Torbay Lifeboat Lifesaving Plan

Torbay Lifeboat Lifesaving Plan
Reviewed and updated November 2020

Ending preventable loss of life at sea in Torbay Lifeboat’s area of operation through education, accident reduction initiatives, emergency response and community engagement.

There are three major towns within Torbay with an overall population of 150,000, a significant percentage of which are empty nesters and those actively retired. 

Tor Bay Harbour is 16 square miles of open sea with 22 miles of coastline with Torbay Lifeboat also covering an area outside of the harbour limits from Maidencombe in the north, to Scabbacombe in the south. The area extends considerably when covering the flank stations of Dartmouth and Teignmouth, neither of which have an AWLB.  The area also covers 50 miles seawards into Lyme Bay and the English Channel. 

The area is one of the UK’s major tourism destinations and is therefore the major industry.  All forms of water sport and coastal activity are undertaken with many visiting vessels either in transit or using Torbay as a destination.  There are three harbours, three marinas and hundreds of resident boats.  Four slipways accommodate hundreds of slip launched boats, Kayaks, PWC and Dinghies during the summer season. Kayaking is very popular, as is shore angling, coastal walking (South West Coast Path runs through the area) and diving.

In addition to the leisure boating referred to above, Brixham accommodates a major fishing fleet (the largest in the UK by value of catch). Commercial vessels anchor (awaiting orders, taking stores and crew changes) and Cruise ships.  RN vessels also visit.  There are also numerous ferries operating out of each port together with leisure fishing charter vessels.

There are numerous maritime events running out of all three harbours during the summer season (including National and International). Brixham harbour also accommodates a significant number of heritage sailing vessels.

The area has many coves, sea caves, 11 major beaches and is a global geopark.  The majority of beaches being privately operated on a mini resort licenced basis.  The Bay is east facing and therefore protected from the prevailing winds.  The majority of the largest beaches have gently sloping access to the sea without any surf or rip or tidal currents, they are therefore not manned by lifeguards.  The area is covered by two coastguard rescue teams based at Paignton and Brixham.

Emergency Assets
Based at Torbay Lifeboat Station

RNLI ILB D class lifeboat
Based at Torbay Lifeboat Station.

NCI Lookout
National Coast Watch Look Out at Daddyhole Plain, Torquay.

HM Coastguard Coastal Rescue Teams
Based at Paignton and Brixham

SAR Helicopter on call

Who Is Most at Risk?

The Risks
In 2020 to date (November) there were 87 calls for the lifeboat service +3 assembly only. This overall figure and the reasons for launch have not changed to any great extent over the years except that calls to vulnerable people have for some reason decreased this year whereas those to kayakers and paddleboarders increased.  The figures were based on Lifeboat launch data only and do not include HMCG data where the RNLI has not been involved.

Incidents afloat all vessels incl MFVs

Boats – In 2020 to date the majority of calls were to vessels were to those with mechanical/electrical failure of one type or another.

PWC are still popular with many users disregarding maritime regulations and TBHA guidelines and laws

Manually powered craft
A low but growing percentage of launches to kayaks, and paddle boards.  This sport is growing rapidly particularly with the advent of sit-on kayaks and paddleboards. Rental of paddleboards is also growing.

Wind surfing and kite surfing generally only operates in high winds at Preston beach only.

Whilst a low percentage of calls for help, diving incidents have a high risk of loss of life and numbers participating from boats and Breakwater beach is high


Missing Persons/Persons at risk in distress
Persons reported as missing, in distress, vulnerable, at risk of drowning, where assistance has been sought by the police/hmcg. Some are sadly repeat `offenders’ and most are recovered by emergency services. However, there are a number of deaths that occur.

Cut Off By Tide
The areas where people, usually children/teenagers, get cut off are well known i.e. Livermead, Corbyn and Roundham Heads but this number has reduced

Injuries /illness
Most Injuries and illnesses occur ashore with the former the result of cliff falls and those scrambling on rocks, steps etc.

Leisure Angling
Both shore and boat angling have risks especially as the former is often carried out alone from areas with difficult access.  Not wearing lifejackets and not being aware of the dangers continues to be an issue.

Dog walking
Every year there are instances where dogs/owners are rescued following cliff path falls.

Planned/Existing Intervention download (PDF)

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