TWO fishermen feared to have drowned off the Aberdeenshire coast today revealed they survived two days drifting in the North Sea on a bottle of water, two biscuits and a flask of tea.
Jim Reid, 75, and his 35-year-old grandson David Irvine, both from Inverbervie, were spotted in their 16ft creel boat, Water Rail, by a passing fishing boat around 45 miles off Montrose today morning after going missing in thick fog with a compass that had stopped working.
A massive air and sea search involving lifeboats and helicopters, as well local vessels, had been called off just 30 minutes before they were found yesterday morning.
They had spent two days and nights “cursing each other” and supping their tea hoping to be rescued.
The pair spoke of their ordeal and miraculous survival just minutes after setting foot back on solid ground and being greeted by relieved family.
Mr Irvine said: “I’m glad the lads found us when they did, last night was cold.
“The compass wasn’t showing us where to go and because of the fog on the first night we were completely lost. We had no idea where we were.
“We followed the compass but it just wasn’t the right direction. We couldn’t see the land. We were trusting the compass completely.”
The pair ended up miles from the shore, trying to conserve fuel while surviving on a litre and half of water, a flask of tea and two biscuits.
Mr Reid said they saw other big ships as they drifted out to sea but they were too far away.
He said they had no idea of the huge search that was taking place for them closer to shore, adding: “I had two rockets which I set off on the first night. What was worrying me more was what was happening back home. We never gave up hope.”
He joked that he had came back from his ordeal two stones lighter.
The cheery pensioner said the men managed to pass the time adrift by “cursing each other”, but said he was elated when the Buckie-based trawler Sylvia Bowers came across them yesterday morning.
He said: “I just about walked to it. There was a comedy about it. They were coming towards us and I was standing on my boat with a red ball indicating.
“I’m waving it to them and they just went straight past - you should have heard my language. But they came back around. It was just the best thing in the world.”
Mr Irvine added: “It was a mix of relief and shock. We had seen so many ships that were far away that we couldn’t reach.”
The father of Mr Irvine, David Irvine sen, said: “It’s just a miracle. I had kept hope when there was nothing found from the boat.
“I had to try and keep it together for everyone else. It is just unbelievable, I burst to tears when I found out.”
The pair were spotted by the crew of the Sylvia Bowers just over 48 hours after setting off to set creels.
The pair had left Gourdon Harbour at around 4am on Tuesday, but when they failed to return, and as thick fog surrounded the coastline, the alarm was raised just before noon.
And as hope for their safety was fading, the call from the skipper of the Sylvia Bowers turned growing despair into joy, particularly for their families and the fishing communities across the north-east.
Sylvia Bowers skipper James Spencer said thet had set sail from Buckie and were heading to the English Channel when the crewmembers Mark Spence and David Gillespie spotted the men waving from their boat at about 7:30am yesterday.
The 47-year-old, who lives in Buckie, said: “They were very lucky. The two lads on watch were following a predetermined line and it just so happened that this boat was just off the line. They passed close by and they were waving at us.
“They were in a small boat and it was strange because they were 45 miles off the land.
“We didn’t actually know what was wrong until they came alongside us and explained they had been out for days.
“The guys woke me up and we turned round and we came alongside them and they climbed up on board.
The father-of-two said he contacted the coastguard and the men spoke to a doctor on the phone.
Mr Spencer added: “They were given hot drinks, toast and sandwiches. The youngest one was a bit damp so he got a change of clothes. They were in good spirits and glad to be picked up.”
A message posted on Facebook by Mark Spence said: “Ma night was affa boring untill we came across the two lads thats been lost at sea.
“Got the lads on board safe and sound, now towing their boat to Montrose to get them ashore, both men safe and sound.”
RNLI spokesman Richard Smith said the two men had faced very bad weather conditions when they were out at sea.
The heavy fog did not lift offshore until Thursday morning and was then followed by gale force seven winds and heavy rain.
Mr Smith said: “They are in surprisingly good spirits considering they have been out at sea much longer than they expected.
“The weather was very bad out there, there was intermittent fog and it was very cold.”
First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday tweeted that he was glad the missing fishermen had been rescued.
He said: “Wonderful news missing North-east fishermen Jim Reid and David Irvine have been found safe & well. Reminder of the dangerous job fishermen do.”
A spokesman for Scotmid Cooperative, where Mr Irvine worked as a branch supervisor, said: “This is just absolutely brilliant news. It proves the point about never giving up hope.”
The mother of David Irvine said her son had called her from the sea to let her know that he was safe.
Marion Irvine, 53, said: “I thought I was dreaming. I don’t know what’s happened to them on the water and there was always hope they would be found.
“I have been tearful for the past few days and this is just unreal.”