Lifeboat volunteers in late night canal boat rescue
Lytham St Annes RNLI Lifeboats assist broken down and grounded narrow boat to the safety of Preston Dock
A drama for a canal narrow boat making her way up the Ribble to Preston Dock started in the morning tide of 16 September when sudden engine failure forced her to run aground on the north bank, three miles from her destination.
The Holyhead Coastguard Operations Centre (CGOC) requested the Lytham St Annes Inshore Lifeboat (ILB) MOAM launch to assess the situation of the two people stranded on board their boat. The ILB launched shortly before 1pm with Helmsman Ben McGarry in command and made her way upriver to where the disabled canal boat lay, high if not exactly dry on the waters edge over the top of the training wall. Checking the two occupants were safe, that the boat was undamaged by the grounding, and leaving them some bottles of water, the ILB set off back to her boathouse with the arrangement that assistance would be given at the dangerous time of re-floating on that night’s high tide.
In the evening the Inshore Lifeboat was joined by the Station’s All-weather Lifeboat (ALB) Barbara Anne with Coxswain Tom Stuart in command, both lifeboats launching around 9pm to give help as the tide rose around the casualty. The darkness, the size and type of the vessel and the high 9.9 metre (31.2 feet) spring tide roaring into the estuary risked causing a very dangerous situation for the two sailors even if they had the disabled boat’s engine working. One great hazard to the lifeboats was the number of trees that were floating half submerged in the river, having been washed off the river banks upstream of Preston. In the darkness these posed an added risk to the operation.
The two lifeboats eventually and with difficulty managed to get the narrow boat afloat and into the river channel, the ILB passing lines from the ALB and the two pulling the unwieldy vessel round off the bank. With no engine to assist, the boat had to be towed up to Preston Dock by the Barbara Anne. At the Dock the failure of one of the twin lock gates to open meant that the MOAM had to be connected to the stern of the casualty to help steer her and act as a “brake” as the ALB towed the canal boat through the narrow gap left by the one opened gate, a case of threading the needle.
Once the boat was secured safely on a pontoon and her crew safe, the two lifeboats headed down river to their respective boathouses, the ILB being refuelled, checked over and cleaned off for around 1.30am (17 September) but it was 3am before the much larger ALB was fully cleaned and her volunteer crew could go home to catch up on missed sleep.
ILB Helmsman Ben McGarry later said: ‘It was a difficult service with trees and debris in the river and the strength of the tide causing the disabled boat to swing around as she came afloat. The failure of one of the lock gates was just one more difficulty we encountered but all ended with the casualty safely berthed in Preston Dock’.
Notes to editorphotos 1) The Lytham St Annes ILB approaches the disabled vessel during the afternoon
(Ben McGarry / RNLI)2) The Lytham St Annes Lifeboat Barbara Anne launches into the river at the 11½ mile perch to head for the canal boat. (photo Chris Roberts)
3) The lifeboats re-float the casualty on the night tide (ILB foreground, casualty centre and ALB rear right). (Ben McGarry / RNLI)
4) The canal boat is towed towards Preston Dock (Ben McGarry / RNLI)
5) Helmsman Ben McGarry (photo Nigel Millard / RNLI)RNLI media contacts - notes to editors
- Lytham St Annes lifeboat station was founded in 1851
- Since then 9 medals for bravery have been awarded to Volunteer Crew members.
- To learn more about the station, please go to:
For more information please contact David Forshaw, Lytham St Annes volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07904 685 206 [David_Forshaw@rnli.org.uk] or Eleri Roberts, RNLI Area Media Officer on 07771941390 [Eleri_Roberts@rnli.org.uk] or contact the RNLI Press Office 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.