DONAGHADEE’s RNLI Lifeboat Saxon put to sea three times in 24 hours during a busy weekend keeping aircraft passengers and pleasure sailors safe around the north Down coast.
The first call came at 5.30pm on Friday when an inbound aircraft heading for George Best Airport reported technical problems and the Coastguard requested a launch in keeping with established air emergency procedures. These ensure a swift response from Lifeboats should an aircraft be forced to ditch at sea. The Saxon made its way at top speed of 25 knots to a designated location along the flight path. However the aircraft was able to land without incident and the Lifeboat returned to station. The operation also involved Bangor and Larne RNLI crews.
On Saturday morning the Donaghadee crew launched around 11.00am after a report that a 20ft yacht had run aground on rocks at Craigbrain, near Ballyferris caravan park. At the scene the crew launched the smaller inflatable lifeboat in difficult conditions, a 1.5 metre swell, but established that no one was aboard the grounded catamaran. Safety advice was given from Coastguard officers on the shore and it was decided to let the incoming tide lift the yacht off the rocks to allow for a safer retrieval by the owner.
The crew had just returned to the boathouse at 12.30pm when the Coastguard requested another launch. This time a 31ft yacht, with three people aboard, had reported an engine fire east off Burr Point near Ballyhalbert. On the way Lifeboat crew encountered treacherous seas, waves of five metres, making for an uncomfortable passage. Once on scene the crew of the yacht confirmed they heard automatic fire extinguishers firing in the engine room. The lifeboat approached, secured a towline and set course for the difficult passage back to Donaghadee. The stricken yacht was brought alongside and berthed in the harbour where two appliances from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Services attended as a precaution.
The Saxon and her crew were back at sea on Sunday morning to conduct a regular training exercise. Deputy coxswain John Ashwood said, ”It has been a quiet summer for the crew so far but this weekend was one of the busiest 24-hour periods we have experienced in quite some time. We are always ready to respond if lives are in danger at sea.”
Video footage is available on the Donaghadee Lifeboat Facebook page.