Eastbourne’s lifeboats

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TWO engineers left stranded on the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse, some seven miles out to sea off Bexhill, were rescued by lifeboat on Tuesday afternoon.

The two men had been landed on the 118ft (36 metres) structure to carry out routine maintenance work.

Their provisions and equipment were due to follow, but the Trinity House support vessel that had taken them out to sea then suffered a mechanical failure.

Its skipper was forced to back away from the lighttower and drop anchor to avoid being swept away in the tide.

A mayday call resulted in the volunteer crew of Eastbourne’s new all-weather lifeboat, the Tamar-class Diamond Jubilee, being scrambled to assist.

The lifeboat was under way within minutes and on arriving at the lighthouse the first priority was to recover the marooned engineers.

Lifeboat spokesman Bob Jeffery said: “Under the skilful hands of coxswain Mark Sawyer, the lifeboat was edged alongside the structure and the engineers were taken aboard.

“Attention was then turned to the support vessel, which was taking in water and causing concern that her bilge pumps might not be able to stem the flow.

“Fortunately, the lifeboat was able to return her to harbour where she was later lifted from the water and inspected for damage.”

Trinity House manages and maintains marine navigation equipment around the British Isles, and the engineers’ trip out to the Royal Sovereign was part of a servicing programme.

The light tower was built in two sections on Newhaven beach before being floated into position and secured. It wascompleted in 1971 and replaced a light vessel which had marked the dangerous Royal Sovereign Shoal since 1875.

Initially crewed, it was automated in 1994. Its 3,500 candela beam can be seen for up to 12 nautical miles and gives a distinctive white flash every 20 seconds to warn off passing ships.

Solar panels provide the necessary energy and the T-shaped structure’s upper deck includes a helicopter landing platform. It is monitored from the Trinity House operations and planning centre in Harwich.