Happisburgh beach-smash yachtsman regrets not calling for help

The yacht's owner (right with dark jacket) talks to coastguards on the stricken yacht at Cart Gap, n

The yacht's owner (right with dark jacket) talks to coastguards on the stricken yacht at Cart Gap, near Happisburgh. Picture: ALEX HURRELL - Credit: Archant

A lone sailor says he regrets not calling for help after his 35ft yacht ended up smashing into groynes and beached at Cart Gap, near Happisburgh.

The hole in the side of the beached yacht at Cart Gap, near Happisburgh. Picture: ALEX HURRELL

The hole in the side of the beached yacht at Cart Gap, near Happisburgh. Picture: ALEX HURRELL - Credit: Archant

The man, who would only be identified as 'John', said he had escaped with cuts and bruises when his listing boat struck the timber beach defences, gashing a hole in the vessel's side.

The accident happened less that a quarter of a mile from Happisburgh RNLI Lifeboat station, at Cart Gap, and the crew, plus Happisburgh and Mundesley coastguards, were scrambled to help after Cart Gap resident Sarah Spall, 44, saw the yacht's mast while she and her mother Sylvia were walking their dogs along the ramp down to the beach.

'The yacht was stationary with the sea waves crashing into it due to a high tide and rough sea. 'There was no sign of life at that time when I then called 999,' said Miss Spall, who works for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust.

She said she had been surprised and impressed at how quickly the emergency services had responded to her 7.13am call.

Coastguards guarding the beached yacht at Cart Gap, near Happisburgh. Picture: ALEX HURRELL

Coastguards guarding the beached yacht at Cart Gap, near Happisburgh. Picture: ALEX HURRELL - Credit: Archant


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A spokesman for Happisburgh's RNLI lifeboat said the sailor had been thrown ashore by the impact with the groynes.

Lifeboat crew gave him first aid for cuts and bruises, before he was checked over by an ambulance crew.

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'If I'd known the lifeboat was that close, I'd have chucked a pick (anchor) out and called for help,' said the skipper, who had been heading overnight from Hull to the Thames Estuary.

'I was steering my course, but obviously not the right one. I tried to get away from the coast but it didn't happen - there was not enough wind.

The beached yacht at Cart Gap, near Happisburgh. Picture: ALEX HURRELL

The beached yacht at Cart Gap, near Happisburgh. Picture: ALEX HURRELL - Credit: Archant

'I put the sails away and tried to get the engine going but it was too late, by then it was on its side and was walking me up the beach for the next four or five hours, but I didn't give up until it was all done and I'd hit the groynes.

'I'm another victim of the north-east coast.'

The man said he was a sailor with experience, rather than an experienced sailor. He added: 'I'll certainly be more experienced next time I set sail.'

He was full of praise for the support of the emergency services, saying: 'They have all been lovely people.'

Coastguards helped check that the man was OK and that no-one else was on board.

They then kept watch over the vessel during a busy morning on the sunny beach, to make sure curious members of the public did not try and board it.

Firefighters arrived later in the day to remove diesel from the yacht.

The lifeboat spokesman said: 'The RNLI would advise all yachtsmen to always inform the coastguard of their route and time they intended to arrive at their destination, have a working radio and know how to use it and always wear a life jacket when on deck or in rough weather.'

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