FAMILIES had to be rescued by lifeboat volunteers after a seal watching tour boat ran aground.

Harwich lifeboat was joined by Walton and Frinton lifeboats which were scrambled to the scene to help the 27 passengers, including children, as concerns rose over whether the boat would capsize.

The incident, which occurred just after 1pm on Friday, saw crews transfer the seal watchers onboard before taking them to Ha’Penny Pier, in Harwich.

Three crew members stayed onboard to re-float the boat in Oakley Creek on the next tide.

Harwich’s crew carried out welfare checks on those aboard, while also ensuring the boat wouldn’t capsize as the water retreated.

A spokesman for the RNLI said: “As the boat was in very shallow water, Harwich RNLI was also tasked with its smaller Atlantic 85.

“Once on scene it was clear the boat was going to take some time to refloat and with very heavy rain and no cover available for the passengers it was decided to evacuate them onto the Walton and Frinton Lifeboat and return them to Harwich Harbour.

“All 27 passengers, including several children, were transferred to the lifeboat and cared for by the crew as they returned them to where their trip had begun some hours earlier.

“After refuelling the lifeboat at Harwich Lifeboat Station, the Walton and Frinton crew were back at their berth at Walton Pier just after 4pm.”

The incident was the first call to service for newly qualified Harwich crew member Jamie Kemp, who recently passed his initial training and assessments to go afloat.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Jamie Kemp. Picture: RNLI HarwichJamie Kemp. Picture: RNLI Harwich

He said: “I feel like it was a good start for me, I was with a brilliant crew, and Walton lifeboat was incredible.

“I’m glad everyone was safe.”

Peter Bull, Harwich Lifeboat operations manager, added: “We are very proud of Jamie for the way he has committed himself to his training, especially through the extra challenges placed on everyone over the past year.

“But none of it would have been possible without the generosity of the public, and the hard work of our volunteer fundraising team, and shop volunteers, they are truly the power behind every life we save.’