Stranded Blackpool yacht saved minutes before crew in danger of drowning

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Coxswain Andrew McHaffie launched the rescue mission just in time, as if t had been 10 minutes later, there would have been ‘slim chance of survival’

 

Crew Al Sleet throws a heaving line to colleague Andy Hall on the yacht
Crew Al Sleet throws a heaving line to colleague Andy Hall on the yacht (Image: Lytham St Annes RNLI / Ben McGarry)

A rescue mission was launched to save a stranded 33ft yacht near Blackpool beach – with the vessel and crew saved minutes before their lives would have been in serious danger.

If it had been minutes later, there would have been a ‘slim chance of survival’ for the vessel and its crew, the RNLI has said.

The incident took place at around 11.43am last Friday (October 29).

After a sudden and violent squall passed through the Irish Sea area, the yacht asked the Holyhead Coastguard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre for help as they were unable to maintain a course or heading in the poor weather.

The Coastguard in turn requested the Lytham St Annes All-weather Lifeboat launch to assess the situation.

The station’s All-weather relief lifeboat was launched with Coxswain Andrew McHaffie in command and headed for the casualty’s position west of Lytham.

The lifeboat found the casualty off shore of Blackpool near the South Shore outfall pipe. The yacht was being forced by wind and sea ever closer to the surf line which would have risked the loss of the vessel and crew.

One crew member had a bruised arm when she had been thrown about by the violent motion of the vessel and could not leave the cabin. The other crew member was steering and tethered in the cockpit and unable to rig a tow line as a result.

Lytham St Annes Lifeboat approaches the yacht
Lytham St Annes Lifeboat approaches the yacht

Coxswain McHaffie realised the urgent need to get the yacht away from the rapidly approaching surf on the shore line so, despite the heavy seas running, skilfully placed the starboard shoulder of the lifeboat alongside the port side of the yacht, long enough for crew member Andy Hall to leap between the two vessels to assist the two people onboard.

Lifeboat crew member Al Sleet then threw a heaving line perfectly across to Andy Hall who quickly connected a tow line from the lifeboat and checked the man and woman onboard were uninjured apart from the lady’s bruising.

While this was going on the casualty vessel had drifted a mile nearer the shore so it was good timing and excellent seamanship from the Lifeboat Crew to have the yacht under tow at the first attempt.

Coxswain Andrew McHaffie
Coxswain Andrew McHaffie (Image: RNLI/David Forshaw)

With no safe mooring being available at Lytham in the poor conditions, the Lytham St Annes lifeboat towed the yacht northwards to the Wyre Estuary.

Meanwhile, the Lytham St Annes Lifeboat headed for home, arriving to be recovered on North Beach near the Thursby Home at 5.15pm.

The volunteer crew and shore crew were then free to set off for their homes or work at around 6.45pm after the dramatic and taxing rescue which had seen them at sea for five hours.

Speaking of the incident, Coxswain Andrew McHaffie later said: “The yacht was being forced by wind and sea towards the Blackpool beach and if we had not managed to connect the tow they would have been in the surf line in about 10 minutes with a slim chance of survival in those conditions.”