Our Service Area
West Mersea Lifeboat Station on Mersea Island in north Essex
Situated at the mouth of the River Blackwater where it joins the River Colne before they flow into the southern North Sea, West Mersea has an inshore lifeboat, as have neighbouring stations at Clacton on Sea and Burnham on Crouch and sits at the centre of an extensive stretch of tidal water, busy at all times with shipping movements both commercial and leisure but exceptionally so from May to October in the main sailing and visitor season.
Possibly unique among RNLI stations, the Mersea lifeboat serves three inhabited islands whose sole access roads are regularly cut off from the mainland at varying times of the day or night and for very different amounts of time by high tides; Mersea with an all year round population of 8,000 swollen in summer to double that figure is cut off on most Spring tides. Osea with a three figure population and Northey with one dwelling are both cut off for long periods every day.
The causeway, at Mersea is known as the Strood and is half a mile long, that at Osea, is three quarters of a mile long and the one at Northey about a quarter of a mile. When they are covered, Ambulances attending 999 calls are unable to get across the causeways and the Lifeboat acts as the vehicle for medevac incidents of which there are half a dozen or so a year sometimes done in conjunction with the Air Ambulance. Additionally when vehicles attempt to cross the flooded road, get stuck in rising water, the Lifeboat is sometimes called and if necessary carries out an evacuation of personnel trapped in cars in water which at Mersea can be three feet deep and quite fast moving. Several such incidents are attended each year mostly on the busy main Colchester to Mersea causeway.
In the service hinterland of the Lifeboat Station are several waterside villages and towns with both recreational and commercial shipping like Brightlingsea, Wivenhoe, Rowhedge, Bradwell, Tollesbury, Heybridge and at the head of the Blackwater, the important town of Maldon with its famous Thames barges. Along both north and south sides of the Blackwater and Colne Estuaries are numerous other popular sailing clubs and marinas.* On the south shore of Mersea Island there are also several miles of sandy beach crowded on good summer days all adding to the potential for the Lifeboat to be called out regularly.
In the estuary there are extensive areas of mud and sand exposed at low tide, particularly the Dengie Flats and the Buxey Sands and a lot of relatively shallow water at other times with buoys marking the main channels through. These constitute a hazard for the inexperienced and poorly equipped sailor adding further to the potential for the Mersea lifeboat to be called out on a ‘shout.’ Buoys and Beacons like The Thirslet, Nass and Bench Head are well known ‘landmarks’ along with the looming presence on the skyline of the old nuclear power station at Bradwell visible over most of the Blackwater estuary.
* those in the Mersea Lifeboat area of operations include The Dabchicks Sailing Club 1 and The Yacht Club in Mersea 2, Sailing Clubs in Tollesbury 3, Goldhanger 4 and Heybridge 5, the Maldon Little Ships Club 6 and Yacht Club 7, Maylandsea Bay Yacht Club 8, the Harlow Blackwater Sailing Club 9 the Blackwater Marina 10 the Marconi and Stone Sailing Clubs 11 and 12, the Bradwell Quay Yacht Club 13, The Brightlingsea Sailing Club 14 , Marina 15 and Colne Yacht Club 16 The Alresford, Rowhedge and Wivenhoe Sailing Clubs 17,18,19