The crew had just finished the regular Thursday evening training exercise and the lifeboats had just been cleaned and returned to the lifeboat station, when the alarm was raised that a small yacht with two people on board was stranded in light winds with engine failure between Ilfracombe and Watermouth Cove.
The volunteer crew quickly re-launched the D class inshore lifeboat (ILB) just before 8.00 p.m. and made their way out of the harbour in good conditions and calm seas. The lifeboat quickly spotted the vessel off-shore and made best speed towards it arriving on scene just 10 minutes later. On reaching the yacht, RNLI Volunteer Helm, Gillian Cole, contacted the two people onboard who had raised the alarm. The couple had bought the yacht only 3 months before and the engine had been recently serviced, however problems with the gears meant they were unable to make way in the light winds.
ILB crew member Sophie Braund and probationary crew member Kim Jeffs rigged a line for a stern tow and crew member Stuart Carpenter jumped aboard the yacht to secure the line to the casualty vessel. The ILB with the three female crew then towed the yacht to the entrance to Watermouth Harbour, where the vessel was then rigged alongside the ILB and taken into the harbour where it was safely secured to its mooring. This was the first time for Ilfracombe RNLI that an all female crew had towed a vessel on a shout and only the second shout for probationary crew member Kim Jeffs.
RNLI Volunteer crew Helm Gillian Cole says, ‘the yacht’s crew did the right thing in calling for help once they knew they had a problem. Mechanical failure is the single biggest cause of rescue call outs to sailing and motor cruisers, accounting for nearly 20% of all the RNLI lifeboat launches. At this time of year especially, we would suggest that after a boat has been out of the water for a long period of time over the winter, boat owners should run an engine test before undertaking their first trip to make sure all is well.’