A SUNDAY afternoon sail turned into a near disaster for two boating enthusiasts when the dinghy they were travelling in capsized in the Bressay Sound.
Ewan Stirling and Magnus Johnston were sailing the 49er dinghy, owned by Mr Johnston, shortly before noon when the vessel capsized opposite the widows’ homes in Lerwick.
The men grappled to right the dinghy again, only to see it capsize once more.
As they were righting it a second time, the mast snapped, and they were left drifting towards the breakwater at Bressay in south-westerly winds.
“The boat was just about up when something in the mast fell and there was nothing we could do,” said Mr Stirling.
The incident was seen by Shetland coastguard officers from their Knab road headquarters, but it was also spotted by the crew of the Bressay ferry Leirna, who dispatched the ferry’s rescue craft after notifying the coastguard.
Watched by the crew of the rescue helicopter Oscar Charlie, crewmen Charlie Umphray and Bryan Irvine put a line on the stricken yacht and pulled her clear of the breakwater rocks.
They passed the tow over to the tour boat Alluvian, which had arrived on the scene, to allow the dinghy to be towed to the marina at Gremista under escort from the Lerwick lifeboat.
Mr Stirling, an experienced sailor, said the incident had been effectively managed to avoid a complete disaster from happening. He thanked all those who had come to their aid.
“It was good to know the RNLI was about, and the helicopter was about and the Bressay ferry’s lifeboat was about. It’s good to know if something goes wrong there’s going to be somebody there.
“Thankfully everybody was there that needed to be there. We prepared ourselves as best we could to make sure we didn’t damage the boat too much. It was unexpected, but it was managed.”
He said apart from the broken mast the dinghy did not suffer any damage at all.
He added Mr Johnston was looking into sourcing a sturdier mast to help prevent a repeat of the incident from occurring.