Lytham RNLI called to yachtswoman saved by a small electronic life saving aid

Lifeboats News Release

The casualty's unmanned vessel was heading dangerously close to Gas Rigs as she had fallen overboard.

A Lifeboat crew member stands while a Lifeboat closes in to take him off

RNLI/Mike Gee

Lytham St Annes Lifeboat closes the yacht to take off crew member Graham Schofield

The yachtswoman was sailing single handed in her yacht from Douglas, Isle of Man, via Piel Harbour, Barrow, when she slipped and went overboard into the sea in the early hours of Friday 17 June 2022.

Her 9.44 metre (31 foot) vessel, at that time under motor power, carried on by itself, heading for the entrance to the River Ribble, leaving the lady floating in its wake.

Fortunately the casualty was wisely fully aware of such a possibility and wore a lifejacket and also a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). The small electronic transmitting devices send a signal to a satellite and alert emergency services to a person in distress.

Without one, the chances of finding the person would have been very slight as her yacht sailed away with no apparent problem. As a result of the PLB signal, the casualty was rescued after an hour in the water by the offshore gas rig supply ship Grampian Talisman.

Even in the summer the waters around the UK are still cold, so a few minutes after 2am the Coastguard (MRCC, Holyhead) requested the Fleetwood RNLI Shannon class lifeboat Kenneth James Pierpoint launch to bring her ashore.

The volunteer crew set out and rendezvoused with the Grampian Talisman about seven miles off Rossall Point. After taking the casualty off the ship, the lifeboat proceeded to Fleetwood Lifeboat Station from where the casualty was taken to hospital.

Meanwhile the lady's yacht, with her tiller lashed in one position was motoring on by herself but on a course heading for a possible collision with the Douglas Field gas / oil rigs or their attendant anchored Offshore Storage Barge.

The Lytham St Annes RNLI Shannon class Lifeboat Barbara Anne was tasked to find and intercept the yacht to prevent this risk. The volunteer crew were paged at 3.48am and set off in pursuit of the vessel, arriving on scene an hour later with the yacht already in sight of the Storage Barge with its 800 metre safety exclusion zone.

After assessing the situation, the lifeboat was placed alongside the yacht to allow two lifeboat crew members to transfer across and take control.

Low tide now became a factor as it would have caused long delays to find a safe mooring for the vessel in either the Ribble or the Wyre estuaries by the time the yacht reached either. The best option was to head south for the safety of the Mersey.

At this point the situation took another turn as the yacht ran out of fuel. The Lytham lifeboat, which had been escorting the boat, moved in and connected a tow line and then proceeded onwards towards the Mersey.

At 6.12am the Coastguard requested the Hoylake RNLI Shannon class lifeboat Edmund Hawthorn Micklewood launch with her volunteer crew to take over the tow from the Lytham lifeboat at Jordan Spit, north west of the entrance to the Mersey.

On arrival, the Hoylake RNLI lifeboat went alongside the yacht to transfer two of her crew aboard and, after the tow line had been released, the Lytham men re-boarded the Barbara Anne for the return to her Station, arriving just before 9am.

The Edmund Hawthorn Micklewood passed her tow line across and began towing the yacht towards New Brighton at the mouth of the estuary where New Brighton RNLI Atlantic 85 Lifeboat Charles Dibdin and her crew were requested, at 9.33am, to launch and help locate a suitable mooring for the casualty.

After checking at New Brighton and Tranmere, the crews decided that New Brighton RNLI would take the vessel under tow and bring it to the safety of Liverpool Marina.

With the yacht handed over, Hoylake lifeboat was stood down and returned to her station to be refuelled, washed and checked over before the volunteer crew could leave for their breakfast or straight to work.

The New Brighton volunteer crew towed the yacht to a safe berth in Liverpool Marina before being released to return across the Mersey to home.

A spokesman for Lytham RNLI said:

'It had taken a long a time to bring the incident to a safe conclusion but for the RNLI charity's four highly trained volunteer crews, it was the knowledge that the yacht was recovered without colliding with any other maritime user and, more importantly, the yachtswoman was safe and recovering in hospital. It was extremely fortunate that she was carrying the small electronic device which alerted the emergency services to her plight.'

A yacht moves under power with two Lifeboat Crew aboard

RNLI/Ben McGarry

The yacht manned by two Lifeboat Crew before she ran out of fuel
The stern rails of a Lifeboat in the foreground with a yacht under tow and (top left) an anchored oil barge

RNLI/Ben McGarry

The Lytham Lifeboat tows the yacht away from the anchored oil barge
A yacht (centre) has four Lifeboat Crew aboard with a Lifeboat approaching from the right

RNLI/Ben McGarry

Lytham Lifeboat (left) waits while the yacht is handed over to the Hoylake crew with Hoylake Lifeboat (right)
The foredeck of a yacht being towed by a Lifeboat ahead of her

RNLI/Mike Gee

The Lytham St Annes Lifeboat towing the yacht

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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