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Fish farmers praised for saving yacht from grounding

SSF's Loch Eriboll team who were on duty on Friday. From left: Michael Morrison, Mark Morrison, Gavin Stephenson, Iain Martin, and Andrew Morrison. Photo: SSF.
SSF's Loch Eriboll team who were on duty on Friday. From left: Michael Morrison, Mark Morrison, Gavin Stephenson, Iain Martin, and Andrew Morrison. Photo: SSF.

A trainee salmon farm manager has recounted how he and colleagues made a “mad dash” to help a sailor after seeing a 40-foot yacht in trouble on Loch Eriboll, Sutherland, in severe weather.

Loch Eriboll trainee farm manager Andrew Morrison and his colleagues look after Scottish Sea Farms sites at Sian Bay on the west side of the loch and Kempie Bay site on the east side from a shore base at Laid, on the western shore. They had intended staying ashore on Friday due to forecast 60 mph winds but took to the waves in a landing craft and a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) after spotting the sailing boat in distress about five miles from the mouth of the loch.

They were able to prevent the yacht from being pushed on to the shore of an island by the wind until a lifeboat arrived after a 95-minute journey from Scrabster, Thurso, about 50 miles to the east.

The yacht, which had a shredded sail, secured to the SSF service vessel Catriona. A Coastguard helicopter is seen above. Photo: SSF.
The yacht, which had a shredded sail, secured to the SSF service vessel Catriona. A Coastguard helicopter is seen above. Photo: SSF.

In danger

Loch Eriboll trainee farm manager Andrew Morrison said: “We decided we would check our workboat which was on our mooring as we knew the wind was going to pick up late morning. That’s when we saw the yacht broadside to the waves and, from our angle, getting close to the island in the middle of the loch.

“Straight away we knew something wasn’t right and the yacht was in danger.

“We all made a mad dash round to Kempie where the landing craft Catriona is moored and made our way to the yacht in pretty extreme conditions.”

Farm RIB

Thurso RNLI told The Northern Times that sea and wind conditions were too bad to launch the lifeboat’s inflatable boat, but the much bigger fish farm RIB was able to take three crew members from the lifeboat and transfer them to the yacht.

The sole occupant of the yacht was checked over by a crew member and found to be uninjured but distressed, and very relieved to now be safe.

The RNLI crew members made the yacht safe and ran a second anchor to secure the yacht, preventing the vessel from going ashore.

Different outcome

Coxswain Gordon Munro told The Northern Times: “Without the intervention of the local fish farm workers it would have been a completely different outcome.

“They, without doubt, stopped the yacht from going ashore. I would also like to thank them for assisting in transferring the three crew members from our lifeboat to the yacht in difficult sea conditions which allowed our crew members to make the situation safe.”

SSF's service vessel Catriona works to keep the yacht away from the shore. Photo: SSF.
SSF's service vessel Catriona works to keep the yacht away from the shore. Photo: SSF.