New Brighton & Southport lifeboats rescue yacht crew stranded in dangerous surf

New Brighton lifeboat tows in Yacht

Lifeboats News Release 11/07/2015

  • Author: Bob Warwick

RNLI New Brighton’s lifeboat was launched at 17:30 to the report of a yacht with three crew that were stranded in heavy surf off from Altcar beach on the Sefton shore.

Before radio communication were lost between HM Coastguard and the yacht ‘Merlin’ they had been informed them they were in serious danger and as a result they launched ourselves and scrambled the Coastguard helicopter. The exact position of the yacht was difficult to determine, the yacht crew were having engine problems and had the intention of beaching the craft on the Formby shore.

Dave Lowe, Senior Helmsman at New Brighton in charge of the Atlantic 85 B-837 Charles Dibdin takes up the story “ Although conditions at New Brighton were fairly calm when we launched it was a different matter when we eventually found the yacht stranded on Taylor’s Bank, a large sandbank to the north of the Crosby Channel. The yacht was being pounded by heavy surf on the incoming tide and we could only get about 100 metres from them as the water was too shallow. With no radio communications between us and too far for shouts to be heard we requested that the helicopter to should collect anyone who ended up in the sea. We learned that Southport’s independent lifeboat was also on the way.”

He continued “After about 20 minutes or so we thought we had enough depth of water to get close to the yacht, our echo sounder was not registering so we utilised the boat hook to check depth and slowly moved in. We learned that the crew of three who were sheltering inside the yacht were cold but otherwise OK. With great difficulty we managed to get our crewman Tim Weare on board the 8 ton yacht. Their crew had put down anchors to try and stabilise the situation but the yacht was rising and falling about 10ft and bottoming out when falling. Large waves crashed over both craft and at one point Tim Weare was nearly washed overboard from the deck of the yacht. It was impossible to recover the anchors so the lines were cut and we took the yacht in tow and into deeper water. Meanwhile the Coastguard Helicopter had arrived as had the Southport lifeboat. Had anyone ended up in the sea then rescue by either craft would be efficient while we continued with the tow. With Southport as escort we towed it to New Brighton and our awaiting beach crew where we were going to ground the yacht on the beach. I am very proud of my crew, they did a great job in difficult and very dangerous conditions.”

Meanwhile at New Brighton where our tractor and launch trailer were waiting the return of the lifeboat a contingency of emergency services, fire, ambulance, police and coastguard arrived on the beach and a large crowd assembled in addition the helicopter called out for our rescue appeared overhead. There had been a report that a person was in the water off from New Brighton. This turned out to be a false alarm as what had been spotted was a monitoring buoy with a flag on it anchored in the channel. In the lighting conditions prevalent and from the shore it could be mistaken for someone in the water, a canoe or possibly someone on a surf board, still better safe than sorry.

The yacht with the help of both lifeboats, our beach crew and rig manoeuvred the yacht onto the beach with the tide almost full in, pumped out the water and secured it with anchors. The intention was that the yacht crew could then carry out running repairs the following day.

The 83 year old 8 ton yacht was on its way to Rhyl when it had suffered with an overheating engine that caused it to cut out and all power was lost plus it was taking on water but fortunately their pump managed to cope.

Southport’s lifeboat headed for home and our lifeboat returned to base for checking over, washing down and refuelling. Just after 9 pm our exhausted crew finally were able to head for their long planned and well earned BBQ.

Graham Sale, Lifeboat Operations Manager at New Brighton overseeing the rescue from shore commented “ This was a long, difficult and dangerous job for all involved and great credit goes to the seamless working between all the agencies involved and in particular between ourselves and Southport’s crew and the Crosby Coastguard team who had eyes on the scene and did a first class job with communications relay. Full credit also to our beach crew and tractor drivers who did a sterling job getting the yacht safely to shore and secured “

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