Sunday, 10 June 2007

Blind pilotage

Sometimes the Coastguard get provided with such scanty details that their job really is terrifically hard. Yesterday was a classic example. It was a beautiful day but fog was ever present and it rolled into the cliffs thickly enough to provide us with a shout. Just as I was finishing my lunch Portland Coastguard received a mobile phone call from a 42 foot yacht=. In the very limited visibility she had run aground and thought she was in the vicinity of Kimmeridge ledges. Portland paged 'Launch request' and shortly afterwards asked for both boats to proceed to the area of Kimmeridge.

Now we launched in bright sunshine and perfect visibility. Moments later we went over peveril ledge and visibility closed down to less than 200 metres. Fog routine kicked in and we quickly fell into comfortable roles:Martin took the helm from inside and took overall command of the shout.Paul assumed his usual position on the radar and kept up a steady commentary on what was out there and how close it would come.Steve sat on the Chart table and plotted a route to get us there, at the same time he dealt with communications with the Coastguard and the boathouse. I hovered between the Chart table and the radar and filtered the information to Martin along with recommended courses to steer to avoid other vessels.Meanwhile Gav and Chad had the unenviable job of keeping a look out from the bow. There we were in side in shorts and 'T' shirts while they were in full foulweather gear.Last but not least Matt was in charge of the horn on the upper steering position sounding one prolonged blast at intervals of not more that 2 minutes.

Of course just as we were rounding St.Aldhelm's head the yacht realised that actually they weren't at Kimmeridge but at Ringstead bay, an easy mistake to make. Moments later the Coastguard stood us down to return to station. Certainly not a waste of time. Truly all very valuable practise of dealing with thick fog.


Anonymous said...

How on earth did the yacht get their position out by 15 km?

Mark R

Anonymous said...

I think WAFI says it all.........

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what the point of this is. There are no lessons to learned, the writer (who clearly has never made a mistake) seems unaware of the situation on board of the vessel. Was there illness on board, failure of electronic nav systems? Or are you suggesting that the vessel is being sailed by idiots?

Apart from marine ambulance chasing and rubbernecking, I can see little point in this. I'm rather bothered that RNLI subs are being used for this type of voyeurism.

Anonymous said...

The last post has somewhat disturbed me, The point of this is to show clearly to everybody the kind of silliness that happens on a daily basis when people set sail be it in a yacht or a power driven vessel to sea without knowing where they are at any one time. It clearly states that the vessel had ran aground and therefore illness and electronic failure were eliminated from the situation, All it would have taken is for the skipper of the craft to occassionally take a bearing or heading and he would have known exactly where he was, If he was in the fog then all the more reason to ensure your nav equipment is in full working order if not then do not go out simple as.

As for RNLI subs being used, well I know that the guy who does this web site pays for it out of his own pocket and gets no money from the RNLI whatsoever, it is not RNLI policy to pay for any and I mean any web sites other than their own official one. So I can't see any justification in your post whatsoever, probably a case of not engaging your brain before posting.

lifeboatjohn said... answer your questions:

The point is, I (a crewmember of Swanage lifeboat) regularly get asked about the goings on around the station........I decided to document this for a year as a blog to help answer those questions.

As a crew we learned many lessons on the shout about how to preceed safely in thick fog.....very good training.

I have, I assure you made many mistakes in my life, I make no secret of these. I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that this was not the case?

I am still largely unaware of the situation onboard the yacht as we never reached it.......they were so far off our patch and their reported position that another lifeboat and a resue helicopter were tasked to assist them and we were returned to station.

I do know that their GPS was not not turned on when they made their initial call to the Coastguard.

I am not suggesting that the yacht was being sailed by idiots. However. In my opinion it would be prudent if making way in thick fog to turn on your nav aids. Indeed, it is not only prudent but also a requirement of the COLREGS.

If you can see no point in this, please exercise your right not to waste your time reading it again.

Be reassured that no RNLI subs are being wasted on this blog.......only my time and effort. To put it another way, this blog is in no way endorsed or supported by the RNLI. It contains only my views and occasionally the views of my fellow crewmembers.

Just one question for you: Who are you??

I wish you many years of happy and safe sailing.

Good day!

Anonymous said...

Well said Lifeboatjohn and keep up the good work ....and interesting blog.

Anonymous said...

The problem, in my view, was the header you gave your post, advertising your blog on a sailing forum, "Have you ever been this lost?"

Perhaps it was not your intention, but you imply ridicule by the assumption that the named yacht was "lost", and by a huge distance, without any knowledge of the circumstances on board that vessel.

From your training, you will appreciate that people who may be in shock, or in great fear, may not react logically or be accurate in their details. In this case we do not know whether this was a problem of illness, or whether it was a daysail, or perhaps a mistake in landfall after several days or weeks at sea.

If the intention was not to ridicule, that was not noticed by Concerned RNLI supporter who captured the spirit of your blog by commenting "The point of this is to show clearly to everybody the kind of silliness that happens on a daily basis when people set sail be it in a yacht or a power driven vessel to sea without knowing where they are". So it's name and shame "silliness"?

Concerned also states that the vessel had run aground "therefore illness and electronic failure were eliminated from the situation". Really?

The incident will no doubt be logged and duly reported in the RNLI/MCA reports, which is a reasonable way of keeping the public informed. But the information in the radio traffic is privileged information and I am concerned that you have chosen to publicly present that privileged information, including the vessel's name, in a manner that does not take the full circumstances into account.

lifeboatjohn said...


Your comments are duly noted.

I think you have point re the title of the post on YBW.....the implication was there but not intentional. I will not make the same mistak again.

Concerned supporter has views which are not in line with mine. However, I am perfectly happy to allow him to air them here, just as I am happy for you to air yours here. However, you are quite wrong in stating that his comments reflect the spirit of my blog. Quite simpy, they do not. If you don't believe me then go and read the other 200 posts on the blog and judge more accurately for yourself what the spirit is.

On a few matters you are not entirely correct......

The incident will not be logged and duly reported and the public will certainly not be made aware of this. Incidents like this are treated as run of the mill and are logged, filed and then forgotten.

Information on channel 16 or any other public channel is not 'priveledged' but is 'public' so there is no reason to hide this detail.

Nevertheless. Rest assured I will be more cautious in the future and I am most grateful to you for voicing your concerns to me. I wish you many happy years of safe sailing.

Kind regards


Chopper said...

Anonymous - You're an idiot. There said it for you John. There are hundreds if not thousands of people going to sea underprepared - they are also IDIOTS (most of us have done it at some point I'm sure). These people rely on your good will to risk your life to save theirs - repeat RISK YOUR LIFE TO SAVE THEIRS. Whatever the circumstances there is rarely a good 'excuse' for needing a rescue - put another way human error outweighs all other reasons for lifeboat launch.
Keep up the good work John and as you said if, anonymous, you don't like it go away (polite version). Theere are many other who find this site interesting, amusing and thought provoking......