RNLI fishing safety manager Frankie Horne has urged the fishing community to take advantage of the safety training on offer for crews, and to ensure that their safety equipment is up to date.

His call comes after the skipper of a fishing vessel that sank late last year off the Isle of Man attributed his crew’s rescue to the safety training they had undertaken and to their lifejackets, which were fitted with personal locator beacons.

On the evening of 23 November last year, Polaris suffered a catastrophic hull failure off the west coast of the Isle of Man. The vessel sank so rapidly that the skipper only had time to send out a Mayday before the vessel became submerged.

Main image: Gordon Mills, skipper of the Polaris, was thankfully wearing a PFD when his boat sank in November.

The Coastguard immediately launched two RNLI lifeboats, from Port St Mary and Port Erin, and a rescue helicopter. However, it was a local fishing boat, Lynn Marie, which arrived first on the scene. By this time, the skipper and a crewman from Polaris had been in the water for at least 15 minutes.

The skipper of the Lynn Marie feared the worst, as the Polaris had already gone below the water. He stopped his engine to listen for the crew of the Polaris, which proved a wise decision as he heard the two men in the water shouting. The crew of the Lynn Marie located them with a searchlight and recovered them from the water.

RNLI fishing safety manager Frankie Horne said: “After speaking with Gordon Mills, the skipper of the Polaris, and the crew of Lynn Marie on their arrival at Peel, it was quite clear that this could have been a very different story had the crew of both vessels not acted so professionally. The crew had attended safety training and wore lifejackets fitted with personal locator beacons, which had increased their chances of survival.”

Polaris PL 193

Polaris PL 193

Gordon Mills added: “At no time did I feel our lives were in danger due to our training and equipment. We had a policy of wearing lifejackets on the working deck since attending refresher training, where I was shown a film involving fishermen, wearing their normal working clothes, being put through their paces in the RNLI survival centre environmental pool, both with and without lifejackets, in cold water with wave movement whilst attempting to recover themselves.

“To see fishermen struggling in a controlled environment and only lasting a few minutes, or in some cases a few seconds, without the lifejacket makes you think about your own safety. I can tell you that there is no doubt that the lifejackets saved our lives. We wouldn’t have even been afloat for the crew of fishing vessel Lynn Marie to recover us from the water had we not been wearing them.

“I would encourage all fishermen to start wearing their lifejackets while on deck – you just never know when you might need it.”

More advice on fishing safety from the RNLI can be found at: bit.ly/3bsRhQS


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