Early on the afternoon of the December 13th 1981 a May Day message was relayed from the 3000 ton Ecuadorian vessel “Bonita” which was listing heavily in the middle of the English Channel in Force 10 winds gusting to hurricane Force 12.
There were 36 people on board, including women and children. Driving snow and sea spray reduced visibility to 200 yards for the lifeboat and the sea was very rough - whipping up waves of 50 feet.
Rescue helicopters had managed to rescue four people in daylight but subsequent attempts failed due the conditions. During the next 3½ hours in darkness and in bitterly cold and hazardous conditions, the lifeboat made 50 approaches to take off the remaining survivors.
In total, the lifeboat took off 29 people and in view of the serious conditions of the survivors the lifeboat headed to Brixham in Devon.
For his outstanding courage, superb seamanship, leadership and tenacity in this most difficult and arduous service, the RNLI’s Gold medal for gallantry was awarded to Coxswain Michael Scales.
For their courage, skill and perseverance, bronze medals were awarded to the crew.
Second Coxswain Peter Bougourd, Mechanic Robert Vowles, Assistant Mechanic Alan Martel, Crew members; John Webster, John Bougourd, Peter Bisson & Richard Hamon.