Eastbourne’s all-weather lifeboat was launched at 21.00 on Sunday evening (26 Aug) in challenging conditions to assist a disabled 18 metre fully laden fishing vessel which had got into difficulties.
The drama had started earlier in the day when the fishing trawler got entangled in its own gear 20 miles offshore in the English Channel. A fellow beam trawler managed to tow the disabled vessel clear of the shipping lanes into British waters but worsening sea conditions and lack of specialist equipment finally proved unsustainable and help was requested from HM Coastguard. The volunteer crew of Eastbourne lifeboat were paged and tasked to assist. The tow was taken over from the beam trawler some 8 miles offshore. With a fully laden draft close to 5 metres and weighing 240 tonnes and unable to anchor, a decision had to be made as to which deep water port the stricken vessel could be taken. Initially Dover was selected but even with the awesome power of the Tamar class lifeboat battling a four metre swell in approaching gale force winds only two knots of speed was being achieved. After consultation with HM Coastguard, the trawler skipper and deputy lifeboat Coxswain Dave Needham it was decided heading in a westerly direction would gain a slight advantage using prevailing weather conditions. Shoreham was selected and the long and difficult tow started. Making just 3 knots the convoy slowly covered the 22 miles to a position off Ovingdean where Shoreham lifeboat liaised and took over the tow for the final few miles. The Eastbourne crew finally returned to their home port at 06.00 on Monday morning.