Surge in Swanage lifeboat calls during summer following lockdown

The RNLI has released data showing that Swanage Lifeboat Station had to cope with a 69 percent increase in callouts over the summer in 2020 compared to 2019.  

Between 1st June and 31st August 2020, after lockdown restrictions were lifted, the lifeboat crew received a total of 44 calls out to sea – compared to 26 in the same period in 2019.

Coastguard on beach as lifeboat rescues paddleboarders.
Swanage Coastguard

Summer after lockdown

Among the growing number of calls received by Swanage RNLI this year, nine were responses to people using the water recreationally, up from five in 2019.

This includes activities such as paddleboarding, kayaking and windsurfing.

One such call came on Tuesday 25th August 2020, a mother and two children were seen drifting out to sea with paddleboards from Knoll Beach during strong off-shore winds caused by Storm Francis.

The all-weather lifeboat rushed out to sea to help and safely recovered the three people, who were cold but otherwise safe and unharmed.

Another was on Saturday 1st August 2020, when Swanage Coastguard saw three kayaks struggling to make headway near Old Harry in the face of breezes. The inshore lifeboat was deployed to rescue the kayakers – who at that point were some 2 nautical miles away from Old Harry.

They were taken aboard safe and sound, while a passing motorboat offered to return the kayaks to Studland.

Between 1st June and 31st August 2020, Swanage RNLI rescued 69 people in total – again, an increase from 38 for the same period of time in 2019.

Swanage Lifeboat and the Training Lifeboat with the rescued paddleboards.
Swanage Lifeboat Station

“Summer like no other”

The RNLI’s Head of Water Safety, Gareth Morrison, said: 

“Our volunteer crews have been on call throughout the pandemic. This year, they faced a summer like no other.

“When lockdown restrictions eased, we saw people flock to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad. But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer.

“If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

Swanage Lifeboat checking drifting fishing vessel
Swanage Lifeboat Station

Across the UK and Ireland

Provisional statistics from the RNLI show that across the UK and Ireland, following the relaxation of lockdown, there was a 64 percent increase in the number of callouts to recreational emergencies in 2020 nationwide compared to the previous summer, although the overall number of launches decreased.

This included 177 people using kayaks and canoes, up from 84 in 2019 while the number of calls to people using inflatables more than doubled. There was also a 40 percent rise of launches to paddleboarders – and the number of casualties almost tripled. The RNLI also reported a 14 percent increase in calls to swimmers.

Swanage Lifeboat rescues a capsized boat
Swanage RNLI

RNLI callouts for summer period 1st June to 31st August


  • Recreational callouts 9 in 2020 (5 in 2019)
  • Other callouts 35 in 2020 (21 in 2019)
  • Total callouts 44 in 2020 (26 in 2019)

South west (region includes Devon, Cornwall, Channel Island and West Dorset – not including Swanage)

  • Recreational callouts 77 in 2020 (83 in 2019)
  • Other callouts 481 in 2020 (576 in 2019)
  • Total callouts 558 in 2020 (659 in 2019)

UK and Ireland 

  • Recreational callouts 421 in 2020 (389 in 2019)
  • Other callouts 3290 in 2020 (3483 in 2019)
  • Total callouts 3711 in 2020 (3872 in 2019)
Swanage Lifeboat crew rescuing boat
Swanage RNLI

Spent £1.2m in 2020 on PPE

The RNLI has also revealed that it spent £1.2m in 2020 on personal protection equipment (PPE) to keep its lifesavers and the public safe during the coronavirus crisis, including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and 4,700 litres of hand sanitiser. 

Additionally, RNLI shops were closed, and fundraising events were cancelled, costing the RNLI millions in lost income.

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