Visibility was good, with a gusty SSE wind blowing out to sea and sea conditions choppy with the occasional squall.
The first call for help at 10:56am came when HM Coastguard notified us about the fishing vessel ‘Unity’ that had broken away from its moorings off Victoria Road, New Brighton and had drifted out on the outgoing tide towards the Burbo Bank wind farm and was currently in the custody of a fishing vessel ‘Discovery’ with 11 people on board.
It turned out that the ‘Discovery’ had fouled its propeller when attempting to tow the runaway, so she moored in position and continued fishing while the Merseyside Marine Fire and Rescue craft ‘Marine Fire 1’ was called to assist them.
When we reached the scene we put one of our crew on board the ‘Unity’ and took her in tow and returned her to her mooring off New Brighton.
Senior Helmsman Dave Lowe in charge of New Brighton’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat B-837 ‘Charles Dibdin’ commented ‘ It may have sounded a straightforward towing job however the ebb tide combined with a SSE head wind on our return to the river made the tow slow going and recovery to the mooring tricky. We put two crew on board for this stage of the operation and teamwork won the day. It was fortunate that ‘Unity’ did not run aground or carried on drifting as it could have been a real hazard to other sea going traffic’.
The lifeboat returned to base, was washed down and refuelled and the crew had just headed home when the next call came in at 14:24.
The report we received at the time from HM Coastguard was rather hazy and we were asked to investigate a possible yacht in trouble with engine failure in the vicinity of the Q8 buoy in the North Queens channel area about 9 miles out from Liverpool.
The Coastguard had received a Pan-Pan message which is a lower priority assistance request, compared to May-Day, and indicates an urgent situation but not immediately life threatening. Unfortunately the radio communications were very poor and difficult to ascertain much information from the casualties initial call and its actual location.
Our lifeboat went into action again and headed for the area that it was thought the casualty was located.
With Dave Lowe on board for the second time that day he reported’ When we reached the area we headed for the last known position and after quite a search eventually found the vessel a 7.5 metre yacht with a large keel north of Taylors Bank and heading towards the revetment wall and over an area of shallow water. Had we not reached the yacht when we did and it had carried on with the same course it would have inevitably gone aground within a short time. It would have been a real headache rescuing the crew especially in the prevailing conditions.’
It turned out that the yacht had been out for a day’s sail from Liverpool Marina with 5 people on board and was on its return journey. They had felt a large bang from the engine which had shaken the whole vessel. Thereafter the engine had lost power and become intermittent and could make not make any headway against the ebb tide and head wind. Two of the people on board were suffering from sea sickness and all were cold and tired.
Crewman Steve Hughes went on board the yacht to assist with the tow and communications. The tow took quite a while as we could make only 6 knots against the ebb tide and head wind and occasional squalls. Eventually a mooring at New Brighton was reached and the yacht secured and the lifeboat returned to base at 17:50.
The yacht’s skipper stayed on board while we took the rest of the crew to the lifeboat station too warm up and await a taxi to Liverpool Marina. The intention was that ‘Marine Fire 1’ would get the yacht to Liverpool Marina later that evening with the incoming tide.
Lifeboat Operations Manager Graham Sale commented ‘ This turned out a long day for our volunteers, not forgetting the backup teams at base, but especially for our lifeboat crew of the day as 3 of them had been on both rescues. Fortunately the yacht didn’t run aground but its does highlight the importance of local knowledge, top notch communications, suitable clothing and equipment for the worst conditions.’
On Sunday the station was in operation again but this time hosting 25 children and their parents for our Storm Force Day which is the RNLI’s junior club. We gave them an insight into what we do and how we do it plus seeing out lifeboat in action with man overboard and rescue demonstrations plus a good look at our hovercraft close up.