RNLI volunteers initially thought they were responding to a boat on fire, until they realised that one of the Thames Estuary light buoys was well alight


The volunteer crew of the Sheerness RNLI all-weather lifeboat were initially deployed to a boat on fire on the Thames Estuary.

The call out came from the UK Coastguard which had received reports that a vessel was alight close to the Princess No. 5 light buoy in the busy shipping lane.

But, whilst en route to the call, the lifeboat crew were told that it was not a boat on fire but the actual light buoy itself.

On arrival, the volunteers on board The George and Ivy Swanson found the solar-powered buoy well alight.

They used the onboard fire hose to put out the flames, which took the crew around 20 minutes.

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Commenting on the shout out, the Sheerness RNLI lifeboat coxswain, Robin Castle, said: “In all my years at sea and as lifeboat coxswain this was one of the most unusual calls I have ever attended.”

“I have never heard of a buoy catching light before and can only assume that it was caused by an electrical problem which is also strange as the light buoys are solar powered”, he added.

The fire was reported at around 0520 on 16 February 2017.

The Princes No. 5 light buoy is situated some 16 miles from the lifeboat station and seven miles off Herne Bay in the Thames Estuary.

The George and Ivy Swanson is a Trent class all-weather lifeboat, and is capable of 25 knots and a range of 250 nautical miles.