Wednesday, 31 January 2007

A night to remember?

29th August 2003, 0418 in the morning and our pagers go off. It's rough, the sky overcast, NE 6 winds. Portland Coastguard requested us to investigate reported sightings of red flares approx 15 Nm SE of Anvil Point.

A commercial ship 'Dart 8' was in the area and they were also investigating. They had located a yacht that was thought to have fired the flares but was unable to make contact. We let go the mooring and made full speed to the position given by 'Dart 8'. A little under an hour later we were on scene to find a 36' yacht with total electrical failure. The yacht's crew had been at sea for 48hrs and were very tired. They had lost all their navigation equipment and making little headway into the strong NE wind. We decided to try to put a crewman aboard to connect a tow line. A couple of attempts were made to get alongside the final of which resulted in the lifeboat's guard rails being badly damaged as they were struck by the yacht. The lifeboat backed away and the damage was assessed. It was decided to run in again and this time 2nd Coxswain Robert Aggas was successfully put aboard, slightly injuring his leg in the process. A towline was quickly passed and secured to the yacht. Due to the bad weather the yacht would have to be towed into Poole Harbour. Good speed was made and the lifeboat was alongside Poole Quay at 08:55. The yacht was secured to a pontoon berth and the lifeboat was taken up to RNLI Headquarters so that Engineers could look at the damage. It was decided that the lifeboat would have to go for repairs if a relief boat could be found. It was decided that we would head for Lymington to pick up Lifeboat 12-001 if it's 'pass out trials' were a success. Unfortunately as the we approached Hurst Point we were told that 12-001 was not going to be ready and that there was no option but to return to Swanage and affect temporary repairs for the time being. The lifeboat finally arrived back in Swanage at 14:45.

What I haven't told you is that the first crewman to be put aboard was supposed to be me. I never made the jump, in the collision as we approached I was knocked overboard into the sea and narrowly missed being impaled on the yacht's anchor. Now 5am in the morning is no time at all to be swimming around in the middle of the channel. I was not happy. Thankfully Martin broke off his attempt to get alongside the yacht and maneuvered to fetch me back. He achieved this in an impressively short time I am glad to say.

I think that this may have been the only occasion that I have seen our ex navigator David Corben out on deck during a shout?

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bidds't the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we call to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

(William Whiting)


Anonymous said...

O Christ, whose voice the waters heard,
And hushed the raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amid the storm didst sleep:...

One of my favourites posts ever, John. Thank you!

lifeboatjohn said...

Thank you Wenley. I was certainly a big night for me and one I will remember a long time.