Beep beeeeep beeep, where is the damn thing? BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP, there it is… LAUNCH ALB. Out of bed, clothes on, keys located and out the house, arriving at the boathouse third in the door, I grab my gear. Information coming in is that a 29ft yacht with one person aboard, is 1 mile offshore having grounded somewhere on a nearby peninsula.
Seven crew launch the boarding boat, I pull the trailer up the slipway, the tide is pretty high, but I’ve no real idea what time it is, I err on it still flooding. Someone tells me it is 2.06am. Helmets on… Our coxswain is talking to me, I can see it, but I can’t hear a word. Turns out he is saying your new helmets still have the ear plugs in them, take them out if you can’t hear! Jobs allocated and I’m on deck duties tonight, yippee!
Straight to the foredeck to get the mooring ready to drop. It is a still evening, calm with no wind and the moon providing just enough light to see and feel my way around. By the time the engines are on and someone asks if we need deck lights the job is already done and all that is left is to kick the release pin once the coxswain is ready.
“Right oh” we are ready, I kick the pin, clunk clunk splosh, clunk clunk clunk the chain is over the bow roller and we are away. It is a beautiful night, Orion is making his appearance over the south eastern horizon, the winter stars are coming. Canis major, Auriga, Draco, Cygnus all hanging overhead, so bright and close you could reach out and touch them. I’m happy I’m not at the nav desk in the wheelhouse tonight.
We can see the casualty vessel, comms indicate he is not taking on water but his engine won’t start and he’s not sure if there is damage to the prop. We have two crew members on their first shout with us this evening. One of them a sailor and Yachtmaster, he is also wearing the drysuit from launching, it makes sense to transfer him to the casualty. He’s keen!
Three of us prep the aft deck and set up the towline. It was a super smooth operation, having drilled this only two nights ago on exercise, with these exact crew not a word was needed between us, every item required was prepared and we are good to go. I put the loud hailer into the hands of the other new crew and all that training of loud hailing the seagulls is now paying off in real time
Fenders out, towline rigged, crew man ready to jump, our coxswain brings us alongside the yacht, it’s still a bit of a gap, our crew man realises “in mid air” just how big the gap was! Luckily he has long legs and a dinghy sailing background, he makes it. We are so organised that I manage to put the heaving line in his hand as he boards. He’s on the case and gets the bridle hooked up to the bow cleats in no time at all. Damn we are looking pro tonight!
We settle in at 4 knots for what will be around a 50 minute trip home, 50 minutes of enjoying this beautiful evening aaah, I’m in heaven gazing at the heavens, there is enough light from the moon that at 3am you can easily make out the horizon, oh for a sextant right now.
Comms are established with our man on the yacht and we are using all the correct and proper etiquette with technical phrases like “tickety boo, flower” and “marvellous petal”, we are all quietly happy to be out here tonight. “Can we drop this fella off and go out for another lap” I enquire.
Closer to the harbour and it is time to shorten the tow, which again happens with smooth coordination, in a few short minutes we have the yacht secure alongside and we’re harbour bound.
The plan now is to pick up our own mooring and then use the boarding boat to tow the yacht to its berth in the inner harbour. One crew aboard the yacht, two of us in the boarding boat and now I am dinghy captain! I must admit I do like this job, essentially, whilst we call it towing, I’m pushing 29ft of yacht with about 12ft of boarding boat. We’d done a good job of setting the lines right first time and the tow came easy. What wasn’t easy was seeing where we were going with all the bow between me and the harbour. With a couple of moorings in close proximity we elect to put our man back on board the yacht at the helm. Now all I’ve got to do is control speed, whilst he can both see and steer.
There were a good number of hands on the quay to take lines and I leave tour two crew with the yacht and head back out to collect the others from the big boat. We head back to station, the tide had been flooding! Enjoying yet more efficiency as the guys I’d left on the yacht now had tractor and trailer reading and waiting. Home again some time around 4am, no second lap.