Hilary Lister describes a difficult passage from Milford Haven to Fishguard

Fishguard RNLI stood by through the early hours of Saturday morning (6 June), to assist the quadriplegic solo yachtswoman, Hilary Lister, after a long trip from Milford Haven.

Prior to setting off from Milford Haven, Lister’s support team had arranged for the Fishguard RNLI to assist with getting Hilary out of the water on her arrival. However weather and waves disrupted the passage plan and poor VHF reception created uncertainty over the unexplained delay.

Hilary wrote in her blog: We were in an area which is notoriously difficult for VHF (marine radio) communications (off Scrumble Head). As the wave height picked up I made the decision to contact the Coast Guard and ask for assistance from Fishguard Lifeboat. We had not received any of their transmissions which I now understand they had been making for some time at the request of the lifeboat coxswain as we were overdue.’

Lifeboat volunteers and a passing ferry considered an attempt at lifting Hilary from her boat but eventually, her own support RIB with five on board towed her into harbour. She was then transferred to the inshore lifeboat as it can be winched out of the water where an ambulance was waiting.

She wrote: ‘The cold and wet conditions had taken their toll on my breathing and I needed a couple of breaths from my carer once we reached the top. This can be quite alarming to watch, but usually it gets me going again. They transferred me into the waiting ambulance, where we had time to strip me off as water had got down into my clothing through my neck. I was cold and wet and the crew gave me oxygen as a precautionary measure, but they realised immediately that I was not hypothermic. I spent a couple of hours in Withthybush hospital being warmed up, but was conscious and asking to go home from the moment I got into the ambulance!

‘Sailing is a sport which will occasionally catch the most experienced yachtsman out in the weather. We are trying to achieve something which has never been done using new technology for people as disabled as I am. This means tackling difficult sails, as any sailor who want to progress must eventually do. This is why I sail with a support boat. I would just like to thank them for their professionalism under difficult circumstances and also thank the part of the crew who remain on land for making sure that everything ran smoothly once we reached Fishguard.’

Hilary Lister’s blog entry in full