At sea things can go wrong very quickly, as Barry Dock and Penarth lifeboat crews found out on 12th June

Kath Fisher couldn’t sleep. Tossing and turning, she thought: ‘Is this an omen that something’s about to happen?’. At 1.15am her lifeboat pager went off.

Volunteers all around Penarth and Barry Dock shook themselves awake and headed for their lifeboat stations. It was a Mayday call; an emergency at sea where life is at risk – a fishing boat, with two onboard, was taking on water at a notorious local black spot off Lavernock Point.

Penarth crew were first on scene in their fast agile Atlantic 91 Class lifeboat and crew member Matt Church took a salvage pump onto the yacht to try and pump out the water before taking the yacht under tow. They’d be back home in bed in no time.

However luck was not on their side and the flooding quickly overwhelmed the salvage pumps capability and within a minute the yacht had sunk beneath them whilst still under tow, a very dangerous situation for the 2 fishermen, lifeboat crewman Matt and the crew of the towing lifeboat. Kath, aboard the Penarth lifeboat, quickly realised the danger and cut the tow rope enabling the lifeboat to do an immediate U turn to help the 3 people now in the water. It all happened so quickly that the two fishermen hadn’t had time to inflate their lifejackets so Matt, now a casualty himself, struggled to keep himself and the two others afloat. Kath, realising the situation jumped into the sea along with fellow crew member James King to support the casualties.

Within moments support thankfully arrived with the large well-equipped Barry Dock All-Weather Trent Class lifeboat “Inner Wheel II” along with a Coastguard Search & Rescue helicopter. Barry Dock lifeboat Coxswain Martin Bowmer immediately set off a flare illuminating the entire area supported by the massively bright helicopter searchlight. However the situation called on all his skill and experience in charge of the 18 tonne lifeboat as the three casualties had drifted into very rocky, shallow water. With only a metre of water beneath his keel in unpredictable coastline in pitch black seas he carefully used the Trent’s immense engines to keep his lifeboat steady allowing his crew to safely haul colleague Matt and fishermen Jason and Andy aboard. The immediate danger had passed and all 3 were taken into the Trent lifeboat’s wheelhouse to be warmed, reassured and assessed for injuries. Meanwhile Martin then turned the lifeboat around, powered up her twin diesel engines and headed back to Barry Dock to hand over the casualties to waiting Paramedics. By 2.30 am the emergency had passed enabling all the volunteer crew members to return to their stations on Penarth Esplanade and at Barry Dock respectively. After a detailed debriefing and a washing and checking of all boats and equipment both crews ‘Stood Down’ and civilian life returned with crews returning home to their much deserved beds.

Thankfully both fishermen received a clean-bill of

health by A&E staff.

This story is testament to the skill, dedication and training of the RNLI volunteer crews and the wonderful boats and equipment of the RNLI around the entire coastline of the UK and Ireland

Story summarised with kind permission of the RNLI from the ‘Lifeboat’ magazine issue 625, Autumn 2018. Credited to author Miréad Dane