Five years ago, a record breaking rescue mission ended in the Port of Sunderland.

Friday, 10th July 2020, 12:00 am

Never before had a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboat sailed so far to accomplish a rescue.

The story begins at 9.30 am on Wednesday, June 25, 2015, when Tynemouth RNLI all-weather Severn-class lifeboat, Spirit of Northumberland, slipped her moorings to help the decommissioned Danish trawler Louise Thomsen that was taking on water far out at sea.

The drama is featured in the new 272-page RNLI book “Surviving the Storms: Extraordinary Stories of Courage and Compassion at Sea,” recounting a series of dramatic rescues by RNLI lifeboats and lifeguards around the UK over the past 20 years.

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Volunteer crew member Mark Taylor-Gregg tells how he became involved with the RNLI and the part he and others played in aiding Louise Thomsen and her Wearside skipper, who was sailing single-handedly from Denmark to Sunderland.

After a winchman from a Coastguard rescue helicopter had lowered a pump, danger of sinking was averted, allowing the aircraft to depart.

But when Tynemouth Lifeboat reached Louise Thomsen’s estimated position, there was no trace. Efforts to make radio contact failed, causing coastguards to ramp up the search, fearing she may have sunk.

Eventually, radio contact was re-established. The tense atmosphere in the lifeboat’s wheelhouse as she heaved through rough seas to reach the stricken trawler can be sensed to such an extent that the reader might actually imagine they were on board.

Almost on the limits of the lifeboat’s endurance, relief in locating the trawler 110 nautical miles from land is palpable. Soon, the long, arduous tow to the River Wear began and it was an exhausted and grateful skipper who stepped ashore at Sunderland Fish Quay hours later.

Another ten remarkable rescues from around the British Isles are featured in this superbly written book, which is available in hardback (RRP £14.99).

“Surviving the Storms” (ISBN 978-0-00-839012-9) can be pre-ordered through the publishers online at http://books.harpercollins.co.uk/surviving-the-storms or the RNLI Shop at http://shop.RNLI.org/surviving-the-storms . It is also due for sale at Waterstones and most Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury stores. All profits go the RNLI.