'A boat's replaceable. Lives are not': Lerwick crew jump into action

On last week’s episode of Saving Lives at Sea we saw crew from Lerwick Lifeboat Station rescue the lives of five fishermen off a remote archipelago in Shetland. You can read about the rescue here…
Arriving at Lerwick Harbour: Lifeboat crew assist the fishermen off the lifeboat

Photo: Shetland News/Chris Cope

The pager goes off: Ocean Way is taking on water

Pagers for Lerwick crew members went off just before 7am on Friday 3 March and crew members raced to the lifeboat station.

A Lerwick-registered fishing trawler Ocean Way was taking on water 10 miles east of Out Skerries – a small cluster of islands 23 miles off Lerwick. The Norwegian fish carrier Gerda Saele was already there lending a hand with a salvage pump, but it was clear that one wasn’t going to be enough.

At 7.15am Lerwick lifeboat crew launched their Severn class lifeboat Michael and Jane Vernon to meet Ocean Way, with a salvage pump that had been tested, packed and ready to go. When the lifeboat arrived just after 8am the Coastguard helicopter Rescue 900 was on scene too.

‘I’ve never seen a boat sink that quickly’

When the crew arrived the trawler wasn’t too low in the water, so two crew members were transferred to the trawler with the pump. But it wasn’t long before they realised that two pumps weren’t going to do the job either – water was coming in fast.

The Coastguard helicopter had another pump, so Coxswain Alan Tarby pulled the lifeboat away from the trawler to receive it. Just as they were about to get it onboard the fishing crew announced they were preparing to abandon ship, then their radio cut out.

Alan says: ‘I’ve never seen a boat sink that quickly. One minute she looked fine but, as soon as they stopped her, she went quick. The water must have surged forward - that can do a lot of damage. It went from a manageable situation to a disaster in seconds.’

All five of the fishermen and the two lifeboat crew members jumped in the water and were hauled onboard the lifeboat. Ocean Way sank soon after.

‘They must have been in shock’

Speaking about the rescue, Alan said: ‘It was about 6ºC in that water. Luckily they were hardy, fit people – tough fishermen. A couple of them were very quiet though, they must have been in shock. We checked them over and gave them dry clothes and warm drinks.’

The lifeboat, her crew and all the fishermen arrived safely in Lerwick Harbour at 9.45am and were met by local paramedics. Once the survivors had been given the all-clear, a group of RNLI volunteers refuelled the lifeboat and made her ready for service again.

Saving Lives at Sea is on tonight

This is just one rescue that has featured on the TV series Saving Lives at Sea – to see more, don’t forget to tune in to Saving Lives at Sea tonight (Tuesday 29 August) at 8pm on BBC Two.

Please tell your friends and family about the TV series and use the hashtag #SavingLivesAtSea when spreading the word to your social media networks. You can watch the rescue in this video: