Montrose, Aberdeen and Peterhead lifeboats link up in epic overnight rescue
RNLI Lifeboats from Montrose, Aberdeen and Peterhead joined forces in a marathon 18-hour rescue mission off the north east coast of Scotland overnight Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd September 2020.
The alarm was raised at 2pm on Wednesday afternoon when a 110-year old classic iron-built sailing barge contacted the UK Coastguard requesting assistance at a position some 60 miles east north east of Montrose.
The Shannon-class lifeboat ‘Ian Grant Smith’ launched from Montrose lifeboat station by 2.30pm and made her way to the scene – hampered by Force 7 south easterly winds and a building swell. By the time she arrived, the sea state was described as ‘rough’.
A line was put aboard the sailing vessel around 5.30pm and a slow tow commenced toward Aberdeen – a destination chosen as the nearest refuge downwind of the casualty’s location.
Aberdeen’s Severn-class lifeboat ‘Bon Accord’ was paged to launch at 7pm, tasked to take over the tow from Montrose Lifeboat at a position some 20 miles east of Stonehaven. The Aberdeen lifeboat’s speed was considerably reduced by the rough conditions, but the two lifeboats met at approximately 1030pm whereupon the Aberdeen crew took over the tow, allowing a fatigued Montrose crew to return to their base after some 9 hours at sea.
Arriving off Aberdeen around 2am, coxswain Davie Orr found conditions too rough to safely tow the casualty vessel into Aberdeen Harbour; he decided to continue the tow to Peterhead, requesting Peterhead Lifeboat to meet them off Cruden Bay to take over the last stage of the journey.
Peterhead’s Tamar-class lifeboat, ‘The Misses Robertson of Kintail’, launched at 3.20am and took over the tow from Aberdeen Lifeboat at a position off Cruden Bay around 4.20am. With the weather abating around dawn, she brought the casualty vessel safely alongside in Peterhead shortly after 8am.
Aberdeen Lifeboat returned to her berth in the Granite City at 6am on Thursday 3rd September after 11 hours at sea.
Davie Orr, coxswain of Aberdeen Lifeboat, said of their long, rough passage upwind: “The initial 4 metre swell quickly built to 6 metres, which forced our speed down from our design maximum of 25 knots to just 7 knots at times. When darkness fell, it was worse: all I could see was white wave-crests above the wheelhouse windows, before we would fall down the far side of the wave.”
Volunteer crew member with Peterhead Lifeboat, Sean Lawrence, added: “The pager went off at 2.38am so the crew quickly assembled in the middle of the night at Peterhead Lifeboat Station to work with Aberdeen to come up with a plan of action, and handover of tow as safely as possible.
“The sailing vessel was under tow by Aberdeen Lifeboat but, due to sea conditions, they were unable to enter the harbour so the decision was made to use Peterhead Harbour as an alternative.
“We arrived on scene and met Aberdeen lifeboat ‘Bon Accord’ and took over the tow at 4.20am and brought the vessel alongside in Peterhead at 8.20am.
“Thanks to the commitment of all crews involved, the rescue - albeit a long one - went safely and The Misses Robertson of Kintail was made ready for service again by 9am.”
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.