Skipper ‘lucky to be alive’

The Boy Andrew, safely back in Whitby'Picture by Karl Hansell
The Boy Andrew, safely back in Whitby'Picture by Karl Hansell

A FISHERMAN who is “lucky to be alive” after being dragged overboard has said he was put in further danger by a piece of life-saving equipment, purchased from the RNLI, which failed to work.

On Friday afternoon Alan Page was shooting the last of a line of pots off Saltwick Nab when his foot got caught in a rope and he was pulled overboard.

He managed to free himself from the rope and swam to the surface, and discovered that the boat had jammed and stopped a short distance away.

The 50-year-old, who has been fishing all his life, said: “I swam towards the vessel but there was that much tide it just pulled me away.”

Mr Page was fishing alone on his vessel, the Boy Andrew, but help should have been alerted by the RNLI-issued MOB Guardian that he was wearing.

The MOB Guardian is a piece of equipment designed to automatically transmit an alarm call if the wearer is swept overboard and finds themselves more than 10-metres away from their vessel. The small gadget can also be operated manually.

“As soon as you go overboard it’s supposed to emit a signal to alert everyone,” said Mr Page. “So I kept thinking ‘they will be coming in a minute’.”

The strong tide freed the vessel, which began to drift toward Robin Hood’s Bay. Mr Page attempted to catch the boat but the tide was too fast and at one point he was over half a mile away from the vessel. I was also so strong that it prevented him swimming to the shore.

He added: “When I was drifting the tide was horrendous. I just thought ‘try and keep up with the it, when they come they will look for the boat’. But the weather was steadily getting worse and I thought nobody was coming.”

Mr Page was fortunate in that it was a clear day, had the weather been as rough as it had been just a couple of days before he would almost certainly have been lost.

Help finally arrived after Mrs Page grew concerned that she had not heard from her husband and began to call around to see if he had been seen.

The vessel was spotted floating three miles off Robin Hood’s Bay, not 16 miles as reported elsewhere, by the crew of Codonga Too. The Boy Andrew had drifted almost five miles from the spot where the incident occured.

Skipper Joe Storr alerted the lifeboat and was able to rescue Mr Page from the water.

He had been swimming in the water for 2.5 hours and was both extremely cold and physically exhausted so while they awaited the RNLI team, the crew of Codonga Too wrapped Mr Page in a blanket and were able to give him a warm cup of tea.

Whitby lifeboat’s Glenn Goodbury said: “Joe saw this boat further out than it should be and realised something was wrong.

“Alan had to let go of the boat he was so cold, so he’s a lucky chap. But on the radio Joe said they were slowly warming him up, he was having a cup of tea and he could talk.”

When Whitby’s all-weather lifeboat arrived on the scene Mr Page was transferred to the RNLI boat and brought back to Whitby, where he was treated by a land ambulance and taken to Scarborough Hospital as a precaution.

The Boy Andrew was brought back into Whitby by crew from Codonga Too.

After recovering from his ordeal Mr Page returned to fishing, however he now hopes to recruit an apprentice from the fishing school to prevent this situation arising again.

Regarding the M.O.B. Guardian’s failure to emit a signal, a RNLI spokesperson said: “We understand there was an incident off the coast of Whitby recently where a casualty’s MOB Guardian device failed to activate when he went overboard.

“Thankfully he was rescued by a nearby fishing vessel and taken ashore by Whitby lifeboat.

“This is currently the subject of a full RNLI investigation but the failure could be due to a number of reasons, including technical failure or operator error. Our charity is committed to saving lives at sea and takes incidents of this nature very seriously.

“We would always advise anyone who is considering a trip to sea to take all the necessary safety precautions, including wearing a correctly fitted lifejacket and notifying someone when you intend to return.”