RNLI battles Storm Arwen for 18 hours to rescue six fishermen

A lifeboat crew from Tynemouth battled six-metre waves in storm force conditions at the weekend during Storm Arwen to rescue six fishermen on a 100-tonne fishing vessel.

The 14-metre fishing vessel had suffered total engine failure in the midst of the storm 70 miles out to sea. Drifting helplessly, a call for help was made and the Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat launched.

Tynemouth RNLI Coxswain, Michael Nugent, who has been with the RNLI for 36 years says: “These are some of the worst conditions I’ve been out in.”

Storm Arwen battered the UK coastline last weekend with the RNLI now releasing footage of Dunbar RNLI, which was also out in the horrendous conditions of Storm Arwen as it moved the lifeboat from its floating mooring to safety inside the harbour. The video gives a great insight into what some of the RNLI volunteers faced over the weekend.

In Tynemouth, the RNLI lifeboat launched into darkness at 8.45pm in a bid to rescue to stranded fishermen on the stricken vessel.

“As we launched, we were in huge swells with a rise and fall of six metres with waves breaking on the deck of the lifeboat. We knew we needed to travel a long distance to the vessel, but I also needed to keep the rest of my crew safe.”

After four-and-a-half hours battling huge seas and in total darkness the lifeboat reached the fishing vessel. With no safe option to take the crew onboard the lifeboat and a risk of other shipping colliding with the broken-down vessel, the safest option was to tow the fishing boat and her crew to safety.

Nugent says: “It was rough, squalls were coming through, but we needed to get close enough to get a line across. The rise and fall between the two boats caused by the waves added a challenge. One second, I was looking up at a huge fishing vessel, the next moment I was looking down on it.”

With the tow secured, the long 70-mile tow back to Tynemouth started.

Nugent adds: “It was an uncomfortable journey home, and even the toughest of lifeboat volunteers can succumb to the elements. I had a great bunch onboard that night and they all did great.”

With Storm Arwen hitting hardest on the coast in the north-east of England and Scotland, lifeboats from Montrose and Arbroath were also out in the horrendous conditions. The two lifeboats escorted an 82-metre coaster dragging its anchor in 65mph winds to safety after launching just before midnight on Friday.

Arbroath Lifeboat coxswain, Sam Clow says: “That was a wild night, one not to forget any time soon.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

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