At 2:58pm on Saturday 19 October 2019, UK Coastguard requested the launch of Seahouses all-weather lifeboat, to go to the assistance of a fishing vessel from Fraserburgh with four crew, which had suffered steering failure 16 miles east of the Farne Islands.
Sea conditions were rough and deteriorating, with the wind speed also increasing.
The Seahouses lifeboat RNLB Grace Darling was quickly launched and made best speed to the casualty vessel’s position through rough sea conditions.
On arrival and not without difficulty, the lifeboat was able to pass a tow line, and attempted to commence towing the disabled vessel. After consultation with the UK Coastguard Operations Room at Bridlington, it was decided to abandon attempts to tow the vessel with the lifeboat, due to the sea conditions creating unacceptable dangers.
Another large fishing vessel had meanwhile been contacted some distance away, and agreed to come and tow the vessel to a suitable port for repair. There had also been discussion with the harbour master at Seahouses, and permission to bring the vessel into Seahouses was refused on grounds of safety, due to the rough sea conditions at the harbour mouth, which would make such an operation potentially dangerous.
Once it was established that the crew of the casualty vessel were in no immediate danger, and the other fishing vessel was then close by, the lifeboat was stood down and returned to station, after being on service for seven hours. The casualty vessel was then taken in tow by the other large fishing vessel to Blyth for repairs. That vessel also experienced difficulty, and Tynemouth Lifeboat launched at 2.20am to assist and escort the vessels into Blyth.
Seahouses Lifeboat Operations Manager commented: 'This was a long, difficult and challenging service, in horrible sea conditions. I would like to compliment and thank the lifeboat coxswain and crew for their best efforts to assist this vessel and her crew. It became clear that the casualty was simply too big and too heavy for the lifeboat to tow in the prevailing sea conditions. However, they were able to stand by the vessel, ready in case the situation became worse, and the crew had to be taken off. It was a relief to learn that that the casualty had eventually reached Blyth safely under tow, and to see the lifeboat safely back in Seahouses harbour, after negotiating the breaking seas across the harbour mouth on their return.'
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 over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, 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.
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