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RNLI lifesavers battle Storm Arwen for 18 hours to rescue six fishermen

Lifeboats News Release

A lifeboat crew from Tynemouth battled six-metre waves in storm force conditions at the weekend during Storm Arwen to rescue six fishermen on a 100-tonne fishing vessel.

RNLI/Harrison Bates

Tynemouth all-weather lifeboat
The 14-metre fishing vessel had suffered total engine failure in the midst of the storm 70 miles out to sea. Drifting helplessly, a call for help was made and the Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat launched.

Tynemouth RNLI Coxswain, Michael Nugent, who has been with the RNLI for 36 years said: ‘These are some of the worst conditions I’ve been out in.

‘The lifeboat launched into darkness at 8.45pm and the crew knew they’d be in for a rough night.

‘As we launched, we were in huge swells with a rise and fall of six metres with waves breaking on the deck of the lifeboat. We knew we needed to travel a long distance to the vessel, but I also needed to keep the rest of my crew safe.’

After four-and-a-half hours battling huge seas and in total darkness the lifeboat reached the fishing vessel. With no safe option to take the crew onboard the lifeboat and a risk of other shipping colliding with the broken-down vessel, the safest option was to tow the fishing boat and her crew to safety.

Michael said: ‘It was rough, squalls were coming through, but we needed to get close enough to get a line across. The rise and fall between the two boats caused by the waves added a challenge. One second, I was looking up at a huge fishing vessel, the next moment I was looking down on it.’

With the tow secured, the long 70-mile tow back to Tynemouth started.

Michael added: ‘It was an uncomfortable journey home, and even the toughest of lifeboat volunteers can succumb to the elements. I had a great bunch onboard that night and they all did great.’

With Storm Arwen hitting hardest on the coast in the north-east of England and Scotland, lifeboats from Montrose and Arbroath were also out in the horrendous conditions.

The two lifeboats escorted an 82-metre coaster dragging its anchor in 65mph winds to safety after launching just before midnight on Friday.

Arbroath Lifeboat Coxswain, Sam Clow said: ‘That was a wild night, one not to forget any time soon.’

Video footage has been released of Dunbar RNLI who were also out in the horrendous conditions of Storm Arwen as they moved the lifeboat from their floating mooring to safety inside the harbour. The video gives a great insight into what some of the RNLI volunteers faced over the weekend.

Tynemouth Coxswain Michael added: ‘Our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather is at its worst and lives are on the line.

‘We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.’

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit:

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.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.