Newcastle RNLI rescues three yachts in difficulty on Strangford Lough during seven hour Storm Ali call out.

Newcastle RNLI came to the rescue of three yachts during Storm Ali yesterday.

The volunteer crew members were alerted at 11.40am on Wednesday 19 August 2018  to go the aid of a stricken yacht at Newtownards Sailing Club on Strangford lough. The all-weather lifeboat under Coxswain William Chambers, launched within minutes into the middle of Storm Ali.

As the lifeboat launched, it quickly became apparent the challenging weather conditions the crew were going to face on their passage to Newtownards. Shortly after launching the Coxswain requested the main water tight doors to be closed and all crew to be seated as they now faced 8m waves hitting from the side. There was a Force 8 gale blowing as the crew approached Strangford Lough. Some 90 minutes later the seas started to settle as the lifeboat was sheltered by the shore in the Lough.

Newcastle lifeboat takes huge waves side on during its journey to stricken vessels in Strangford Lough during Storm Ali. (Photo – Wavelength Images).

On arrival at Newtownards Yacht Club at 2.15pm, the Coastguard was concerned that there may be a person onboard the weather beaten vessel, but when the lifeboat crew came alongside it was confirmed that nobody had been on the boat and she was safely on the mooring. The lifeboat was then requested to go the aid of another yacht drifting across the lough from White Rock and Kircubbin but unfortunately by the time the lifeboat reached the vessel there was nothing the crew could do as it was on the rocks on an ebbing tide.

As the lifeboat made her return journey to the station, and was approaching Portaferry, the crew were alerted to another yacht in difficulty. The crew established a tow line and managed to free the vessel and towed it to the safety off a mooring in Strangford marina.

On leaving the sheltered waters of Strangford lough the lifeboat and its crew once again faced mountainous seas and the Coxswain decided to stop in Ardglass marina for an hour to let the wind decrease and the wave size drop. Leaving Ardglass marina around 6pm the crew faced large but bearable seas making it back to Newcastle across Dundrum Bay for 7pm.

Speaking after spending over seven hours at sea, Newcastle RNLI Coxswain William Chambers said: ‘This was a challenging day for our volunteers given that we launched into rough seas when Storm Ali was at its worst. It was also uncertain at that point if there was a life at risk onboard the yacht.

“Thankfully there wasn’t in this case. It was a long and challenging day but our volunteers are highly skilled and trained for these situations and were delighted to be able to help.”