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Buckie Lifeboat rescues yacht reported ‘adrift and leaking in horrendous weather

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI Buckie Lifeboat sped to the rescue of a family aboard their yacht, reported ‘adrift and leaking in horrendous weather’ 4 miles north of Portnockie on Sunday evening, 16 July 2023.

An RNLI Severn class lifeboat charging through heavy seas, with much spray.

RNLI/Nigel Millard

The RNLI's Severn class lifeboat: the best of British lifeboats, built for the worst of British weather. (library image)

The alarm was raised at 8.30pm and coxswain Davie Grant put to sea with a crew of seven volunteers a few minutes later. With children on board and reports that the yacht was taking on water, unable to make headway under sail or to start her engine, the lifeboat made best possible speed despite the atrocious conditions.

Coxswain Grant says: ‘We were thankful for our seat harnesses and air-sprung safety-seats for sure, but the 42 tonne Severn class is designed for the worst conditions and she served us well.’

Initial attempts to put casualty care crew aboard the yacht were thwarted by the heavy weather, which was tossing the yacht around like a toy. Shouted communication with the skipper also revealed that the leak was in the fuel system, not the hull, so concern the yacht was at immediate risk of sinking diminished. The airlocked fuel system meant the engine could not be started, so the yacht was helpless in the appalling conditions. On the plus side, the yacht and her crew were all well equipped.

With four of the five yacht crew reportedly suffering acutely from seasickness, getting casualty care crew on board was still a priority, but this could only be done in calmer water. A line was passed and a tow commenced to Cullen Bay, where the land offered some shelter from the strong westerly wind and breaking waves.

Casualty care crewmember Kris transferred to the yacht and reported the family cold, wet, exhausted and demoralised: he made them as comfortable as possible and offered reassurance for the towed passage to Buckie.

Towing into the teeth of the rising gale and a confused sea, the yacht again began to pitch and roll violently at anything above snail’s-pace. With the yacht skipper on the helm trying to keep the yacht in line astern of the lifeboat, the combination could manage only 3-4 knots on the tow back to Buckie.

On arrival around 1230am – 4 hours after departure – the yacht was brought into the safety of Buckie harbour. Her crew were welcomed into the lifeboat station to dry out and warm up, helped by warm drinks and hot food. Meanwhile the crew worked on to wash down and refuel the lifeboat in case another shout came in.

Coxswain Grant says: ‘As we approached him, the yacht skipper radioed the Coastguard to ask how long before the lifeboat was likely to arrive. He told me afterwards that the reply of ‘3 minutes’ was about the best news he had heard in his entire life.’

‘This was a challenging service for our own crew for many reasons. The conditions for working on deck were as difficult on the lifeboat as they were on the yacht, but our crew stayed focused on their task. Kris, our casualty care specialist on the night, deserves special recognition. His skill in not just caring for the family on the yacht, but in reassuring them despite the horrendous conditions, was a tribute not only to his RNLI training but also to his personal qualities. We are fortunate to have him.’

Anne Scott, lifeboat operations manager at Buckie Lifeboat Station, says this rescue showed the unique capability of the RNLI. ‘This family and their yacht had been rendered helpless in the face of the conditions that confronted them. A helicopter could have rescued the crew if they had come in imminent danger of going aground, but only the lifeboat could have intervened sooner, as we did, to rescue both the crew and their yacht. Buckie’s volunteer crew gave valuable service to this family, and our community has cause to be proud of them.’

Further information from

Terry McNeill, RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, Buckie Lifeboat Station Tel 07941 329798 Email: [email protected]

Natasha Bennett, RNLI Media Officer (Scotland), Tel 07826 900639

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.