'Their hearts must have sunk as they watched us pass'
RNLI Peterhead Coxswain Andy Brown and Crew Member George Watt were among the volunteers starting their working day when their pagers sprang to life at 9.30am. Within minutes, they and five other crew members were aboard the all-weather Tamar lifeboat The Misses Robertson of Kintail, powering towards Slains Castle in Cruden Bay.
The Coastguard had tasked the crew to find a red and white fishing boat – her crew had reported engine failure.
Battling against force 6 winds and rough waves, the volunteers headed down the east coast. There was no trace of the boat. ‘But when we were coming back on ourselves we suddenly saw something in the distance. I thought: “What’s that over there?”’ Andy remembers.
Two anglers were at the foot of the cliffs, waving a flag they had cobbled together using their fishing rod and a lifejacket. They were waving it frantically for help.
‘The fishermen were dressed all in black, so it was hard to see them against the cliffs,’ recalls George. ‘Their hearts must have sunk as they watched us pass them the first time,’ adds Andy.
‘As they waved the flag, we saw their boat bobbing up and down nearby, but it was underwater.’
The lifeboat crew realised the fishermen’s boat had been driven onto rocks near the cliff base after their engine failed.
The force of the collision had severely damaged the boat, leaving the father and son no choice but to step onto the rocks as their vessel sank. Stranded on a rock that was battered by waves, they were becoming increasingly wet, cold and anxious.
‘Straight away, I knew we were going to have to launch our daughter boat – the Y boat,’ says Andy, referring to the small powered inflatable carried aboard the Tamar and used to access shallow and rocky waters. ‘There was just a perfect V-shape opening under the cliff for it to go into and rescue the fishermen.’
George and his fellow Crew Member Robert Geary volunteered to launch the daughter boat from the Tamar. ‘It was my first shout going out in the Y boat. All of the training we’ve had suddenly came into play and we managed to drive the bow of the boat nose onto the rocks. I knew I had to get those guys off the cliffs. That was my priority,’ George recalls. ‘It must be a horrible feeling to have all that water around you with no way of getting out.’
Thanks to Robert’s excellent helmsmanship, George was able to help the father and son aboard. The volunteers took the pair back to the larger Tamar class, which Andy powered back to shore. The anglers were handed over to waiting paramedics and on to hospital, but they were released later with no serious injuries.
Andy says: ‘The crew train every Monday night so that when it comes down to the crunch, we can get the job done. For me, teamwork is the best part of being on the crew.’
‘It’s the same for me,’ George agrees. ‘At the end of the day we’re saving lives at sea. And that’s why I joined the RNLI.'
You can help make sure our volunteers are ready for the next emergency by donating to the RNLI Christmas appeal.