Warning to be 'well equipped when you head out to sea'

A lone yachtsman activated his Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) after his boat began taking on water in the Bay of Biscay.

His distress alert, made from the Norwegian yacht Ghost, was picked up by Falmouth Coastguard, who made an emergency broadcast via Inmarsat just after 10pm last night.

The vessel was located 220 nautical miles south west of the Isles of Scilly.

Several vessels responded and Falmouth Coastguard also liaised with Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) in France and Spain.

The French authorities sent a fixed wing aircraft, but they were unable to communicate with the Ghost via VHF radio.

A yacht called Mariette, from Falmouth, which was sailing in the area, was spotted by the French aircraft and asked to assist.

The Mariette was able to get alongside the Ghost and passed over a handheld VHF radio which enabled the yachtsman to communicate with those assisting him.

Two crew from the Mariette also boarded the yacht and found it was taking on water, but they managed to pump the bilges dry.

The skipper is now resting, with the Mariette staying alongside, before the yacht continues on its journey to La Coruna later today.

Simon Dennis, Watch Officer at Falmouth Coastguard, said: ‘This incident demonstrates how important it is to be well equipped when you head out to sea.

‘We recommend that owners of leisure vessels are fully equipped with all the necessary communications equipment and life saving apparatus.

‘Having an EPIRB meant this yachtsman was located quickly, however he did not have a VHF handheld radio to be able to communicate with those that responded to his distress call.

‘All EPIRBs should be registered with their country of origin, as this enables search and rescue authorities to have all the details they need in the event of emergency.’

(Pictures: Stock images of EPIRBs)