A couple abandoned their blazing yacht after an engine fire broke out near the entrance to Poole Harbour.

The ‘Mayday Mayday Mayday’ call was made from the 31ft yacht just after 6.30pm on Saturday, first reporting that smoke was coming from its engine room.

The caller then alerted the coastguard that he ‘could see flames and that they were ‘abandoning ship’.

The UK Coastguard also received multiple 999 calls from other vessels and members of the public in the area that could see the black smoke billowing from the yacht, which was in the Swash Channel, approximately 100 metres outside the entrance of Poole Harbour.

The yacht, with a man and woman on board, had been en route to Old Harry rocks at the time of the fire.

A nearby pleasure cruiser and several other vessels, including Condor ferry which launched its rescue boat, responded to the emergency broadcast and made their way to the burning vessel to assist the crew.

The 25ft pleasure cruiser recovered the two crew and transferred them to the Poole RNLI lifeboat.

Poole Lifeboat volunteers, who had been washing mud from the lifeboat and equipment back at the station, following two earlier shouts, sprang into action when the Mayday call came in.

At 18.40pm both lifeboats launched, Poole Inshore lifeboat was on scene within eight minutes and found that the couple had been picked up by a passing motor boat and were safe and well.

There were a lot of vessels in the vicinity so the lifeboat crew moved boats away, cordoning off the area around the burning yacht. They transferred the casualties from the motorboat to the lifeboat and assessed the situation, establishing how much fuel was on-board and if there were any gas bottles or anything else inflammable.

The all-weather lifeboat arrived and was preparing its salvage pump and fire hose, the crew began to douse the fire down, the yacht was drifting north east.

The inshore lifeboat stood by as a guard vessel. The casualties on board were transferred onto the Vanguard, the pilot boat, who took them back to Poole Yacht Club.

Yacht fire. Credit Poole Lifeboat Station

Credit: Poole Lifeboat Station

The fire was soon under control, the volunteer lifeboat crew then gathered up the mast and the rigging, secured it all to the side of the boat and towed the yacht back to Poole Yacht Club where the fire service were standing by to check the vessel over.

David Jones Duty Controller for the UK Coastguard said: ‘Unfortunately the lifejackets were in the area where the fire started, but the two crew managed to stay calm under the circumstances, and were able to give us accurate information about their location which enabled the RNLI to reach them very quickly.

‘The crew were also very lucky to be in an area that had quite a lot of sea traffic who were able to offer assistance and we’d like to say thank you to all those who came to their assistance – especially the vessel that recovered the crew.  We’re just very pleased that they were rescued safely and can be reunited with their families.’

Meanwhile the inshore lifeboat heard a radio call for assistance from another yacht that had run aground on the corner of the channel at ‘Middle Mud’. A tow was attempted to refloat the vessel but it was to no avail, the crew decided that as the vessel was in no immediate danger, it would be better to wait for high water where it could refloat itself.

The lifeboat organised a call from the Coastguard later at high water, to confirm that the vessel was able to continue with its journey.

Both lifeboats returned back to station and were ready for service after long day by 22.30pm.

Then at 23:45pm the pagers rang out again as the inshore lifeboat was tasked to a report of a person in the water in Poole Harbour, the lifeboat crew recovered the casualty from the water and proceeded back to the station where the casualty was transferred to ambulance crew.

The inshore lifeboat was then tasked by Solent Coastguard to check the vessel aground at Middle Mud. As the high water had passed, it seemed they may have to wait till the next high water.

Volunteer Senior Helmsman Gavin McGuinness said: ‘A very busy day and night where we had a variety of jobs, the boat on fire required immediate action, as it was hazard to shipping and it could have been an environmental issue, if it had gone down, there were a lot of vessels in the area, who were also at risk if the fuel or canisters had gotten alight. The mud work is always strenuous, with the heat and the vulnerability of the gentlemen concerned we were happy to help’.