An upturned vessel spotted some six miles west of Land’s End sparked a search for possible missing crew.

At 10.14am on Tuesday, 18 October, the crew pagers at RNLI Penlee sounded and the volunteer crew were tasked to join the search for possible persons in the water

A passing merchant ship, the MV Zeeland, had reported the upturned vessel to HM Coastguard at Falmouth.

The all-weather lifeboat Ivan Ellen immediately launched from Newlyn and steamed to the search area where they joined the Sennen Cove lifeboat City of London III and the HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Helicopter 924. A co-ordinated and well organised search then took place.

At about 11.30am the Coastguard helicopter Rescue 924 located the upturned vessel about three nautical miles off its first reported position.

The Sennen lifeboat proceeded to the position at full speed and the crew were able to confirm that the upturned vessel had been in the water for some considerable time – there was little chance of anyone being onboard or in the water.

Sennen Cove and Penlee lifeboats launch to reported upturned vessel. Credit: RNLI Penlee/Volunteer crewman Rich 'Nabo' Nicholls

Credit: RNLI Penlee/Volunteer crewman Rich ‘Nabo’ Nicholls

A spokesperson for Penlee Lifeboat Station said: ‘The crew of the Sennen Cove lifeboat then did an amazing job in very difficult sea conditions and managed to get a tow attached to the upturned vessel. The tow was then passed to the Penlee lifeboat Ivan Ellen and the intention was to tow it back to Newlyn.

‘After a few minutes it became apparent that the 6m fibre glass pleasure craft was going to break up at sea. Coxswain Patch Harvey brought the upturned vessel alongside the Ivan Ellen and the lifeboat’s powerful crane was used to winch it onboard. It was then taken back to Newlyn and identified as a vessel called Iris.

‘HM Coastguards at Falmouth are still investigating the origins of this vessel.’

The weather was a WNW Force 5 wind, 2m swell, moderate sea conditions.

RNLI Coxswain Patch Harvey said: ‘This was team work at its very best in difficult sea conditions. HM Coastguard at Falmouth made exactly the right call in launching both lifeboats and tasking the helicopter to join the search.

‘Speed is of the essence in these circumstances – it could easily have been one of our local fishing vessels and the chance of any survival would only have been increased with the speed and reaction of both services. A job well done by all those involved.’

The pontoon had been upturned, twisted and broken in the 2013/14 storms

Righting an upturned pontoon

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