Yacht with two on board rescued in sea drama
Lytham St Annes RNLI Lifeboat Volunteers bring them to safety in rough weather
After a sudden and violent squall passed through the Irish Sea area, a 33 foot (10.05m) yacht asked the Holyhead Coastguard MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) for help as they were unable to maintain a course or heading in the poor weather. The Coastguard in turn requested the Lytham St Annes All-weather Lifeboat (ALB) launch to assess the situation at 11:43am on Friday 29 October as details provided by the casualty at that time were limited.
The station’s All-weather relief lifeboat Reg (13-07), on duty while the Barbara Anne was away, was launched with Coxswain Andrew McHaffie in command and headed for the casualty’s position west of Lytham.
In rough sea conditions and at times heavy driving rain and reduced visibility, the lifeboat found the casualty off shore of Blackpool near the South Shore outfall pipe. The yacht was being forced by wind and sea ever closer to the surf line which would have risked the loss of the vessel and crew. One crew member had a bruised arm when she had been thrown about by the violent motion of the vessel and could not leave the cabin. The other crew member was steering and tethered in the cockpit and unable to rig a tow line as a result.
Coxswain McHaffie realised the urgent need to get the yacht away from the rapidly approaching surf on the shore line so, despite the heavy seas running, skilfully placed the starboard shoulder of the lifeboat alongside the port side of the yacht, long enough for crew member Andy Hall to leap between the two vessels to assist the two people onboard. Lifeboat crew member Al Sleet then threw a heaving line perfectly across to Andy Hall who quickly connected a tow line from the lifeboat and checked the man and woman onboard were uninjured apart from the lady’s bruising. While this was going on the casualty vessel had drifted a mile nearer the shore so it was good timing and excellent seamanship from the Lifeboat Crew to have the yacht under tow at the first attempt.
With no safe mooring being available at Lytham in the poor conditions, the Lytham St Annes lifeboat towed the yacht northwards to the Wyre Estuary. Arriving at the Wyre, the Lytham boat towed the yacht up to the Fleetwood lifeboat pen where the Fleetwood RNLI Inshore Lifeboat (ILB) D-853 had launched to assist. One of the Fleetwood volunteer crew members was placed on board the yacht which was then escorted by the ILB to a safe mooring in the Marina.
Meanwhile, the Lytham St Annes Lifeboat headed for home, arriving to be recovered on North Beach near the Thursby Home at 5.15pm. She was then returned inside her boathouse at 6.15pm after being first washed off, cleaned, checked and refuelled in readiness for her next call out. The Volunteer Crew and Shore Crew were then free to set off for their homes or work at around 6.45pm after the dramatic and taxing rescue which had seen them at sea for 5 hours.
In a phone call following the incident to Richard Freeman, the Lytham St Annes Station’s Duty Launching Authority (DLA), the Holyhead Coastguard described it as an exemplary service and particularly praised the Coxswain for his superb seamanship exhibited in affecting the transfer of a volunteer crew member and that crew member’s bravery in the prevailing conditions. DLA Freeman added, 'Had the Coxswain not assessed, planned and acted as swiftly as he did to establish a tow, the casualty vessel could have been lost along with its crew.'
Coxswain Andrew McHaffie later said, 'The yacht was being forced by wind and sea towards the Blackpool beach and if we had not managed to connect the tow they would have been in the surf line in about 10 minutes with a slim chance of survival in those conditions.'
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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