Volunteers from Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat station have been at sea for 19 hours in a dramatic rescue mission after a former fishing boat started taking on water 126 miles off the north east coast.
The alarm was raised at 6am on Tuesday by the lone skipper of the Louise Thomsen, a decommissioned Danish trawler which he was sailing singlehanded from Denmark to Sunderland.
Humber Coastguard immediately tasked Coastguard rescue helicopter 912 from Humberside airport which raced to the stricken vessel. The helicopter crew winched a crewman down along with a pump and this action managed to stem the water ingress.
With the danger of the vessel sinking averted the helicopter remained on station for an hour assisting the skipper in pumping the vessel out.
The trawler’s engine was not operating well but its position was logged by the Coastguard so it was decided that as the skipper was in no immediate danger the helicopter could leave him, and it returned to base via a refuelling stop at Newcastle airport.
Four and a half hours after setting off at maximum speed (25 knots or nearly 30 mph) the lifeboat reached the position where the Louise Thomsen was expected to be but found no trace of her. The crew started a search and Humber Coastguard tasked Coastguard Rescue helicopter 912 back to the scene. The helicopter crew thankfully managed to contact the vessel by radio and got his position, and an RAF Sentry airborne early warning aircraft also joined the search, pinpointing the trawler’s Automatic Identification System transmissions.
Once they found her the lifeboat Coxswain assessed the situation and decided to tow her back to safety and place a crew member on board to assist the skipper. Sea conditions were poor and the lifeboat crew had to launch the small inflatable Y-class lifeboat carried on board the all weather lifeboat to transfer the crewman to the trawler. Once he was on board the tow rope was thrown to him and he made it secure. The lifeboat then set off on the long, slow tow back to Sunderland, which took 12 hours but went without further incident.
This rescue, 110 nautical miles, or 126 land miles, breaks the record for the furthest out to sea any RNLI lifeboat has ever been on service. The previous was 98nm in 1985. The service took the Severn class lifeboat almost to the edge of its operational range, with just 800 litres of fuel remaining, which is enough for just 90 minutes steaming at full speed.
Lifeboat: 17-20 Spirit of Northumberland
Pictures by Mark Taylor.