Author: Bob Warwick
Escorting giants in the Mersey, a ceremony to scatter ashes, rescue 10 fisherman in 3 incidents with 5 engine failures, socialising with a dalek, crew being towed by Lilliputian tugs, all in a Sundays work at New Brighton lifeboat station.
Sunday 27th July started brightly, many thousands of people came to Liverpool and Wirral to watch the visiting giants sail away at noon as the grand finale to their visit to the city. In New Brighton the Wallasey Model Boat Society were holding their annual fundraising day on behalf of the lifeboat station. The plan for the day for our relief Atlantic 85 lifeboat B-870 John & Louisa Fisher and crew was to start with a scattering of ashes ceremony off the sea wall at New Brighton to be followed by providing part of the safety net in the River Mersey for the departure of the giants. A demonstration of the lifeboats capability would follow off the sea wall at New Brighton for those visiting the model boat show followed by recovery and making the lifeboat available for close viewing at the model boat show. Two volunteers would also be towed round the boating lake by model tugs.
Needless to say things did not quite go to plan! Senior Helmsman Dave Lowe in charge of the lifeboat takes up the story ‘ We launched and conducted the scattering of ashes ceremony which was appreciated by the relatives of the deceased watching from the New Brighton shore. When we arrived off the Pier Head at Liverpool all we could see was a mass of people all along the sea wall, it was quite a spectacle. Our role was to provide a quick response should anyone end up in the River. Fortunately non did and we were able to enjoy the event and also the appreciation we received from the crowds.’
He continued ‘ Towards the end of the event at 12:30 over the radio came the message that a vessel was in difficulty and in a hazardous situation off the embankment in Leasowe Bay. With this our plans for the day changed completely. Although fairly calm in the river as we approached New Brighton the sea became choppy resulting in an exhilarating ride to Leasowe Bay plus an overheating warning light started showing for our port engine and it began running intermittently. We found the casualty a 4.5 ton 7.5 metre fishing vessel, with a crew of four, anchor down and with engine failure almost on the embankment wall not far from Leasowe Lighthouse. The tide was just turning and the vessel in very shallow water and likely to be grounded very soon. We had difficulty in getting in close without damaging the lifeboat. Fortunately we had been followed to the scene by one of our Wirral s beach lifeguards on a jetski who was able to get a line for us onto the vessel. The anchor rope was cut and although one of our engines was overheating we had to take the chance and use both to tow it into deeper water and safety which we did with minutes to spare. This we did and in view of the sea conditions, the weight of the craft and our one good engine we asked for the assistance of Hoylake’s lifeboat Lady of Hilbre to take the vessel in tow to a suitable mooring in Tranmere as it was too heavy for those off New Brighton. When the Lady of Hilbre arrived we took one of their crew on board our lifeboat and transferred him to the fishing vessel and they took over the tow with us as escort. The vessel eventually reached the mooring at Tranmere and we returned to base at around 5pm.’
The planned demonstration at the model boat show had to be cancelled however we were able to facilitate the towing of a small dinghy by tiny tugs around the model boating lake with two of our crew on board and escorted by a very fine model lifeboat. While at the show our crew socialised with a dalek was wandering around asking for donations to the RNLI as an alternative to being exterminated which did seem somewhat out of character but appreciated non the less. The models on display and in action on the lake ranged from a wide selection of lifeboats to a classic Mersey Ferries and even a model of the African Queen. With raffles, boat sales and lots more they raised a magnificent £700 for the lifeboat station.
To finish the day were involved in two further rescues the first instigated by our hawk eyed crewman and tractor driver Mike Jones who raised the alarm at 6:30pm when he spotted a small fishing vessel that appeared in difficulty about 700 metres out from Marine Point. This had a crew of three and had suffered engine failure of their main engine and auxiliary back up. While that craft was being recovered at Victoria slipway, New Brighton a further call for help came when a jetskier told us of another fishing vessel with engine failure. This 17ft craft had a crew of three as well and was located in mid river off from slipway. Our own engine difficulty from earlier in the day did not manifest itself but further testing will be required.
Lifeboat Operations Manager Graham Sale commented ‘ It turned out quite a day for our volunteers both those on the water and shore based. This followed on from last nights rescue of a fishing boat which ran on till 1:30am. The common cause of late has been engine failure and we cannot stress highly enough the need to ensure proper maintenance is carried out on both main engines and auxiliary back ups, these need regular checking before going to sea. Enough fuel with a good safety margin is needed for any journey. We ourselves proved that you can have an unexpected problem but the ability to deal with it is the key. If you do find yourself in difficulty its tempting to try and struggle on. Don’t wait too long to call for assistance as failure to do this can result in compounding the problem, especially for your rescuers, as you can end up at the mercy of the weather, tides and shoreline. Don’t forget the means to summon help and remain safe the vhf radio, emergency flares, spare clothing, spare food and of course wear your lifejackets’
A final comment was made by station Chairman Tony Jones ‘ Without the fundraising support of organisations like the Wallasey Model Boat Society and the generosity of the public as a charity we could not do what we do. A big thank you to all for your efforts.