swell height was estimated at 3 to 4 metres by the helmsman. The wind remained a northerly force 4. These swells were accelerating and steepening before dumping on top of the ley.

Helmsman Farline chose a swell and ran in on its crest towards the surf line. At about this time the crew spotted one casualty right ahead of them at a distance of 200 metres. This casualty was inside the ley and supported by what appeared to be a body board. At the same time a second casualty, a teenage girl, was spotted to the south east, actually on top of the ley, being buffeted and knocked down with each breaking sea.

 Helmsman Farline deemed this casualty to be the priority. Having ensured that the outboard engine was on tilt, he powered the lifeboat over the deeper, northern end of the ley. The dumping swells were breaking under the boat, but there was sufficient depth of water to ensure that the engine did not touch bottom. The lifeboat then ran parallel to the break, in the deeper, broken white water towards the casualty. Helmsman Farline picked his moment and turned the lifeboat head to sea with the intention of picking the casualty up on the port side. However he found that he had to use too much power into the breaking waves, and took the lifeboat past the casualty. The casualty was carried further down tide, which ran along the channel at 90 degrees to the sea at a considerable rate. Helmsman Farline found that his only method of approach was to lock the engine down, and power astern towards the casualty with his bow to the sea. 

 The manoeuvre worked, and the casualty was taken in hand on the starboard side of the lifeboat. Crew Member Speak had hold of the casualty but found difficulty in maintaining his grip, Helmsman Farline assisted by holding on as well, but was unable to manoeuvre the boat, which was constantly taking on board dumping seas. The casualty was continually imploring the crew not to let her go. Crew Member Lane took over from Crew Member Speak who, being the heavier man, leant over the bow canopy to try and stabilise the boat, which was taking a continual buffeting, and was by now swamped to the top of the sponsons. Helmsman Farline and Crew Member Lane managed to bring the casualty aboard over the starboard side, and Crew Member Lane took charge of the girl. He positioned himself in the centre of the boat with his back to the anchor box, and the casualty cushioned between his legs. 

 Whilst they were trying to recover the casualty the lifeboat had been effectively not under command, and at the mercy of the dumping seas. The boat had taken two or three large dumping waves over the bow when Crew Member Speak moved himself forward. The boat had then been turned stern to the seas, and grounded on the top of the ley, with the seas dumping over the stranded lifeboat. Crew Member Lane described the boat as a ‘dead duck’, and took five or six dumping seas directly into the craft from astern. Crew Member Lane had difficulty seeing and holding onto the casualty such was the force of the water. At this stage Helmsman Farline and his crew believed they were at the point of capsize, and all aboard were disorientated. However the boat floated free as it was pushed off the top of the ley into the channel, during a lull in the sets of swells arriving. The engine was still running and Helmsman Farline managed to regain control of the swamped craft. By this time the lifeboat was extremely sluggish and unwieldy with four people on board and water up to the top of the transom.

Slow progress was made in the relative calm of the channel towards the second casualty who was about 50 metres to the north west, awaiting rescue, at a distance of about 70 metres from the beach. Helmsman Farline manoeuvred the lifeboat head to the sea and approached to pick the casualty up on the port side of the lifeboat. The adult casualty was dragged quickly aboard with the broken body board that was keeping her afloat. This casualty was in deeper water and Helmsman Farline drove the still swamped lifeboat ahead into the seas to gain sea room before turning and running down sea in towards the beach.

 Helmsman Farline picked his moment and commenced his turn. The swamped boat, although having less water in it than previously was still very sluggish, and he was unable to make the turn, with five people aboard, before being caught by a following wave. The lifeboat was broached, and driven towards shore, beam on. The boat was pushed broadside over the ley, with the bow and canopy driven two thirds into the water. Once over the ley the power of the waves was less, and Helmsman Farline was again able regain control of the lifeboat, and shaped to run directly for the beach.

 The lifeboat was beached with no further incident at around 1.55pm, and Helmsman Farline and Crew Member Lane walked the casualties up the beach to the waiting Coastguard mobile unit, where the casualties, both suffering from shock, but walking wounded, were handed over. Helmsan Farline and Crew Member Lane sat in the Coastguard vehicle and reflected for a minute before being informed that there was a possibility that there were other people missing.

 Helmsman Farline and Crew Member Lane rejoined Crew Member Speak at the waters edge, and prepared to launch the lifeboat. Sea conditions were similar to those experienced previously, but Helmsman Farline was able to make his way further to the south and pick a route out through the breakers to the RNLI all weather lifeboat from Filey which had launched on service at 1.45pm and was standing by outside the break. The Filey inshore lifeboat was stood on end two or three times whilst breaking out of the surf line, and again took some water aboard. Once clear of the surf, at 2.08pm, the lifeboats commenced a search in close company and at 2.11pm they were joined by an RAF Sea King rescue helicopter. At 2.24pm it was confirmed that the people reported missing had all been accounted for and the search was ended.

 Filey all weather lifeboat and Filey inshore lifeboat returned in company to station, the inshore lifeboat being ready for service at 2.52pm and the all weather lifeboat at 3.50pm.


Filey Men never turn Back

Filey Inshore Lifeboat goes on a Service call


Other outstanding Rescues

The yacht Kilpeacon - a daring and innovative rescue.

At about 2 am on the morning of Sunday 26th August 2001, the yacht Kilpeacon with three persons on board sent out a "Mayday" that she was aground to the North of Flamborough Head. The night was still with fog and she had run aground beneath an unscaleable wall of chalk cliffs to the North of Thornwick Bay. The comparison with the circumstances surrounding the grounding and loss of the Skegness were uncanny. The loss of the Hull trawler Skegness with all eleven crew in September 1935 still lives with the fishing community today, and like at the time the Skegness was lost, Northerly winds were forecast which would, if they were of sufficient strength, drive the Kilpeacon into the base of the cliffs, with the loss of all its crew.

