14th December 1982

Jersey lifeboat crew performs a daring rescue

When the Norwegian yacht Festina Lente (“Make haste slowly”) lost both her engine and her steering a mile south of St Helier, the crew found themselves drifting among treacherous rocks. They radioed for help and, just 20 minutes later, the lifeboat put out and headed at speed towards Demie-de-Pas. This is south east of Elizabeth Castle, in line with the stone pier that passes the Hermitage. It is home to a distinctive cone-shaped, 14m tall lighthouse, which was constructed in 1904 and marks a rock that can be obscured in even moderate tides. It is an anchorage point for vessels with a draught in excess of 5.5m and appeared on a 38p stamp produced by Jersey Post in October 1999.

Rough seas

Visibility was good on 14 December 1982, but the wind was blowing at force six and the sea was rough, with breaking waves eight feet high preventing nearby boats from offering assistance. The lifeboat crew were the only ones in any position to help. According to issue 484 of The Lifeboat magazine, published the following spring, “with Acting Second Coxwain David Aubert indicating the position of rock heads from the foredeck, Coxswain [Michael] Berry drove the lifeboat into the area of heavily broken water without hesitation.”

Sadly, they were too late to rescue Festina Lente, which was too far into the field of rocks to be towed to safety, but the crew brought the lifeboat as close as they could and directed Festina Lente’s two crew to jump across. As soon as they were safely aboard, Berry reversed the lifeboat’s propeller and carefully backed out of the area.

The lifeboat crew were recognised for their bravery the following year. Berry was awarded a bronze medal for his courage, and the other crewmembers were presented with medal service certificates.


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