Saving Fleetwoods Historic Lifeboat
Registered Charity No:1166752
At 13:55 on Sunday 28 July 1974 stations Hon Sec received a phone call from the Coastguard informing him that the Prawner M.F.V. “Lassie FD263 had gone aground on Sunderland Shoulder and an angling boat was standing by her. At 14:00 Motor Mechanic Andrew Griffin fired the maroons to assemble the Lifeboat crew, The RNLB Ann Letitia Russell launched at 14:15 in to a rough flooding tide with a westly fresh breeze, Under the command of Coxswain Roy Mitchinson with 2nd Coxswain Noel Bird, Motor Mechanic Andrew Griffin. Assistant Motor Mechanic Norman Pendlebury & Crew members David Scott, John McDonough and G Whithead on bored.
On arrival at the casualty at 14:40 the Lifeboat found the Prawner high and dry about half a mile north of Lune No.2 buoy. The lifeboat landed two of the crew members to assist the prawner’s crew when she refloated.
As the tide made the wind freshened considerably and when the water reached the prawner the tide was very rough. When there was sufficient water the Lifeboat ran in from the south to fire a rocket line over to the prawner. The first rocket line was faulty and failed to take all the line out. The second was too powerful, reaching the end of the line and jerked back. A third attempt was made with success, but as the tow rope was being hauled across it parted. By now the seas were breaking heavily over the prawner and the Lifeboat. Coxswain Roy Mitchinson decided to drop the anchor of the Lifeboat to the southwest of prawner and veer down to the casualty until a tow rope could be made fast.
The tow rope was taken to the bow of the Lifeboat to spring the prawner of the bank, as the Lifeboat struggled in the heavy surf a wave swept right across the Lifeboat snapping the mizzen mast in half and almost hitting Coxswain Roy Mitchinson. The tow rope then parted springing back and was picked up in the Lifeboats port propeller seizing it solid. Coxswain Roy Mitchenson took the Lifeboat back towards the anchor into deeper water on the starboard engine so that Motor Mechanic Andrew Griffin could remove stop the engines and attempt to remove the rope though scuttle, but the rope was fast stuck leaving the Lifeboat. While heaving the anchor, the winch broke down due to a rubber coupling failing between the engine and the hydraulic pump, whilst the Lifeboat crew recovered the anchor by hand the Lifeboat ran over the anchor braking one arm off the stock.
The Prawner was now nearly full of water and the crew asked to be taken off. Working on only one engine Coxswain Roy Mitchinson managed to get alongside the starboard quarter of the casualty, and although bumping heavily against the prawner the Lifeboat managed to take the 4 crew off the prawner. The Lifeboat then went astern off the bank into deeper water and laid there for half an hour.
Coxswain Roy Mitchinson thought he would have to abandon the Prawner, but as the tide rose the worst of the breaking waves moved further inshore and the wind eased. One last attempt was made to save the prawner. A line was got aboard the Prawner “Lassie” and she was taken in tow. Now with the Lifeboat having one engine it was difficult to manoeuvre quickly and at one time the bight of the tow was picked up by the starboard propeller. However, the engine was stopped again and the rope was removed from the starboard propeller though the scuttle. The prawner “Lassie” was towed clear of the bank, two of the Lifeboat crew were put on board the prawner to bail out some of the water and she was towed back to the Jubilee Quay at Fleetwood around 19:40 and put on the Grid Iron for pumping out. RNLB Ann Letitia Russell returned to the boathouse and was put back on the slip at 20:00.