South Sands Ferry

by Gethin Thomas October. 22, 2020 646 views

[78-365] 22nd. October 2020- The South Sands passenger Ferry runs between Whitestrand, in the centre of Salcombe, and the picturesque beach of South Sands, located at the entrance to Salcombe harbour. Sometimes hectic, sometimes quiet, but always exciting!

South Sands Ferry has been running for over sixty years, originally a small open boat carrying up to twelve passengers who scrambled ashore across the rocks on the southern side of the bay. In 1984 the present boat was commissioned by the then owner Gilbert Putt and carries up to thirty passengers and two crew:

At the moment the Social Distanced capacity is 12.

At that time an ex-army amphibious DKW was used as a mobile landing stage. Soon afterwards a family who owned a military museum in Cornwall, persuaded Gilbert Putt to sell the ‘DUCK’ in exchange for an improved docking system based on a World War II army truck. In 2014 the old World War ll truck, having become lovingly known by everyone as the 'Sea Tractor' and after 30 years of service, was retired and the new (MK3) Sea Tractor was built. Looking the same but this time driven by hydraulic motors.

In 1870, The lifeboat house was constructed at South Sands, Salcombe at a cost of £285 on land supplied by The Earl of Devon. There is now a newer lifeboat station in Salcombe harbour itself. This original station is now a beach cafe and the original slipway is quite weathered.

Some notable callouts of the lifeboat over the years are:

1907 Albert Medal awarded to Hope Cove crew members Isaac Jarvis and Jack Argrat who rescued 117 people from Elder Dempster liner Jebba after the two men scaled vertical cliffs at Bolt Tail and rigged a Bosun's chair.  A further 38 people were rescued by the remainder of the lifeboat crew.

1916 On 27 October Salcombe lifeboat William and Emma capsized at Salcombe Harbour entrance drowning 13 of her crew of 15.  The crew of the casualty, Plymouth schooner Western Lass, which had gone ashore to the east of Prawle Point in a furious gale was rescued by the coastguard but it was not possible to communicate with the lifeboat.  One of the survivors from the lifeboat, Edwin Distin became coxswain of the replacement boat Sarah Ann Holden which arrived in April 1917.  A new crew of 13 was readily available in spite of the war.

1940 Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Edwin W Distin and Bronze Medals to each of the other seven crew members for the rescue of 62 survivors of the Belgian Steamer Tajandoen which was sunk by enemy action on 7 December 1939.  They had been picked up by the Belgian Steamer Louis Sheid which herself went ashore in Bigbury Bay and the lifeboat took them off.  This was a service in which the coxswain showed magnificent seamanship both in crossing the bar and alongside the steamer.

1992 Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Frank Yeoman Smith in recognition of his courage, seamanship, leadership and determination when the lifeboat Baltic Exchange II took the 1,200 ton coaster Janet C in tow and held her off the rocks at Start Point for three hours until the arrival of a tug in the early hours of 8 January 1992.  The coaster had suffered total power failure in south westerly gale force winds and heavy sea.

2010 Crew member Iain Dundas and Adam Lilley were awarded Certificates to recognise their initiative and exceptional First Aid skills when they tended a seriously injured man on board a fishing vessel on 16 May 2010.

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