Storm Arwen will be chiefly remembered for the time it took electricity companies to restore power. But for the crew of the Tynemouth lifeboat, who reached a stricken fishing vessel drifting 70 miles off the coast, 26 November will be forever etched on their minds.
Answering the fishers’ distress call that their engine had failed, the lifeboat launched at 8.45pm in the teeth of 90mph winds. In total darkness, with swells 6 metres high breaking on the deck, it took four and a half hours to reach the drifting vessel.
It was not safe to try to lift the six crew off the fishing boat because of the rise and fall of the sea. There was also a danger to other shipping vessels that might collide with an unmanned 100-tonne boat.
With difficulty a towrope was secured and eventually the fishing boat was hauled back to Tynemouth. The lifeboat coxswain, Michael Nugent, con 36 years’ RNLI service said, with classic understatement: “I knew we were in for a rough night.”
He conceded that “among the worst conditions he had known” it was an uncomfortable journey home, but at 2.45 pm, 18 hours after the lifeboat launched, the fishing boat was towed into Tynemouth. Both crews were exhausted but safe.