A long day at sea for the crew of the Sheerness RNLI all weather lifeboat
Whilst on station for training a Pan-Pan call was heard over the VHF by the Sheerness lifeboat crews giving details that a vessel was in trouble in the Thames Estuary.
The volunteer crew of the Sheerness RNLI all weather lifeboat ‘The George and Ivy Swanson’ were alerted to a vessel in trouble after hearing a Pan-Pan call over the VHF radio whilst the crew were on station training at 10.30am on the morning of Sunday 16 June 2019
The casualty vessel was a Dutch river barge with a husband and wife couple on-board that was at anchor in the vicinity of Blacktail Spit, approximately 9 miles from Garrison Point on the Isle of Sheppey, having suffered total machinery and electrical failure.
The ‘Pan-Pan’ call was being relayed by a nearby deep drafted racing vessel named ‘Mercury’.
The Southend RNLI Atlantic Lifeboat had been tasked to attend the incident by the UK Coastguard.
Due to bad VHF reception it was difficult to ascertain the exact details of the casualty, but it was heard to be 21m in length and had been on route from Burnham, Essex to Chatham Marina in the River Medway
The Sheerness RNLI duty Coxwain contacted UK Coastguard to inform them that the all- weather lifeboat had crew on station and was ready to launch immediately to assist if required.
At 11:55 a call from the UK Coastguard tasking the ALB to launch and give assistance was received.
Arriving on scene at 12:30pm and with the Southend Lifeboat already in attendance it was clear that the vessel was indeed 21m in length and due to the size and the prevailing conditions, wind F5/6 SW, it was clear that the Sheerness lifeboat would be needed to tow the casualty to safety. At 12:40pm, utilizing the Southend Lifeboat, 2 crew from Sheerness Lifeboat were placed onto the casualty vessel and a tow line was passed and secured.
As the casualty vessel was designed for river use, rather than the open sea, it had taken on a lot of water through the front doors and this had caused the electrical supply to cease working, which included the electric bilge pump and the electric anchor winch.
At 12:50pm after attempts to raise the anchor were unsuccessful, the chain was cut and the casualty put under tow.
The design of the casualty vessel meant that towing at more than approximately two knots into the wind and ebbing tide was causing further water ingress. The two Sheerness crew on board were bailing out the cabin areas as best they could. Therefore, a route was taken that caused as little water to enter the casualty as possible.
As the Lifeboat approached the Eastern side of the Island the weather had improved slightly and the towing speed was increased.
The Lifeboat arrived at Queenborough All Tide landing at 8.15pm and was met by the Sheppey Coastguard Rescue Unit and the two occupants were passed into their care. Chatham Marina were contacted, as this was the casualty’s intended destination, to inform them of the situation so that they would not raise the concern of them being overdue.
The casualty was made secure and the Lifeboat’s salvage pump was used to pump out as much water as possible. The Lifeboat was released at 8.50pm, returned to mooring at 9.00 pm where it was met by a shore crew who assisted in re-fueling and was ready for service at 9.25pm.
The crew had been at sea for 9 hours.
Weather Wind SW 5/6, Visibility good, sea state moderate.
Vic Booth RNLI Lifeboat Press Officer (Sheerness) 07926904453 / 01795 880544 firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Dunt RNLI Press Officer S.E. email@example.com 07785296252
For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.