Coxswain Malcolm Johnson lost no time in launching the Filey Lifeboat and made all speed to the scene. In the meantime, the Bridlington crabbing boat Golden Promise made contact with the Kilpeacon but because of the falling tide, was unable to get in close enough to her to render assistance. The Flamborough Lifeboat was on the scene shortly afterwards and put a man on shore, but could do little to assist and as the tide was falling, the Flamborough Lifeboat could not go back in and the yacht's crew were on their own.

By now the fog had cleared and the Filey Lifeboat arrived; Coxswain Johnson became On Scene Commander and with about a further hour to low water to go he quickly and decisively sized up the situation and realised that the only way to get the crew of the Kilpeacon off before the weather changed, was to use his own inflatable Life Raft. The Life Raft was inflated and with Lifeboat crewman "Pip" Farline aboard and a line attached was paddled inshore from the Lifeboat and retrieved the crew. It was the intention to try and save the yacht, however it was established that the she was holed so the Lifeboat's salvage pump was taken aboard by the raft with two crewmen in the hope that it could be re-floated as the tide came in.

The Kilpeacon eventually re-floated in the early hours of the morning and with about six inches of water in her and the salvage pump working at full capacity, was towed into Bridlington Harbour where she was hoisted out of the water for an inspection of the hull to be completed.

Coxswain Johnson and his crew pulled off a daring and innovative rescue and their skill and determination is to be recognised in the saving of both the three lives and the yacht. Happily, due to their efforts, there was no repeat of the Skegness tragedy that night.

Lifeboat Crewman to receive Life Saving Award

Richard Johnson, the 3rd Motor Mechanic of the Filey Lifeboat is one of three people to receive a life saving award from the Royal Humane Society and a fourth man, David Carr who almost drowned is to receive a testimonial on parchment from the Society. Richard , Mick Cook of Flixton and Chris Dudding who runs the Tea Bar on the Coble landing at Filey helped in the rescue and resuscitation of a man who got into difficulties while swimming off Filey Beach.

Mike Cook went into the water to help the man's friend to bring him back to shore and was joined by Chris Dudding who is an experienced diver and mouth to mouth resuscitation commenced, Richard Johnson brought the resuscitation machine down from the Lifeboat House and the three of them worked on the man until they got a pulse at which time the ambulance arrived.

Society secretary Christopher Tyler said: "The four men formed a natural team and between them managed to get the casualty back to the beach and resuscitate him. But for their efforts he would almost certainly have died. They all richly deserve the awards that have been made to them".

Filey Lifeboat Rescues Yacht Skipper at sea - Lifeboat crewman washed overboard

The Filey Lifeboat alongside the Araxian in heavy weather    Photo: Royal Air Force

On Saturday 2nd June 2001 a message was received that the yacht "Araxian" with a single person on board was adrift in a heavy gale and high seas one mile to the North of Filey Brigg and that the Fisheries Protection vessel, HMS Shetland was standing by him.

The Filey Lifeboat, the "Keep Fit Association" under the command of Coxswain Malcolm Johnson launched immediately and proceeded to the locality. On rounding the end of Filey Brigg, Malcolm turned the Lifeboat around the end of the Brigg and traversed the Tideway (a vicious tide race) and into the fury of a full gale and a five to six metre swell. The seas were so high that the Lifeboat was airborne at times and showed most of its keel as it thrust its way forward towards the casualty. By this time, an R A F Helicopter that was on exercise was diverted to provide assistance, if required.

click here to see 
crew transfer to Araxian
In heavy weather the Coxswain
skilfully manoeuvres the Lifeboat along side the Araxian to transfer Neil, time for quick thinking and accurate seamanship Photo Filey RNLI

On reaching the yacht, the solo skipper requested that a man be put aboard to help him and with a marvellous piece of boat handling, Coxswain Johnson transferred a lifeboat crewman, Neil Cammish aboard, no easy task in a North North West gale force 8. Whilst the Lifeboat was preparing the tow rope, the yacht was suddenly engulfed in a huge sea, the yacht staggered under the onslaught and Neil was washed overboard down the Port side. The Helicopter was redirected immediately and whilst this was happening, Neil pulled himself back on board with difficulty by holding on to the heaving line and using the stern ladder, then resumed his duties and ensured that the tow rope was secured for the yacht to be towed into the safety of Scarborough Harbour

Click here to see Araxain 
under tow
Yacht Araxian under tow in heavy weather. photo Filey RNLI

This Service was completed with great skill and determination and to the high professional standard that is the hall mark of the Filey crews. Neil Cammish had a very lucky escape and this incident serves to remind us of the hazardous and precarious nature of the Filey Lifeboat crew's work. This Service deserves an Award for the Bravery, skill and determination of the Filey Lifeboat Crew and visitors to this site are reminded of the title at the head of this page.


"Araxian" - Crew Rescue awards

At a dinner and presentation dinner at the White Lodge Hotel, Filey,  Malcom Johnson and Neil Cammish were presented with letters of Commendation by the retiring Station Honorary Secretary, George Cammish.  In addition to George who was retiring, David Baker the Deputy Launching authority and Tractor Driver was also retiring after thirty five years on the Filey Station.  Divisional Lifeboat Inspector Andrew Ashton was also present at the event.

Retiring Honorary Secretary, George Cammish, Neil Cammish, Malcolm Johnson & district Inspector Andrew Ashton. Neil Cammish receives his award from George Cammish

George Cammish is presented with his retirement gifts from
the Lifeboat crew.

Neil and George Cammish.

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