FOUR friends are fortunate to be alive after their boat sank while returning from a day’s fishing.
RNLI crews from Shoreham and Littlehampton received a mayday call from the vessel’s radio at 3.25pm today.
The 16.5ft fibreglass boat was taking on water around three miles off the coast of Littlehampton and its pumps could not cope.
A coastguard helicopter on a training exercise in the Solent was also drafted in to rescue the four – made up of two 23-year-old men, a 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman.
The boat’s owner, the 24-year-old, from Lancing, did not want to give his name, but told the Herald he had taken the day off work to go fishing.
He said: “We’d caught some nice fish and were just coming back when all of a sudden water started bubbling at the front of the boat. In about 15 seconds we were three feet down.
“Luckily we were all wearing life jackets at the time. You didn’t really know what to think. It was a bit scary.”
The crew then made the mayday call just before the boat’s water-logged radio stopped working.
One of the crew managed to put their mobile phones in a bag, before they jumped overboard.
“We couldn’t unlock the iPhone because our hands were wet but luckily we had another one in the bag,” said the Lancing man.
At 3.38pm the Coastguard received a mobile phone call from the stranded crew, who were clinging to a buoyant yellow fuel tank, informing them the boat had sunk.
The rescue crews pinpointed their location and were able to bring them ashore. No-one required medical attention.
The Lancing man said: “It just shows these things happen so quickly and if we didn’t have the right kit there would have been no hope for us,” he said. “The water was 18.5 degrees but, still, when you get in it’s cold. If it hadn’t been for these guys we wouldn’t have come home. I donate to them anyway, but I will donate a bit more now.”
The man bought the boat two years ago for £2,000 and only recently spent another £2,000 renovating it.
He added that he had done a ‘fair amount’ of boating and had been out the vessel four times in the last three weeks.
UK Coastguard commander Steve Carson said: “The crew did exactly the right thing and quickly called for help when they realised the situation was getting out of their control. The Coastguard recommend that where possible, all vessels are fitted with VHF DSC radio equipment which can send a distress alert and, if it is linked up to GPS, an accurate position of your vessel to the Coastguard with one touch of a button.
“This incident is another reminder why you should wear a life jacket. I’m sure this crew were grateful for their protection while they waited to be rescued.”
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