Thanet RNLI Community Safety

Why Should You Be Extra Specially Careful This Year If You Are Thinking Of Taking A Festive Dip

RNLI lifeboat stations, the RLSS (UK Royal Life Saving Society) and their affiliated lifesaving clubs, in common with many other charitable organisations, have cancelled their very popular festive swimming events due to COVID-19 safety considerations. Also taking into account the responsibility to ensure that  blue light emergency services are not called out needlessly and the impact on the National Health Service is managed.


The RNLI and RLSS  are urging anyone who does venture into the sea or other open water locations over the Christmas and New Year period to be aware of the risks and enjoy themselves as safely as possible.

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Margate’s Mersey All Weather lifeboat Photo credit: Sarah Hewes

The RNLI and HM Coastguard have both been busy responding to incidents involving swimmers this winter.

Earlier in December the Portishead lifeboat crew rescued a swimmer who had been in the sea for 80 minutes, while Sunderland lifeboat pulled another to safety after spotting him in the rough conditions thanks to his bright orange swimming cap and tow float.

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Have Emergency call-outs to swimming related incidents increased?

HM Coastguard have reported a 79.8%* increase in emergency call-outs for swimming related incidents year-on-year between January and November, compared to the same period in 2019.

Lee Heard, RLSS UK – Director, said: ‘While festive dips are an increasingly popular tradition with brave bathers in plummeting temperatures, we are concerned that with the cancellation of well organised and lifeguarded events combined with a rise in open water swimming participation this year that individuals may still choose to dip this festive period.


‘We simply urge swimmers to stay safe, be prepared and consider their actions on our already stressed emergency services, including the RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews.’

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Cold water shock is a very real danger for anyone entering water which is 15°C or below, with the average sea temperature around the UK and Ireland at this time of year just 6-10°C – which also poses a risk of hypothermia, even for the most experienced of open water swimmers.

RNLI Water Safety Partner Samantha Hughes said: ‘No one goes into the water in the expectation of needing to be rescued but we are asking anyone considering going for a festive dip to understand the dangers and not take unnecessary risks so they can have a good time, safely.

‘We recommend checking with your doctor before trying a cold water dip for the first time, especially if you have underlying health issues.

‘It is important to respect the water and there are a number of things you can do to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time such as not swimming alone, staying in your depth and knowing how to warm up properly afterwards which sounds obvious but is crucial to avoid any delayed effects of the cold and hypothermia.


‘The most important thing to remember is if you are in any doubt, stay out of the water and if you or anyone else does get into trouble in or on the water please call ‘999’ or ‘112’ immediately and ask for the Coastguard.’


What top safety tips should I follow if I intend going for a festive dip?
  • How can I be prepared? Check the weather forecast, tides and wave height
  • What should I take with me? Plenty of warm clothes for use pre and post dip. A nice hot drink in a flask such as soup, tea or maybe a hot chocolate will assist in warming you up afterwards.
  • What ‘calling for help device’ should I take : a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch.
  • Should I wear a wetsuit? Yes, this will help increase your buoyancy and reduce the chances of suffering from cold water shock
  • Should I go with a friend? If at all possible, if you can’t go to a familiar bathing spot and tell someone when you plan to be back
  • What happens if I jump straight into the water?  This could lead to cold water shock, walk in slowly. acclimatise slowly and wait until your breathing is under control before swimming
  • Should I wear a brightly coloured swim cap and consider using a tow float?  Yes, always wear one that is brightly coloured and a tow float is highly recommended.
  • How deep should I go? Know your limits and don’t stay in the water for more than 10 minutes
  • I have heard of ‘float to live’ what does it mean? – If you get into trouble lean back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing. This is what the RNLI call ‘Float to Live’.
  • What number and who do I call if I get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble?  Dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ immediately ask for the Coastguard giving as accurate location as possible
  • If I am in any doubt what should I do? There is always another day to go for a swim, if you have any doubts stay out of the water

Thank you for reading and stay safe!


