WHITBY’s lifeboat crew is out of action following a seven hour rescue operation to save a stricken yacht and its eight passengers in stormy seas and gale force winds.
The all weather lifeboat, the George and Mary Webb was returning home on Saturday when the starboard engine blew up just off Sandsend but the crew managed to limp her back to the safety of the harbour using just one engine.
Lifeboat mechanic, Glenn Goodberry, said it was a “catastrophic failure” and believes the atrocious conditions the 18 year-old boat faced on Saturday contributed to the break-down.
He told the Gazette: “There was a lot of smoke and a bang and we were only going steady. It was a catastrophic failure. If it had happened during the rescue it would have severely hampered the whole thing.
“It is so rare that once they take the engine out and inspect it then they might find the source. It was in fine running order and then just went.”
On Monday Whitby’s RNLI crew picked up a relief Trent class boat until another relief boat can be sent from Scotland.
It topped off what proved to be one of the most difficult and challenging rescues the Whitby lifeboat crew have dealt with “for a good while”.
The drama started when Whitby RNLI was paged at 10.42am on Saturday to assist 15 metre vessel, Warnow.
It was travelling from Holland to Scotland with eight people on board but got into difficulty off the coast of Whitby. The George and Mary Webb reached the stricken boat by 11am to find it had no steering function and was experiencing engine difficulties in atrocious weather conditions which saw eight metre high waves and easterly gale wind speeds of up to 50mph.
It was decided to tow the yacht using a drogue - a device attached to the stern to help slow the boat down and keep it steady - but this took 45 minutes alone because of the weather and by this time the boats had drifted three miles further out to sea because of the conditions.
Once the drogue was attached Whitby lifeboat set off for Teesmouth because it was deemed too dangerous to get both the yacht and the George and Mary Webb back into the harbour at Whitby.
It was a slow tow up towards Teesside, taking over two hours because of gusts of wind up to 50mph. At 2.30pm the Whitby lifeboat was joined by the RNLI all-weather boat from Hartlepool, the same boat which is now providing cover for Whitby, which stood by while Whitby found calmer water in the mouth of the Tees.
Hartlepool RNLI then took over and transported Warnow to a designated berth, therefore releasing the Whitby RNLI crew so it could head back to Whitby before tides and weather conditions made returning back into the harbour any more difficult.
Despite the breakdown, the George and Mary Webb eventually returned at 6pm having being unable to reach a speed of anything over seven knots - equivalent to eight miles per hour.
The crew are now waiting for better weather before transporting the lifeboat to Northumberland for repairs. It could be a month before George and Mary Webb is back in service.