My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
(Please note: Explanatory notes are in red.)
13th December 2008.
“An 11m (metre) sail training vessel with 7 PoB (persons on board)on a Yachtmaster course had left Eastbourne marina bound for Gosport in the morning (correct time was about 2pm) in what may be considered inappropriate weather conditions (SE 45 – 50 knots)(Winds had been Gale Force 9 or 10, 41-55 knots, in the morning but we estimated had diminished to Force 8, 35-40 knots by early afternoon).
Following telephone calls from concerned members of the public Dover CG (Coast Guard) had requested CG units to maintain a watch on the vessel as it proceeded along the coast. Just after dark at 16:50 the vessel put out a Mayday distress call on VHF channel 16 indicating they were 3 NM SSW (nautical miles south-south-west) of Newhaven and requested assistance due to adverse weather conditions and the vessel taking on water.
Our LOM (Lifeboat Operations Manager) was informed at 16:51 and the crew were paged at 16:53. The lifeboat left the side at 17:02 in a SE wind of 45 – 50 knots and encountered 5m seas at the breakwater end at low water on a spring tide. Best speed was made towards the last reported position of the vessel. When we discovered she was making for Brighton marina we immediately advised them that they would not be able to enter because of the extremely low tide and appalling weather conditions and that they should turn back towards Newhaven.
At 17:16 we requested that the casualty fired a red flare to assist in locating their position and the lifeboat was on scene at 17:24. We established that the casualty was managing to maintain the water level on board with constant bailing and as they did not wish to leave the vessel they requested that we escort them to safety. We deliberately made very slow progress towards Newhaven at 1 – 2 knots to wait for the tide to rise and the wind to decrease and swing to the west as predicted to allow the yacht to enter Newhaven safely. Newhaven VTS (Vessel Traffic Services) monitored the wind and sea conditions at the harbour entrance and kept us informed so that at 18:30 we knew the sea had moderated sufficiently. At 18:49 we escorted the yacht into the harbour and they went alongside a berth in the marina into the care of Newhaven CG at 18:58. The lifeboat was back alongside our berth at 19:00.”