A PAGER alarm call brought an abrupt end to Christmas Day celebrations for several of Fishguard RNLI’s crew members. A yacht en-passage from Porthmadog to Cardiff had made VHF radio contact with HM Coastguard requesting urgent assistance.
The 30-foot yacht ‘Sheena‘ was failing to make any headway on its route south as it battled the very demanding sea conditions. The two yachtsmen aboard – and their dog – were becoming overwhelmed as daylight failed and winds they were heading into began to strengthen.
Fishguard RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat launched at 4.00pm with a full complement of volunteer crew after the Coastguard’s request to do so and sped to the yachts reported position some 35 miles north-north-east of Fishguard. Once on scene attempts were made to attach a towline but the dark and appalling conditions rendered this impossible as the two yachtsmen were incapacitated and unable to assist the lifeboat crew.
Brave volunteer crewman Ben John, the hero of the day, was then skillfully transferred onto the yacht and managed to establish the towline onto the bow of the heaving yacht and the lifeboat then commenced the demanding tow towards the coast in the hope of obtaining a degree of shelter from the worsening conditions.
At the time, now nearing 8.00pm, the seas were very rough with 50 knot wind strengths being recorded. The stricken yacht began to take on water and the decision was made by the lifeboat’s Coxswain Paul Butler to head for Newquay harbour. Newquay RNLI were contacted by HM Coastguard and their in-shore lifeboat came out to rendezvous with the Fishguard lifeboat and in the more sheltered waters of the harbour the yacht was able to make its own way to a safe anchorage under Newquay RNLI’s escort. Once all was well the Fishguard lifeboat headed out to sea once again and pounded its way back home, arriving at 11.00pm.
Coxswain Paul Butler had nothing but praise for his crew. He told The Herald: ‘I am very proud of the dedication shown by our crew this Christmas. They left family, hearth and home at this special time of the year and were all willing to head into the middle of Cardigan Bay, in failing light and rough sea conditions, to go to the assistance of two yachtsmen in danger. The crew train and train, week after week, and never fail to come up with the goods when required. This Christmas Day they were exceptional in very demanding conditions. I would also like to convey our thanks to our Newquay colleagues for their invaluable assistance and support.’