Volunteers rescue a disabled yacht at risk of hitting a Gas Rig in a gale
Lytham St Annes Lifeboat out all night in severe weather conditions
The H.M Coastguard (Holyhead MRSC) requested the lifeboat launch at 11.10pm on the 10th September to a yacht in danger 32 miles from the station while on passage from Liverpool to Douglas, Isle of Man. The 9 metre (30 feet) vessel was unable to carry on in the worsening sea conditions with her owner suffering from fatigue. The yacht was drifting, with sails down, before the South West gale force 8 wind, gusting at times to strong gale force 9, and was on course to run into the gas rigs on the South Morecambe Bay Field.
The lifeboat Barbara Anne set out at 11.30pm with Coxswain Robin Baker in command and headed for the reported position of the yacht. During the extremely rough passage out to the casualty the lifeboat’s radar set failed several times before finally failing completely causing position finding difficulty but the rig support vessel Vos Pathfinder, on guard duty at the gas field, located the yacht and stood by although unable to otherwise help due to the sea condition being too severe for her daughter safety boat to launch from the vessel.
The Barbara Anne arrived on scene at 1.15am (11th), the yacht being then well within the gas rig exclusion danger zone and still drifting to hit the Accommodation Platform 1 after fortunately missing another rig, the DP3. By now conditions were too dangerous to place the lifeboat alongside the yacht to put a lifeboat crew member on board as damage to both boats and crew was highly likely. Instead a light heaving line was thrown at the first attempt to enable a tow line to be hauled across between the vessels, the lifeboat crew being high in their praise for the yacht’s owner who managed, despite his boat’s severe pitching and rolling, to haul the tow line aboard and make it secure. The whole operation took 40 minutes to complete before the lifeboat could take up the tow and head North West towards Fleetwood and safety.
The tow had to be taken extremely slowly, at times at only 4 knots (4 nautical miles per hour), to prevent the line breaking and with constant vigilance being kept on the tow line in case of problems and the yacht skipper. The lifeboat entered the safety of the Wyre Estuary in daylight and secured to the RNLI Buoy off Fleetwood shortly after 7am. The yachtsman was then brought aboard the lifeboat to be checked, fed and changed into dry clothes before being left with his boat on the mooring buoy to head into the marina when it opened at high water.
The Lytham lifeboat left the Wyre to return to her Station at 8.30am and was recovered and re-carriaged around an hour later before being drawn back to her boathouse to be checked over, washed off, refuelled and her faulty radar set examined for repair. This was completed around 11am (11th) and the Volunteer Crew and Shore Crew could leave to return to their homes or straight to work after almost 12 hours on duty.
It was an excellent service carried out in severe conditions.
Lifeboat Mechanic Martin Jaggs MBE later said, “It was the worst weather we have been out in on service for the last 12 years. The Yachtsman did a great job connecting the tow line in almost impossible sea conditions.”
Coxswain Robin Baker AFNI added, “The sea conditions were horrendous but the crew behaved superbly and there was a strong possibility that the yacht could be forced under one of the Gas Rigs and wrecked if we hadn’t arrived in time. When we arrived it was already in the exclusion zone around the rigs in which no vessel is allowed to enter because of the danger”.
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.