On Friday 10 January 2020 at 18.41 New Quay RNLI’s Mersey class lifeboat,the Frank and Lena Clifford of Stourbridge was paged to assist a 16.5m commercial fishing vessel, approximately 17 miles north west of New Quay, in strong winds of force 6-8, rising to severe gale force 9 for a time.
In worsening weather conditions, the 100 ton whelker, with six persons on board, had suffered steering failure and was in need of assistance. New Quay’s all-weather lifeboat was tasked by Milford Haven Coastguard and launched with seven crew members on board. Due to the size of the vessel, and with severe weather expected, Fishguard RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat was also tasked.
Dan Potter, New Quay RNLI’s Coxswain recounts the shout in stormy conditions,
“We proceeded to the casualty position with an estimated time of arrival of just over an hour but, with the casualty vessel running with the weather, it was just after 8pm when we reached them. The weather conditions were extremely challenging but we quickly set up a tow line in very difficult conditions.
“We began the tow with Fishguard’s lifeboat standing by, alongside the casualty. We had discussed towing options and agreed that the safest course of action would be for New Quay’s lifeboat to complete the full 28 mile tow to Fishguard harbour.
“By midnight the conditions had worsened to a severe gale force 9. In uncomfortable seas, with spray limiting visibility, we relied heavily on our radar and AIS receivers.”
After entering Fishguard harbour at 2.35am, New Quay lifeboat transferred the tow to Fishguard RNLI’s Trent class lifeboat and, in difficult conditions, assisted Fishguard lifeboat in manoeuvring the vessel alongside the harbour wall. With the casualty and both lifeboats safely moored, the crews went ashore for a well-earned cup of tea.
With winds howling and seas building, it was decided that New Quay lifeboat and its crew would hole up in Fishguard for the night and return to New Quay in the morning. Having left Fishguard at 8.36am, the lifeboat arrived back in New Quay harbour at 10.35am, 16 hours after launching.
Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager added, “This was a gruelling task for the crew in some very challenging conditions. Throughout we were grateful to know that another all-weather lifeboat was in attendance and I’d like to thank both crews for their hard work during this tough shout.”