Other useful links

Professor Mike Tipton – How to survive cold water shock

Sign-up to our newsletter

Ant Middleton – cold water shock

Demystifying rip currents

Margate Lifeboat

Ramsgate Lifeboat


Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)

HM Coastguard (HMCG)

Royal Lifesaving Society (RLSS)

Professor Mike Tipton – Portsmouth University

Thanet RNLI Reindeer Run 2020
Two of the Thanet RNLI Community Safety Team, Andy Mills and Ian Lockyer took part in the RNLI’s annual Winter fundraiser, the Reindeer run on Sunday 13th December. The pair together with Andy’s son, Ben and Thanet Roadrunners Jacquie Brazil, Ellis Johns and Eloise Kingett ran a 9-mile coastal route from Ramsgate RNLI station to Margate RNLI station taking in the customary hills and a strong wind which was fortunately behind the team for most of the distance.
The team who wore the obligatory antlers left Ramsgate station at 11.00am.  They were given a fabulous send off from Eric Burton (Ramsgate Lifeboat Station Chairman), Sarah Hewes (RNLI Ramsgate Lifeboat Fundraising), Ray Noble (Ramsgate Lifeboat Fundraising) and John Litchfield (Kent Police PCSO – Ramsgate Harbour) despite the windy and wet conditions.
En route, they were met by their colleague on the Thanet Community Safety Team, John Homer and his wife Joan, who despite being blown away by the wind, gave the team plenty of encouragement.
Ian Lockyer, RNLI Community Safety Adviser said, “I wanted to take the team completely around the coast to highlight some of the challenges that the RNLI has to tackle including the numerous call-outs for cut-offs. By just being a little more prepared and taking into consideration the tide times walkers can avoid the embarrassment of getting the volunteer crews out”.
He added, “It was also important to show support to the volunteer boat crew that will be on call all through the Christmas period with the possibility of Christmas lunch being interrupted”.

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Ramsgate All Weather Lifeboat Photo credit: Thanet RNLI Community Safety

“Lastly thanks to the team that ran this year and everyone who sponsored us….very much appreciated. Looking forward to doing this again in 2021, hopefully with a larger group”.

You can still sponsor the team at Thanet RNLI Community Safety

How Well Do You Know Your Lifeboats? Part III – The ‘D’ Class Inshore Lifeboat (ILB)

The third blog in our series ‘How well do you know your lifeboats’  focuses on Margate’s ‘D’ class Inshore Lifeboat (ILB).  The ‘D’ class lifeboat has been a workhorse of the RNLI for over 50 years, which was first introduced in 1963 and has saved thousands of lives ever since. The design of the inflatable ‘D’ class lifeboat continues to evolve to meet the changes in operational demand and technology.

The ‘D’ class is a highly manoeuvrable craft and can operate closer to the shoreline than it’s all-weather lifeboat counter parts. The ‘D’ class definitely comes into her own for searches and rescues in surf, shallow water and confined area’s such as up close to cliffs, amongst rocks and even inside caves.

There are 110 lifeboat stations that currently have the very latest IB1 type ‘D’ class lifeboat. With a top speed of 25 knots, ‘D’ class lifeboats can endure up to 3 hours at sea at this speed on search and rescue taskings which is a critical factor when lives are at risk.  Margate’s first ‘D’ class inshore boat came on service in 1966, with the latest D-841 Alfred Alexander Staden going on operational service on 5th October 2019.


Most ‘D’ class lifeboats are launched from a trolley with the assistance of a launch and recovery vehicle such as a tractor or landrover (Margate’s ILB is launched using a tractor).  Some stations launch their ‘D’ class by lowering it into the sea using a davit system which is a shore-mounted crane.


Safety Kit Carried

The ‘D’ class lifeboat carries night vision equipment, a searchlight and parachute illuminating flares to light up a search area, helping to maintain crew safety as well as help locate those in need of help.

Medical equipment is stowed in a pod on the bow which includes oxygen, resuscitation kit, responder bag and ambulance pouch.

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Margate’s Inshore Lifeboat taking part in a mock rescue drill at the Margate Blue Light Community Event 2019

Technical Stuff

2–3 (must include a Helmsmen)

Survivor capacity:

Maximum speed:
25 knots

Range / endurance:
3 hours at maximum speed


Beam / width:

Draught / depth:

Displacement / weight:

Fuel capacity:
68 litres

1 x Mariner engine at 50hp

Hypalon-coated polyester

All lifeboats have a unique identification number.
The first part indicates the class so ‘D’ class lifeboats start with D.
The numbers after the dash refer to the build number. So the first ‘D’ class built in the current IB1 design was given the number D-600.

Why not find out more about the RNLI’s inshore lifeboats by watching this video


While lifeboat stations remain operational and are continuing to launch to those at peril at sea, they are not currently open to visitors. 


Useful links

Margate Lifeboat Facebook page

Margate Lifeboat web page

Sign-up to our e-newsletter 

As the clocks go back this weekend, are you Winter Water Aware’?



Royal National Lifeboat Institution