Lifeboat crew recalls dramatic sinking of Tantalus in Teddington
1:00pm Wednesday 20th June 2012 in Richmond
A lifeboat crew member has described the dramatic moment he rescued a cat from a sinking boat seconds before it disappeared under water.
The frightened pet had hidden beneath a motorbike on 32ft motor cruiser Tantalus after the force of the tide spun the moored vessel around and the stern line ripped its back off.
The owner remained onboard to desperately try and find the cat but was forced to swim empty handed to the riverbank, near Manor Road, Teddington, as the water level rapidly rose.
Marc Evans, a volunteer lifeboat crew member at Teddington’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station, said: “We launched the lifeboat and as we got to her the only part of the boat left above water was part of the bow with a motorbike tethered to it, but an observer informed us that one cat was still on board.”
Mr Evans leapt aboard the sinking Tantalus, a Dunkirk little ship, and plucked the cat to safety moments before the boat was destroyed by the tide.
He added: “The cat was obviously very scared, wet through and shaking, and the owners were so relieved when we handed it over.
“It was just in time too because moments later the tide twisted the boat around and it broke up completely, scattering the couple’s belongings in the river.”
A man and woman, who have not been identified, were thought to have lived on the boat and lost all their possessions in the accident at about 6.30pm on Wednesday, June 13.
Evan Collin, manager of the Wharf restaurant, in Manor Road, said the couple went in to dry off and get a hot drink before going to West Middlesex Hospital.
He said: “They were traumatised. Their life was on that boat.” The ship, previously called Jovial and built in New York in 1937, had formerly been owned by Vice Commodore Ken Humphrey, according to the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships.
The RNLI said the couple got into danger during flood tide when they tried to attach a stern line instead of a bow line as they moored about 50m from Teddington lock.
Malcolm Miatt, who runs the Boat Shop, in Teddington, said: “It’s ironic that Tantalus was one of the Dunkirk little ships and she went down in the very same place that all the little ships mustered back in 1940 before heading to Ramsgate and across the channel.”