Chiswick RNLI Bring Houseboat 'Spiralling Out Of Control' To Safety

Vessel was heading towards rowers and paddleboarders near Kew Bridge

houseboat drifting

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Chiswick Lifeboat crew averted a potential disaster when it brought an empty houseboat spiralling out of control to safety, as it was heading in the direction of people paddleboarding and rowing on the river.

The incident happened at 18.12 on Friday evening, 31 August 2018, when Chiswick RNLI lifeboat crew responded to reports of a drifting vessel crashing into moored boats at Brentford.

The crew found a large 2 storey houseboat was drifting haphazardly with the strong incoming tide. There were many leisure boaters on the river enjoying the early evening sunshine including paddle boarders and rowers as well as several motor cruisers. It was apparent the lifeboat crew needed to quickly gain control of the vessel to avoid further damage or injury.

A crew man went aboard and soon found there was no one present. An alongside tow was prepared but once attached helmsman Mark Turrell decided that he didn’t have sufficient control of the unwieldy houseboat, effectively a square ended pontoon.

The crew set up an astern tow, while the lifeboat held the vessel gently against the overhanging branches of trees on Brentford Ait, prevented it from drifting and spiralling further upriver without causing damage. Once the line was set up the vessel was slowly towed to the pontoon by the entrance to Brentford dock where the crew moored it safely with four lines.

It appeared the vessel had been berthed behind Brentford Ait and had come adrift causing damage to other vessels and had also smashed into the footbridge onto the Ait.

RNLI Helmsman Mark Turrell commented; ‘Once again our training, speed of response and the capability of the E Class RNLI lifeboat to handle large vessels out of control made sure that a hazardous situation was brought swiftly under control without further damage or harm.


Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station is the second busiest in the UK and Ireland. Since The RNLI search and rescue service on the Thames started in 2002, Chiswick Lifeboat has attended one 3,200 incidents and rescued over 1,620 people. The RNLI is entirely funded by public donations and relies on volunteers to help their service.

For information on how to stay safe on or near water or to find your nearest lifeguarded beach,or find out more about their work, visit the RNLI’s website at

September 8, 2018

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