THE five man crew of a local fishing trawler had a narrow escape after their 50ft boat drifted powerless in high seas and strong winds close to rocks off Fanad Head at the weekend.
A spokesman for the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre at Malin Head has praised the skipper and crew of the ‘Mary Ellen’ stressing their ‘swift and appropriate actions’ to the danger had averted a tragedy.
It took nine hours, three lifeboat crews and ten tow-lines to rescue the stricken vessel, laden with crab, after it suffered engine failure and drifted without power a mile and half north west of Fanad Head around 3.20 pm on Sunday. The skipper of the boat is Charlie Friel from Fanad.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Mr Derek Flanagan, Manager of the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre said the crew had acted well to avert a tragedy.
“It was a precarious rescue operation hampered by strong winds, high seas and heavy rain. We could take no chances because the vessel was drifting without power close to rocks at Fanad Lighthouse,” Mr Flanagan said.
“We got a call at around 3.20pm from the skipper of the Mary Ellen that it had broken down a mile and half north of Fanad Head and westerly winds were pushing the boat towards rocks at Fanad Lighthouse making it a highly dangerous situation.
“We tasked the Lough Swilly Lifeboat at around 4pm. It was getting dark at this time-making the rescue operation more precarious. The Lifeboat crew tried in vain to get a tow line onto the stricken vessel but it parted (snapped) several times due, so extra resources had to be drafted in,” Mr Flanagan added.
“Because of the fact a tow line wasn’t successful due to the strain on the line and heavy seas- we decided to task both the Portrush Lifeboat and the Coastguard Rescue Helicopter from Sligo Airport (118). The helicopter was sent to Eglinton Airport in case it would be required.
“However, an engineer from the Lough Swilly Lifeboat eventually managed to get aboard the fishing trawler and got the engine started and the vessel was towed to Rathmullan pier. None of the five crew were injured, but they were relieved to be at port,” Mr Flanagan added.
Mr Joe Joyce, a spokesman for Lough Swilly Lifeboat, said the weather conditions were bad as the rescue operation got underway.
“Conditions out there were fairly choppy, fairly gusty, but the boat eventually made it to Rathmullan. As we started off the tow, the rope broke ten times and because the boat was full of crab we needed some more assistance so the Portrush lifeboat was launched,” he said.
“We also have a relief boat in Buncrana which was also launched so three lifeboats attended and we managed to get it pulled a good bit up the Swilly. The engineer finally got the engine going and she came into Rathmullan on her own power. It was a nine-hour operation so it was a long day. There were five people on board the vessel and part from an unpleasant experience everybody was safe and well,” he concluded.