Port St Mary Lifeboat Station - Callouts: 11th August 2001.
Weather: occassional light drizzle; Visability moderate / locally poor; wind SW 4
Saturday morning several of the crew, branch and Guild were at the lifeboat station preparing for events for the Lifeboat Day the next day. Whilst in the middle of bringing tables, chairs, etc to store overnight in the boathouse, Liverpool Coastguard phoned the Hon. Secretary on his mobile phone to inform him that a boat was in difficulties in the Calf Sound. At the same time the 2nd Cox. Mick Kneale overheard on VHF channel 16 the conversation between the helmswomen of the dive boat "Ballacary" and the Coastguards. The "Ballacary" had suffered engine failure just off the Big Head of the Calf and was being blown by the south westerly wind towards the Sound channel between the Calf of Man and Kitterland. "Ballacary" was a red 5.3 meter long rigid inflatable boat with 1 person on board.
With several of the crew already in attendence it was decided to immediately launch the Inshore Lifeboat with a crew of three on board. The ILB was underway at 10:40 BST with an ETA of 10 minutes. Radio communications were quickly established between the "Ballacary" and the ILB and it became apparent that the dive boat had in fact 4 divers still underwater who were drift diving from the Big Head of the Calf towards South Harbour / the Burroo (at the south eastern tip of the Calf). At this point the Hon. Sec. contacted Liverpool Coastguard to suggest that the All weather lifeboat should be immediately tasked to assist in the recovery of the 4 divers who were due to surface from their dive.
14-26, "Gough Ritchie II" slipped her moorings with a crew of 6 at 10:53 BST and a few minutes later the ILB reported it was approaching the Sound and had spotted the dive boat. The ALB also quickly established radio communications with the "Ballacary" which was drifting towards the Cletts (rocks on the north shore of the Calf).
The ILB went alongside to diveboat to establish were and when the divers had entered the water and when they were due to resurface (the divers of course being unaware of the difficulties above!!) and at 11:04 BST proceeded to a point 200 to 300 meters from the dive boat where the divers surface marker buoy had been seen. The ALB was in sight and as the first two divers surfaced they were met by the smiling faces of the ILB crew. The ALB went alongside the "Ballacary" and transferred one crewmember to see if the outboard engine could be restarted.
At 11:07 BST as the ALB stood close to the ILB as the second pair of divers surfaced, Liverpool Coastguard informed that a Seaking rescue helicopter from RAF Valley had been tasked to the incident. However, after checking with all four divers that they had had a normal dive, had made ordinary decompression stops and were not requiring any medical help, it was agreed with the Coastguards that the helicopter wasn't required.
A few minutes later all 4 divers were transferred from the ILB to the ALB . [4 divers and their dive gear and 3 ILB crew was too much of a tight fit !] The ALB proceeded back to the "Ballacary" which had no luck in restarting the outboard engine [electric start but the battery had been flattened by repeated attempts. The engine failure was traced to fuel starvation]. A tow line was passed, secured and all boats returned to Port St Mary.
At 11:45 BST 14-26, "Gough Ritchie II" picked up her mooring in Port St Mary Harbour and using the boarding boat for the last leg of the trip , the "Ballacary" was towed to the yacht club slipway to be put back on its road-trailer.
Approaching the lifeboat mooring with "Ballacary" in tow (copyright Eve Kelly, 2001)
Dive boat "Ballacary" alongside 14-26 (copyright Eve Kelly, 2001)
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Edited 11-Aug -01