1819 Launch ILB, I was just about to do the dishes, oh well! Into the car and down to the Station. Given the time of day and that it’s an ILB only page, I don’t anticipate making it on the shout, I live too far away.
There are a good few cars at the boat house already. I jog in asking “have you got enough” “yes” is the answer. The shout is to a 30ft yacht which has gone aground on the rocks in the harbour. The tide is rising, but the wind has her pinned on an unmarked reef on an lee shore. “You might as well get dressed” the helm said to me, “it’s in the harbour, we can take four, one of us might need to go on aboard”. Aaaaah, I need this. I’ve had one of those days, a knock down and you lose your sense of direction, kind of days. Putting my drysuit, my thoughts are grounded again. Our LOM or ALB coxswain, I can’t remember which, did a crew count as we went “Four good strong hands there, good oh”. Sometimes the smallest of sentences make the biggest of differences.
We push the ILB down the slipway and off the trailer, there are four helms aboard, so the operation is pretty slick, one is already on the VHF to the coastguard, “jump in and start her” I’m told…. “Ok then… I think…..” Engine down, astern gear in as the lads jump in keeping us off the same lee shore we’re headed for just round the corner. I am home where I belong.
All aboard, I spin her round and we’re away. Assessing the situation, the general consensus is to hold her off and let the tide rise. I take us alongside, close to her keel, thinking if she’s sat there then we’re good here, I know the reef is pretty flat. We spent many a moment as kids in Oppies stuck and wading around that very spot in these conditions.
We have a chat with the skipper. The boat is at present anchored at her bow. We suggest transferring his anchor into the ILB so we can set it for him upwind and he can kedge himself off as the tide rises. We’re at around mid range, so the rise is quick enough. He has 30m of chain and then rope. We get all the chain on board before I reverse us out slowly while he makes off the warp on the bow paying out the slack to us. Gradually some load comes on, we run out of warp and start paying out the chain. All of a sudden “pop” she’s away….
And now heading straight for us at full speed. Now, I am well used to my tows of dinghies overtaking me under their own momentum, or a gust of wind, but not under full power and aiming straight for us. This yacht has a white hull and red antifoul, it came very close to us. I somehow managed to dodge the yacht and then spin the ILB round so both boats are now pointing the same way and I can pace the yacht. At this point we still have her anchor and all the chain in the ILB, they have the other end of the warp around a cleat. The experience of the crew meant the warp was quickly untied from the anchor chain in our boat, no discussion or instruction needed, just experience and intuition. I’m just trying to hold her steady in the sweet spot between the bow and stern waves. We both succeed and our rather unusual “tow” is released.
Next, to get them on a mooring. No visitors moorings in the harbour it would seem. No wonder no one wants to visit! There is a harbour mooring free, but the buoy has no strops on it, making it impossible to pass a line through the ring without the aid of a dinghy. Now we are not in the tropics, we are on a lee shore with a choppy force 5 making things tricky. And of course, it is cold, we don’t just hop in a dinghy here, especially one you have to inflate and then row! They had a couple of attempts at getting the bow close enough to the mooring for us to pass a line through. With an interesting and somewhat unconventional mooring method, where I once again saw too much of that red antifoul, we got a line through the ring and back to the yacht. He made it fast, I backed us the hell out of there quickly, with some assistance from the wind pushing us out before the line went tight and he made it fast. Phew!
We tie up alongside and I am sent on board to help sort the mooring out with him. We double the lines up, both still rigged to slip as we realise he would otherwise have to leave a line on the mooring. Not ideal, but it set good on a bridle with and independent back up. The skipper was happy with it.
Meanwhile the other lads have realised that the other person on board is still gripping the wheel and not looking too great. While I’m messing with lines, the knowledge, understanding and people skills of our team come out. They are quickly aware of a potential situation and have in in control and resolved, without any of a word needed between our crew. It turns out it was a visiting yacht with two people on board, they had just completed a nine and a half hour passage, slogging against the wind, to arrive here and hit the unmarked reef. At a guess they slowed down as they ran aground leaving the wind to do the rest, she was pinned on the lee shore, fortunately on a rising tide.
Less than an hour from the pager going we are “Back on Station and ready for service”.