Concerns for two kayakers who were reported missing led to the Aith lifeboat and coastguard teams being called into action on Sunday – and prompted fresh calls for people to stick to government advice about exercise during the Covid-19 lockdown.
A brief search and rescue operation was needed after the pair were late returning to the shore following a paddle around Maywick and Bigton in the South Mainland.
The RNLI Charles Lidbury was called out from the Aith Lifeboat Station to assist coastguard crews, in case a full-scale search was required. The overdue kayakers were found safe and well before the lifeboat arrived on the scene and the volunteer crew were stood down after about an hour at sea.
Coastguard teams were able to confirm the kayakers were safe after spotting them ashore on the uninhabited isle of South Havra.
Aith Lifeboat coxswain John Robertson said the operation meant that lifeboat volunteers had been put at risk of catching the virus during the operation.
He said: “RNLI volunteers are always on hand to respond to emergencies at sea, but these emergencies can be avoided just now by following government guidelines. Whilst one spell of outdoor exercise is allowed every day, the RNLI is advising folk not to exercise on or in the sea.
“Every time a lifeboat crew is called out during the Covid-19 crisis, it potentially exposes our volunteers – and others – to the risk of catching and spreading the virus.”
Meanwhile, head of water safety at the RNLI, Gareth Morrison, said the RNLI was potentially facing its “biggest storm” because the pandemic meant the organisation was unable to organise fundraising events or open its shops.