Exceptional bravery awards for crews – Fishfarmer Magazine

Exceptional bravery awards for crews11 June, 2010 –

LIFEBOAT crews from Kirkwall and Dunbar are to be presented with special awards for exceptional bravery by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution at the charity’s Scottish Annual Meeting in Perth today. The awards will be presented by Admiral The Lord Boyce, Chairman of the RNLI.

Dunbar RNLI lifeboat volunteer crew members Stuart Pirie, Kevin Keillor, Brian Cleator, John Watt and mechanic Kenny Peters will each receive Medal Service Certificates for the vital contribution they made during the rescue of two people from the stricken yacht Ouhm on the night of 15 May 2009 in severe gale force 9 conditions that knocked the lifeboat on to her side.

Dunbar RNLI lifeboat Coxswain Gary Fairbairn, who was honoured with a Bronze Medal for Gallantry by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for his part in this rescue, will also be at the ceremony.

Kirkwall RNLI Second Coxswain Stewart Ryrie is to receive the Thanks of the Institution on Vellum for his role during the rescue of three people and a yacht in severe gale force conditions on 25 October 2009.

In addition, four volunteer crew members, Graham Campbell, Iain Seatter, Paul Turner and Magnus Croy, will receive RNLI Vellum Service Certificates thanking them for their part in the rescue.

Fisherman and RNLI fundraising branch member William Miller of Whitehill, Stronsay, has been awarded a Chief Executives’ Letter of Thanks and will also be presented with a Vellum Service Certificate for his selfless action of joining the lifeboat crew halfway through the rescue.

Around 50volunteers and four fundraising groups from Scotland are also to be presented with an RNLI Honorary Award in recognition of their outstanding support to the charity. The awards will be presented by Gary Fairbairn.

The RNLI’s new chief executive, Paul Boissier, will also be in attendance at the ceremony which is part of an age-old tradition recognising the invaluable commitment of the lifesaving charity’s volunteers.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Admiral The Lord Boyce said: “I am very proud to be presenting Dunbar and Kirkwall RNLI lifeboat crews with their awards – they are people who embody everything the RNLI stands for. Their leadership, courage and exceptional seamanship helped to save lives in thoroughly adverse weather and sea conditions.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our dedicated volunteer fundraisers and individual and corporate supporters around Scotland, whose tireless efforts do so much towards raising the essential funds needed to train and equip our lifeboat crews. The RNLI is truly grateful for the commitment of our volunteers both at sea and ashore.”

Summary of Dunbar rescueIn a force 8 gale and very rough seas with swells of up to 7 metres, the skipper of the 8-metre Swedish yacht Ouhm issued a ‘Pan-Pan’ call on his VHF radio – the request to launch the RNLI Dunbar lifeboat soon followed. The yacht was reported to have suffered two knockdowns and the skipper was finding it difficult to cope. The two people onboard were drifting at speeds of up to 5 knots towards the north side of the Firth of Forth. With the crew in their seats the lifeboat soon cleared the breakwaters and made best speed towards the yacht.

However, further offshore several breaking seas hit the lifeboat as the swell became larger and the wind increased to a severe force 9 gale. At one point as Coxswain Fairbairn continued steaming towards the Ouhm, the lifeboat fell 10 metres from the top of a large wave. Soon afterwards she was hit on her starboard side by a huge breaking wave, causing her to turn over on to her side and putting the port side wheelhouse windows under water.

The self-righting lifeboat swiftly returned to the upright position. The lifeboat reached the yacht at 7.45pm to evacuate the couple. As there was no life raft aboard, Coxswain Fairbairn had the difficult task of getting alongside the small yacht in 10-metre seas. The lifeboat was hit by a wave as she neared the yacht, but Coxswain Fairbairn applied full power astern to keep the vessels apart.

On the second approach the crew were able to grab the woman and pull her aboard the lifeboat and at the same time a lifejacket was thrown to the skipper. On the third approach alongside Ouhm the man was pulled from the deck and over the guardrails of the lifeboat. The couple were then taken to the safety of the wheelhouse and then back to dry land, the yacht having been abandoned.

Summary of Kirkwall rescueKirkwall RNLI lifeboat launched shortly after 1am to go the aid of the yacht Inanna in Mill Bay, Stronsay, after the skipper issued a mayday when she lost her anchor and was concerned the yacht would run aground in the severe conditions.

Shetland Coastguard dispatched a helicopter and requested the assistance of Kirkwall RNLI lifeboat. On route the lifeboat faced heavy seas, a severe south-easterly gale and frequent heavy rain squalls.

One hour into the rescue the lifeboat fell from the top of a very steep wave into a large trough and a crew member was injured. The lifeboat diverted to Stronsay Whitehall harbour for the crew to be examined by the local doctor and airlifted to hospital (he was later discharged and keen to get back onboard the lifeboat).

Local RNLI branch member and creel boat owner, Bill Miller, immediately agreed when asked if he would be prepared to assist the lifeboat with the continuing service. During the approach to Mill Bay in complete darkness and rough seas the lifeboat broached on two occasions.

Despite difficulties the lifeboat managed to enter the bay and locate Inanna, whose headsail and mainsail had been blown to shreds. Coxswain Ryrie decided that the exit from Mill Bay would be unsafe during the hours of darkness in the severe conditions, so the lifeboat crew secured the yacht safely astern on a towline before deploying her own anchor to await daylight.

At 7.18am, as dawn broke, the lifeboat crew weighed anchor and the yacht let go of the towline, choosing to motor into Whitehall Harbour under her own power, escorted by the lifeboat.

Safely in Whitehall the locals came to offer assistance and brought hot food. Once it had been established that the crew of Inanna were exhausted but otherwise well, the lifeboat returned to Kirkwall.