Three fishermen and their broken-down vessel were rescued last weekend by crews from the RNLI lifeboat station in Anstruther.
It was a case of ‘the best laid plans’ when the scenario had to take precedence over a pre-planned exercise at the East Neuk station on Friday evening.
The training session, for coxswain Michael Bruce and the volunteer crew, was scheduled for 6.30 p.m., but the pagers were activated around half an hour before that.
The all-weather lifeboat was being tasked to respond to the report of a fishing vessel with engine problems that was approximately 15 miles east of the Isle of May.
The vessel, out of the neighbouring harbour at Pittenweem, had a crew of three, and its skipper reported loss of power from the engine with no means of propulsion.
Fortunately, weather and sea conditions, coupled with the extensive area of sea room around the vessel, provided some stability to the situation, as the journey time to the casualty for the Anstruther ALB ‘Kingdom of Fife’ was just over one hour.
Michael Bruce and his team made their way as quickly as possible to the casualty and, arrived on scene shortly after 7.00 p.m.
Two of the Anstruther crew, both fishermen themselves and familiar with fishing boat engines, were transferred to the stricken fishing vessel in a co-ordinated effort of boat handling and “puppeteering”, with the transferring crewmen held safely and securely on lifelines, managed by their crewmates, until the moment was just right for them to make the leap between the two vessels.
A tow was established and the ALB headed back to Pittenweem, making little more than six knots and a potential journey time of three hours, while the two transferred crewmen set about assisting the fishermen in their efforts to get their engine running.
During the passage, the fishing vessel engine was started, but could not be relied upon and the tow was maintained.
Around 10.00 p.m., and in the approaches to Pittenweem Harbour, this routine service took a turn for the worse when the crewmen reported the fishing vessel was now taking on water fast.
Pumps were put in place and the ALB diverted to nearby Anstruther, where the fishing vessel could be beached for repair, with the Anstruther Inshore Lifeboat being launched to assist in manoeuvring the fishing vessel under tow on to the beach.
The mission was concluded around 11.30 p.m., with the fishing vessel safely on the beach and the Anstruther Lifeboats re-housed and ready for their next challenge.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea.
The Anstruther station and its crew are part of a 24-hour search and rescue service across the UK and Republic of Irelandinvolving over 230 stations.
Additionally, the RNLI has more than 1000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the Britain.