A DUTCH sailor has told how a twist of fate saw him rescue two Sunderland fishermen who had been drifting at sea for nine hours after their boat sank.
Jan Van den Berg, 64, and his wife Gerrie, 63, were on their way from Scotland to Whitby in their yacht Jager when they spotted the stricken fisherman off the Wearside coast.
The two men’s boat, Stella Maris, sunk when they struck a submerged object at 9.30am on Monday.
They spent the next nine hours on a tiny life raft and had been unable to send out a distress call because of how fast the boat sunk.
Luckily, they were spotted by semi-retired painter and decorator Jan. He said: “I noticed an orange spot on the horizon. The weather was so nice and calm that I thought it couldn’t be anybody in trouble, but thought ‘you never know’ and thought I had better take a look.
“As I got close, I could see somebody waving. I saw they were two fishermen. They said their boat had sank and the dinghy was taking on water as well.”
Jan pulled them on board, gave the men some food and drink and alerted the Coastguard.
He added: “It was a calm day, but had the weather turned, it could have been disastrous.”
Hartlepool RNLI Lifeboat was launched to pick up the men, who were checked over by paramedics before being released.