Coastguard helicopter and Swanage RNLI investigate mysterious drifting boat

Swanage Lifeboat was deployed alongside a coastguard helicopter to investigate a boat that appeared to have no one on board.

The call came on Sunday 20th December 2020 when a passing tanker alerted the UK Coastguard that a working boat seemed to be drifting freely about 24 nautical miles south of Swanage.

Fearing that lives could be at risk, a lifeboat and coastguard helicopter were sent to the scene.

Boat adrift at sea
Swanage RNLI

A “risky” situation

Upon arrival at the scene, the helicopter crew established that it was too risky to send a person down to investigate the boat further.

The boat appeared to have drifted away after its mooring lines had broken.

A spokesperson for Swanage RNLI said:

“Concerned that there may be lives in danger, the UK Coastguard requested the launch of the Swanage Shannon class lifeboat and also tasked Coastguard Rescue Helicopter ‘R-175’ to the scene.

“In moderate to rough seas the lifeboat made good speed towards the reported position. Helicopter R-175 arrived a little before the lifeboat and reported what looked like broken mooring lines and a locked wheelhouse. R-175 also reported that it was too risky to lower a person onto the boat for further investigation.”

Swanage lifeboat goes to investigate commercial vessel
Swanage RNLI

Safest option

When the lifeboat crew arrived at the scene, they considered towing it. However, they ruled it out as there was no immediate danger to life.

Crews also considered illuminating or marking the boat to reveal it as a hazard, but decided that the “benefits did not out-weigh risks.”

After considering the situation, it was decided that the best option was to record the boat’s position and the way it was drifting and return to shore.

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