The crew of a Skerries whitefish boat were rescued when their trawler sank a few miles off their home isle this morning.
The five men off Ocean Way, which is Skerries owned, were picked up by Lerwick Lifeboat shortly before the 24.3m long steel trawler sank. The men had to be picked up from the sea as it was deemed to dangerous to take the lifeboat alongside.
They were then checked over by medical staff and all of the crew, which includes two Latvians as well as local men, were found to be unhurt.
Ocean Way is normally skippered by Leslie Hughson, but on this trip it was his son Steven Hughson in command. She fastened a trawl door on the seabed while fishing five miles south east of Skerries and started taking water before 6.45am when she alerted coastguards.
The salmon boat Gerde Saele was first on scene and passed a pump to Ocean Way but this is said to have failed after some time. The coastguard helicopter arrived at 7.50am, 15 minutes before the Michael & Jane Vernon arrived with its eight volunteer crewmen – one of whom actually works on Ocean Way.
He was one of the two men who went onto the sinking fishing boat with the lifeboat’s own pump. Ocean Way was by that time making for Lerwick, having freed herself.
But the lifeboat’s pump was unable to cope with the ingress of water and the Coastguard Helicopter was in the process of winching a further pump to the lifeboat when it became apparent that the Ocean Way was beyond saving and her skipper decided to abandon ship.
The vessel sank at 8.20am eight miles south east of Skaw Taing in Whalsay. The two RNLI crew helped the men swim clear as the Ocean Way foundered.
Lifeboat coxswain Alan Tarby has described the dramatic events which unfolded once the crew decided to abandon the boat.
He said: “It all happened very quickly. The time between the crew jumping off the boat and the boat sinking was about two minutes.”
Mr Tarby said the crew had decided to jump from the boat because of the dangers involved in “transferring people at sea”. He said that in choppy seas the risk of being squashed between the fishing vessel and the lifeboat can make it safer to be rescued from the water.
Prior to the boat sinking lifeboat volunteer and Ocean Way crew member Darren Harcus was put aboard to aid in pumping water from the boat.
Working two weeks on and two weeks off with the Ocean Way Mr Harcus happened to be on call with the lifeboat when the incident occurred. His knowledge of the boat was deemed to be an asset for the lifeboat crew who decided he should go aboard the vessel.
But his efforts were not enough to save the boat which was taking on water extremely quickly.
He said: “We went aboard and tried to pump but it was obvious that the water was coming on too quickly.”
The water temperature was a reasonably mild 6 to 7 degrees and all members of the crew were in the water for no longer than a few minutes, meaning that none came to any harm.
Mr Tarby added: “The rescue was made much easier because the Ocean Way’s crew were all wearing the correct safety equipment and had undergone safety training. It was a good outcome even although the vessel was lost, all the crew were unharmed.
“The lifeboat crew performed very well, especially the two men who were in the water with the fishermen.”
Wind was North Easterly Force 3-4 and the sea state was moderate with a one-metre swell.
LHD fish salesman James Aitken said that he had been shocked to hear of the sinking when arriving for work this morning. “They are all fine as far as I know, which is the main thing. They were airlifted off and heading to hospital for precautionary checks.”
The Ocean Way was built by Buckie Shipyards in 1996. Another Hughson brother, Colin, is the skipper of the 23m whitefish trawler Fairway.