A wake-up call for Holyhead

As gale-force winds drove a yacht towards rocks, the crew of Holyhead’s all-weather lifeboat faced a challenging early morning wake-up call.

RNLI crews searching in the dark

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

When their pagers sounded at 12.30am, the Holyhead lifeboat crew jumped to it. A yacht was in serious trouble in gale-force winds, 2 miles off Skerries Lighthouse. ‘It was colour code amber,’ explains Coxswain Tony Price, ‘giving us just enough time for our briefing and seasick pills before we launched.’

‘We had to use all our navigational aids to find them, including the most important one of all – our eyes,’ explains Tony. A southerly storm (Storm Hector) was pushing against a strong spring tide creating a confused sea.

‘Safety is our number one priority,’ explains Tony. ‘As we searched, we rotated the look outs on deck every 10–15 minutes, bringing them down below deck when conditions got too rough.’

They found the yacht, sails down, 30 minutes after launching. It had lost power to its main engine and generator, and its lights were barely flickering.

‘They were in imminent danger,’ says Tony. ‘They were side on to the sea, beam on. Slowly but surely they were being driven towards the rocks.’

Holyhead Coxswain Tony Price

Photo: John Cave

Holyhead Coxswain Tony Price

They quickly established the tow and made their way home. But the hardest part of the rescue was yet to come.

‘At the entrance to the harbour it was gusting 50 knots, and raining,’ explains Tony. 'We shortened the tow rope to get them onto a mooring. I eased off the power to reduce the tension in the rope so the crew could wind it in, and we had to talk to each other all the time. We repeated the manoeuvre several times before the rope was short enough.’

Approaching the mooring, they faced another problem. ‘They lost their boat hook,’ says Tony. ‘We had to resort to plan B and pick it up for them using the small inflatable Y boat that we carry onboard.

‘The gale-force conditions made this rescue extra challenging. You have to remember all the training – keep hatches closed, be aware of trips and falls when moving around the deck.

‘My advice would be to always look at the forecast and err on the side of caution. Be aware of the tides and know what’s coming so you’re prepared for the unexpected.’

Heading out to sea soon? Check out the RNLI's sailing safety tips before you go.