Library Photo: New Brighton Hovercraft H-005 Hurley Spirit returning to New Brighton shore with large amphibious vehicle mentioned in text
Author: Bob Warwick
Just before 10pm last night [Wed 8th June] HM Coastguard reported that two unconnected fisherman were lost in fog off from the Wirral Coast somewhere between Harrison Drive and Leasowe Bay.
New Brighton’s hovercraft H-005 Hurley Spirit was launched following liaison with HM Coastguard team to formulated a search strategy. The thick fog had developed very quickly and the two fisherman had lost their bearings plus they were in different locations somewhere along the coast.
In this area the tide goes out a long way exposing large areas of sand and mud banks. High tide was 2:30am at Liverpool and it rapidly sweeps in down gullies and channels and cuts off and then covers the outer sandbanks several hours beforehand. Time was of the essence in finding and recovering the fisherman.
The hovercraft with a very experienced crew started the search, maintaining a written navigation log supported by hand held compass bearings. If the electronic system on board failed then a backup was in place, sensible under these conditions. The hovercraft stopped at regular intervals and the Coastguard team was in touch by mobile phone with the first fisherman and relayed whether or not he could hear the engine or see any lights of the hovercraft. Visibility had dropped to less than 60 metres and after repeating the search and stop routine the fisherman eventually saw the hovercraft lights and heard the engine, the location at this time was approximately one mile out from Harrison Drive.
He was requested to head towards the lights and he was carrying a torch, a very relieved and shaken fisherman with his gear was subsequently loaded onto the hovercraft at 10:40pm and he was taken to the embankment by the Derby Pool pub/restaurant, in itself a tricky operation due to darkness and the poor visibility plus many hazards in the area.
Information from Coastguard indicated that fisherman two was in shallow water and struggling through mud in the area around Leasowe Island groyne which is about 21/2 miles west of Harrison Drive. The hovercraft then headed for this area, meanwhile Coastguards were sounding vehicle sirens and asking the fisherman to head in the direction of the sounds. On reaching the Leasowe Island area the hovercraft crew were informed that the fisherman, also very relieved, had been found a short distance from the embankment and was being escorted back to land.
The hovercraft was stood down and headed back to Harrison Drive, even this was not straightforward as a large amphibious vehicle was parked near to our unlit launch / recovery point and great care was needed in the poor visibility to ensure this was avoided.
The hovercraft finally returned just after 11pm for wash down, check over and refuelling.
Snr Hovercraft Commander Graham Lowe in charge of the hovercraft commented ‘Tonight’s call out was very challenging and all the crews experience and training contributed to a successful outcome. Top class piloting by Commander Tim Weare was complimented by the various skills of Commander Mike Jones, Crewmen Andy Liston and Simon Kelly. A further compliment must go to the local Coastguard team as this was a combined operation with both organisations working seamlessly to achieve the common goal. We very rarely get called out to assist coastal fisherman and in this case the two fishermen did the right thing and alerted the emergency services as soon as it was clear that they were in trouble. ‘
Lifeboat Operations Manager Graham Sale commented ‘Well done to all involved and a potential tragedy was avoided and again our hovercraft came into it own. Just a reminder if you are going fishing off shore don’t forget to take a hand compass, fully charged mobile phone and torch, they can all make a difference when conditions change unexpectedly and even the most experienced can caught out. When you realise there is a real problem the sooner the emergency services are alerted the better’.