'Two lives were saved': Man's dramatic rescue from sinking boat

Paul Carter

Paul Carter. - Credit: Mick Howes

A lifeboat operations manager has praised his rescuers after being saved from a sinking motor cruiser.

Paul Carter, the Lifeboat Operations Manager for Lowestoft, was helping the new owner of a 40ft motor cruiser make its way to the Medway in the early hours of December 11 when it suffered engine failure and began taking on water. 

Recalling the dramatic rescue this week, Mr Carter - also known as Henry - said that the events "prove that it can happen to anyone".

He recalled how the Fairline 40 motor cruiser "sank beneath them" in the early hours of Saturday, December 11.

A Fairline 40 Motor Cruiser similar to the vessel that sank

A Fairline 40 Motor Cruiser similar to the vessel that sank. - Credit: Paul Carter

Mr Carter said: “We were two miles east of Sizewell when the engine stopped.

"On checking, we discovered that the engine compartment was rapidly filling with water and there was no way of stopping it. 

"I think that my time and training with the RNLI then went a long way to help to me deal with the situation."

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After contacting the UK Coastguard, at 4.33am the Aldeburgh RNLI lifeboat was launched amid reports that the vessel, with two people on board, was "sinking fast."

Mr Carter said: "It became obvious that we would need to abandon the vessel and get into the life raft.

The life raft recovered from the motor cruiser on the deck of Aldeburgh lifeboat

The life raft recovered from the motor cruiser on the deck of Aldeburgh lifeboat. - Credit: Paul Carter

"We were both wearing lifejackets but sadly the life raft only semi inflated, yet it was sufficient for us to lay on top of it.

"So, we had no protective cover over us as we awaited the arrival of the Aldeburgh lifeboat crew.

Aldeburgh Lifeboat 'Freddie Cooper'

Aldeburgh Lifeboat 'Freddie Cooper'. - Credit: Aldeburgh RNLI

"All we could do was to watch the 40ft vessel slowly sinking.

"We were relieved to see the lights of the lifeboat approaching - by which time the cruiser was 95 per cent under water."

The Aldeburgh lifeboat returns from rescuing two men as the sun begins to rise.

The Aldeburgh lifeboat returns from rescuing two men as the sun begins to rise. - Credit: Aldeburgh RNLI

The volunteer crew of the RNLI Aldeburgh all-weather lifeboat, the Freddie Cooper, then helped the pair from the life raft and on to the lifeboat.

Mr Carter said: "Although we were cold, we were checked over and were well.  

"From the lifeboat we could see our vessel had almost sunk, with only the bow poking out of the water.

"They stood by to ensure it sank and to collect any debris, so as not to be a shipping hazard.

"We then returned to station where we were given a hot drink."

Aldeburgh lifeboat crew inspect the life raft from the motor cruiser

Aldeburgh lifeboat crew inspect the life raft from the motor cruiser. - Credit: Paul Carter

Once the vessel had sank the lifeboat crew ensured that the area was safe, before the ALB was stood down and returned to station. 

Mr Carter said: "I would like to know what actually happened though I suspect that the starboard propeller came off and punched a hole in the aft part of the hull.

"There was a clunk from the aft and the starboard engine lost drive, two minutes later the port engine overheated.

"We shut down both engines, had a quick look below and saw water halfway up the engines. 

"I would like to thank Humber Coastguard and especially the coxswain on this rescue Adrian 'Nugget' Burns and the crew of Aldeburgh lifeboat Steve Osborne, Paul Rosher, Tom Cousins and David Cook who came to our aid.

"In my view two lives were saved.

"It is especially poignant to me being the Lifeboat Operations Manager at Lowestoft.

"I have helped many seafarers to move their vessels between ports and have always been aware that the situation could arise and had thought how would I deal with it when or if it happened – so perhaps I was well prepared for the abandoning?"

He added: "It hasn’t put me off moving vessels and a few days later I went to Southampton to move another boat back to Lowestoft!"

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