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A Fishing Vessel

Scottish crews out in numbers Ravaged by remnants of the hurricane season, the British Isles were soaked and windswept in late summer 2004. At the end of one of the wettest Augusts on record, the rough sea conditions off the northern tip of Scotland had reached a climax: 12m waves and storm force winds. On 27 August, Lerwick, Kirkwall, Longhope,Thurso and Wick lifeboat crews were all called into action.

Dr Tony Trickett, Lifeboat Operations Manager of Longhope lifeboat station, remembers: 'I can say that this was the highest force of wind to launch in since i became honorary secretary ten years ago.' The Longhope lifeboat had been called into action in atrocious weather to help a stricken yacht in shallow water, dangerously near to rocks. It was a tough rescue, made all the more challenging by the conditions.

Dr Trickett adds: Thankfully the crew are trained to cope with these conditions and they were able to rescue the three people aboard the vessel.' On the same dayThurso lifeboat was called into action when the Norwegian vessel Arn0ytrans requested assistance due to a rudder problem.The casualty had hit trouble in the middle of the Pentland Firth, an area in which the waters of the Atlantic meet those of the North Sea. The resulting tide race is named the Merry Men of Maybut there was nothing merry about the high winds and massive, confused seas faced by the Thurso crew. 'The conditions were quite horrendous - the worst I have been in since being with the RNLI,1 says Duncan 'Dougie' Munro,Thurso's second coxswain.

Mechanic Billy Miller, also on the crew that day, remembers: 'The waves were at least 12m in height. The wind was 80-90 miles an hour, and was going against the tide.' At one point, the Thurso lifeboat took a lot of water from one side and the crew got washed off their feet. Billy adds: 'These are some of the most notorious waters in the world.The adrenalin runs through you. You have to respect the sea, and there is an element of fear, but the boat performed very well.'The grateful Norwegian crew were taken ashore.The day of rescues had begun in the early hours when the Lerwick Lifeboat Operations Manager, lanTulloch, received a call from the Coastguard at 1.45am - a yacht had dragged her anchor and run aground at the northern part of the harbour.

The Lerwick crew launched at 2.02am.

Within a quarter of an hour they had reached the yacht and a lifeboatman took a pump aboard. Once water had been pumped out of the casualty, she was towed to safety.

Ian says:'The wind was force 9-10 and the water was really choppy, even in the harbour.' Later, at 7.47am, the Wick lifeboat crew launched to a fishing vessel that was drifting onto the rocks. The lifeboat towed in the casualty along with the two crew members.

Another fishing vessel was brought to safety soon after-this time Kirkwall crew members launched to assist a boat that hadsuffered engine failure. The problems were caused simply by the adverse sea conditions, and the casualty was dragging her anchor.

This day of dramatic rescues underlined just how important it is that RNLI crews are on hand. Sea Safety Adviser in Scotland Michael Avril says:'RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews in the north of Scotland were very busy helping vessels caught up in the severe weather. We appeal to all sea goers to check the weather forecast before setting out.

'Anyone who does venture out should ensure they have all the appropriate safety equipment and, if they find themselves in trouble, contact the Coastguard straight away.

We have all seen what damage the weather can cause, which is why the RNLI feels it is important to make sure people are aware of the dangers.'.