Torbay and Exmouth RNLI lifeboats rescue six crew from stricken tug boat
Volunteer crew members from Exmouth and Torbay lifeboat stations launched overnight to a tug that had been holed and was taking on water. (Author: Colin Bower, Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, Torbay)
At around 9.30 pm on Sunday 13 January a major incident sparked off when the 70 metre tug Chritstos XXII was damaged by the boat it was towing.
The tug, which was towing the bare hull of the 80 metre Emstrom, slowed to investigate a problem with the tow. On slowing down, the Emstrom, hit the Tug leaving a 35cm gash in its hull.
RNLI all-weather lifeboats from both Exmouth and Torbay were launched to assist. On arrival just off Hopes Nose, Torquay, pumps from both lifeboats were put aboard, along with two crew members from the Torbay lifeboat.
Six of the 8 crew of the Christos, were taken off by the Torbay lifeboat and taken to Brixham. The Exmouth lifeboat stood by to monitor the situation.
John Heal, the Emegerncy Coxswain, went into the engine room to investigate the damage but, even with two pumps running, the Christos was still making water and in danger of sinking.
Additional pumps were transferred by the nearby warship Lancaster, but still the water level was rising.
Crew from Lancaster were then able to plug the leak by effecting a temporary repair using wooden wedges, reducing the ingress of water by some 60%.
Meanwhile the towed boat Emstrom had been cast adrift and was picked up later by the local tug MTS Vulcan.
The helicopter from RNAS Chivenor was also on scene and stood by at Walls Hill, Torquay in case it was needed.
With the crew safely off and on board the lifeboat, the focus then moved to saving the ship and reducing the pollution threat, from the 200 tons of diesel oil on board.
The Dutch salvage tug Brent arrived on scene at approximately 1.30am on Monday 14 equipped with more powerful pumps and managed to start reducing the water level within the ship. By daybreak, the Brent was confident that she could keep the Christos afloat to allow for underwater welders to apply a patch to the hull of the Christos.
Exmouth lifeboat picked up its equipment and returned to their station just before 4am.
The effort by all parties, not only to save the crew , but to prevent a major environmental disaster was a tremendous effort.