A FISHING boat crew had a narrow escape when they abandoned ship minutes before their vessel capsized.
The Apollo 11, with a crew of five on board, ran aground on rocks at Inninmore Bay in the Sound of Mull when it was caught in a severe squall in the early hours of yesterday morning.
The skipper issued a mayday, and Stornoway Coastguard requested Oban RNLI lifeboat to assist. A Royal Navy rescue helicopter from HMS Gannet, Prestwick was also requested.
John Hill, Oban lifeboat coxswain, said: “The boat was hard aground at the bow, with the stern down, with a list to starboard.
“The skipper took the decision, as we were prepping our inflatable boat, to go into their life raft, they then started to paddle (in the raft) towards the lifeboat, we got hold of them and took them onboard. As we were recovering the liferaft and the xp boat the vessel capsized, almost upside down. It was quite dramatic.”
Praising the skipper and crew Mr Hill said: “They all had lifejackets on, they deployed their life raft and the skipper, who had his hand-held VHF radio with him, took the decision they would abandon the vessel and go on to the life raft.
“It was a stressful situation for them and they did really well. The boat went down very quickly, within eight to ten minutes it went over, one minute it was upright and the next it was over.”
The crew of the fishing boat, which is understood to be from the Girvan area, were uninjured and were taken back to Oban.
A Stornoway Coastguard spokesman said two other boats, Heritage and Bonny Lass, had stood by ready to assist.
The spokesman added that efforts were being made yesterday to determine what state the boat was in and to see if it could be recovered from the sea.
The vessel became almost completely submerged in deep water as its crew watched from the safety of the lifeboat.
They were checked for injuries and were found to be no worse for their traumatic ordeal, which began shortly before 4am.
The lifeboat arrived on scene at 4:25am and the men were put ashore at Oban at 6am.
The call-out was the fourth in 24 hours for Oban RNLI lifeboat, one of the busiest all-weather lifeboats in the RNLI’s Scottish fleet.
On Sunday afternoon the volunteer crew were called to a yacht in difficulty at Craignish Point, Argyll.
The lifeboat launched within minutes of receiving the call but before it arrived on scene news came that the yacht had received a tow from a passing fishing boat, which took it to the safety of Crinan harbour.
The lifeboat was then called to another incident, where a two- vehicle collision had ended with a car crashing into the Bridge over the Atlantic, which links the isle of Seil to the mainland.
However, the lifeboat launch was called off when the passengers escaped their vehicle unaided.
The Oban crew’s third call of the day was to a jet ski, reported to be in difficulty in the Sound of Kerrera just after 7.30pm on Sunday. The lifeboat was asked to stand down before reaching the jet ski, as it had already been assisted ashore.