Amble RNLI All-weather lifeboat launched to stricken fishing vessel trapped in heavy seas at harbour mouth

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The Amble All-weather lifeboat The Four Boys was launched at mid-day on Thursday 20th after the RNLI Station Mechanic witnessed a small leisure fishing vessel struggling at the harbour mouth and raised the alarm.

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Station Mechanic John Sim noticed the vessel was struggling in heavy seas over a notorious sandbank at the entrance to the harbour. The casualty had been leaving the harbour in heavy swell conditions which caused the anchor and rope to become dislodged from its stowage on the foredeck of the vessel. The anchor rope went under the boat and into the propeller disabling the engine and steerage. With the rest of the anchor rope streaming astern, the anchor then took hold of the sea bed. Because of the ebbing tide, the current kept the casualty pinned down in the worst place possible – amongst the breaking seas. The casualty was head up to the sea but slewing from side to side and the seas were gradually filling her with water with a significant risk of imminent capsize..
When the lifeboat arrived on scene, the single person on board the 20 foot casualty vessel appeared to be limited in their ability to assist and remained in place at the stern of the boat whilst the lifeboat crew got to work.

It was decided to try and place one crewmember aboard the casualty with the tow rope; this proved to be an extremely difficult manoeuvre as the casualty was slewing dangerously from side to side. After several tries, crewmember & local Harbourmaster Paul Allen was transferred to the casualty with the rope. During this period, both the casualty and lifeboat were awash with breaking seas. The Coxswain had decided to keep the lifeboat head up into the harbour and stern onto sea as this was deemed to be the safest option as it would have been extremely dangerous to tow the boat out to sea and then back into the harbour. Paul Allen was constantly being washed over by breaking seas but managed to secure the tow rope. With the tow rope secure, the coxswain put weight onto the tow and turned the casualty head up into the harbour; while this was happening several heavy swells broke over both
boats, dumping considerable amounts of water into the casualty.
As the boats cleared up river away from the swell, a rope was observed to be dragging astern of the casualty, this was the anchor rope with the anchor still attached. Coming alongside at the marina, the anchor took hold preventing the boats from berthing; however this was soon overcome and the casualty safely berthed along side.

Commenting on the rescue RNLI Second Coxswain John Wingfield said “To bring this operation to a safe conclusion required seamanship and teamwork of the highest order from all the crew of to save the life of the casualty in those conditions.”

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