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The Flamborough Lifeboats

Will and Fanny Kirby Jason Logg

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Grounding of the Port Sunlight - 7th December 1959

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Before the RNLI
Station History

On the morning of Monday 7th December 1959, the dredger 'PORT SUNLIGHT' was being towed up the East Coast towards Middlesbrough. As the two vessels approached Flamborough Head they ran into a severe northerly gale. The battering the vessels took in the 30-foot high waves caused the towing line to part. Frantic attempts were made to re-connect the line but all proved unsuccessful. Eventually the tug's captain called the dredger and told them to drop anchor. He further instructed the crew to leave the ship if the anchor didn't hold.

Bad Weather at North LandingBy now it was starting to become light, and it was apparent that the dredger was dragging her anchor and being blown towards the shore. The tug's captain then put out a 'mayday' call requesting immediate assistance. The coastguards picked up the 'mayday' call and requested the Flamborough Lifeboat, 'FRIENDLY FORESTER', launch immediately. The crew were summoned but when they arrived at North Landing found that the gale was so severe that massive breaking seas cut off entrance to the bay. This was relayed back to the coastguards who then requested that the Bridlington Lifeboat be launched.

The crew of the 'PORT SUNLIGHT' could see the cliffs as the vessel started to ground at a place known locally as stacks beach. They decided that they would try and make the short distance to shore in a rubber dinghy. The four men climbed into the dinghy and in haste never put on their lifejackets. The small craft was quickly overturned by the raging sea and rolled over several times before the bottom was ripped out. Two crewmembers were swept away, but one managed to hang onto the side of the dinghy for dear life, as he could not swim. He later saw the dredger's captain floundering in the water and grabbed hold of him. The pair rode the remains of the dinghy ashore and than climbed the path to the cliff top.

Port Sunlight AgroundAfter calling out the Bridlington Lifeboat, the coastguards had called for the Flamborough rocket life saving company to assist. As they made their way to Stacks Beach with the breeches buoy equipment they met the two survivors from the dredger. This information was relayed to the Bridlington Lifeboat, which continued to search for the two missing crewmembers for nearly five hours. The two survivors, Joop Zomer, the dredger's captain, and Kevin Knott, were taken to Bridlington's Lloyd Hospital and treated for shock and exhaustion.

The search for the two missing crewmen, Dirk de Man and Cor Debak continued relentlessly. Eventually the body of Dirk de Man washed up at South Landing. The coroner, Mr. H. W. Rennison, recorded a verdict of misadventure on Wednesday 9th December. He recorded his surprise that the crew had not been given instruction on the use of the dinghy and further noted that Dirk de Man had not been wearing a lifejacket.

Another cruel twist of fate became the rocket life saving company on that day. As they were setting up their equipment, the Flamborough district officer, Mr. Henry Martin collapsed. Sadly he died later in Bridlington's Lloyd Hospital. Mr. Martin had been a coastguard for 30 years and was posted to Flamborough in 1952. He was a member of the Flamborough R.N.L.I Branch Committee and also trained members of the St. John Ambulance Brigade in resuscitation at Bridlington. He left a widow and two sons.

Picture of Port Sunglight © and by kind permission of Hull Daily Mail Publications Ltd.

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