Swanage RNLI launches three times in four days to help boats in distress

A cabin cruiser on fire and two broken down vessels required the urgent assistance of the Swanage all weather lifeboat over the space of four days.

The spate of rescues for the Swanage RNLI crew started on Thursday 20th April 2023 with a motor boat whose engine had failed and ended on the following Sunday with a fire on board a cabin cruiser.

Poole Lifeboat go to rescue of cabin cruiser on fire
Poole RNLI

Poole Lifeboat crew stopped a training exercise when they saw smoke but the Swanage all weather lifeboat was soon on the scene

Signs of smoke on the horizon

Just after midday on Sunday 23rd April 2023, the Swanage lifeboat crew responded to a mayday call – a distress call which indicates that life is in danger – from a 36 foot cabin cruiser on fire off Hengistbury Head.

Poole D class lifeboat was on a training exercise nearby and spotted signs of smoke on the horizon so the crew headed towards the stricken boat.

Swanage Lifeboat rescues boat with a fire on board
Don Williams

The cabin cruiser was towed into Poole Harbour

“Smoke had eased but there was soot and debris”

Poole Lifeboat Station reported:

“The vessel was clearly in some difficulty when the lifeboat arrived on scene. Some of the smoke had eased but there was soot and debris from the engine room.

“The lifeboat crew checked that the people on board were okay and had turned the engine off, isolated the battery, and carried out the safety precautions.”

Swanage Lifeboat rescues boat with a fire on board
Don Williams
Lifeboat rescue of cabin cruiser that had a fire on board
Poole Coastguard

A fire crew and Poole Coastguard were waiting on the quay to inspect the cabin cruiser to ensure it didn’t reignite

“There did not appear to be any remaining excessive heat”

By this time, the larger Swanage all weather lifeboat had arrived on the scene so the Poole volunteers handed the cabin cruiser over to the Swanage crew.

Swanage Lifeboat Station said:

“Upon arrival the fire had extinguished. Two crew members were placed aboard to check the casualties and assess the damage.

“There did not appear to be any remaining excessive heat and permission was sought from Poole Harbour control to tow the vessel into the harbour to meet the fire brigade to check over the vessel.”

The Swanage Lifeboat with the cabin cruiser on tow, arrived at Ballast Quay in Poole Harbour where there was a waiting fire engine and the Poole Coastguard team.

While the boat needed repairs, it was assessed as safe so was then towed to a berth at Poole Quay Boat Haven.

This incident followed two earlier boat rescues for the Swanage Lifeboat crew.

Swanage Lifeboat rescues boat with a fire on board
Don Williams

The cruiser was towed to a berth at Poole Quay Boat Haven for repairs

Engine failure close to Anvil Point

The first rescue was at 8.30 pm on Thursday 20th April 2023 when a 23 foot motor boat’s engine had failed close to Anvil Point near Swanage. It was on its way to Plymouth and the two person crew were concerned that they would drift closer to the shore and into danger.

The lifeboat quickly launched and towed the boat back to the safety of Poole Harbour.

Swanage Lifeboat launches from lifeboat station
Becky Mack / RNLI

The Swanage all weather lifeboat launched three times over four days

Steering failure and a broken mast

Just a few hours later, after the crew had headed off to bed, the pagers went off again at around 4 am on Friday 21st April 2023.

This time a distress call was being sent out over the VHF radio but it was unclear where it was coming from, so the lifeboat launched to go and investigate. About 30 minutes later a faint rader target was picked up about a mile away.

It turned out to be a seven metre yacht which had suffered steering failure, with one person onboard. Just as the lifeboat arrived the yacht’s mast rigging also failed causing the mast to fall into the water.

The yacht was then towed back to Swanage Lifeboat Station where it was secured to the RNLI mooring just after 8 am.

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