An epic weekend of effort resulted in Shemaron being rescued from Robbers Rock.
The next thing I remember is the rib Fly Away appearing out of the dark with all crew onboard. The moon had disappeared, the darkness had grown deeper, and a jabble had come up on the water. The rib was bouncing onto the bottom of the ladders which in turn were jumping up St Claire’s hull making it difficult for the men to climb back on deck. One wrong move, one slight misjudgment could result in a man overboard and more than a boat being rescued.
Out there in the impregnable night, I saw how difficult it would be to able to see a person in the water let alone bring them to safety. I stood balancing by the gunnels, watching. Recent events had refocused my thoughts on the skill of the ring net fishermen. Keeping control of these boats in demanding conditions would always have been a challenge. To say nothing of how quickly that control can slip away. Floating near the rocky shore at night with men climbing from one vessel to another was not a comfortable place to be.
Fishing for herring at night close to the rocks was a continual hazard for the ring net fisherman. Back in 1949 when Shemaron was built she was known as Wistaria BA64 and she neighboured Watchful …
“Wistaria would shoot her net, which was marked at intervals with buoys and its progress over the water would be called to skipper and crew across the night. The end of the net was marked by the Winkie, which would be picked up by Watchful. The neighbouring boats would be constantly talking over the radio, easing the procedure along. Wistaria and Watchful joined by their net would then tow for a short period before closing the circle. An eloquent scenario played out on the waves the as two boats worked as one, every man a smooth piece in the precise process of the motion.”
Shemaron was not rescued that night
We finally gave up about 1:30 am. The mood was somber. We had continued trying to move Shemaron long after the top of the tide. No one had been prepared to give up until every last idea, every last suggestion had been proffered and tried. Shemaron had not been persuaded to free herself from the rock. She was not rescued that night, our hopes had been dashed.
The safe arrival of the men dissolved my overwhelming disappointment. Fly Away left us and headed back to Tarbert and St Claire prepared to follow. Unfortunately, her propeller still wasn’t free from the rope so it was a long, slow and quiet journey back to the harbour.
We tied up and I left the men to finish the night with a dram. I was exhausted beyond sleep and felt the need to be alone with my thoughts. I resolved to call the insurance company in the morning and walked numbly towards my bed.
The next day when Fly Away yet again crossed over to Robbers Rock I wasn’t there. It was an early start preceded by a late night for the second rescue attempt. After her night lying on the rocks, Shemaron had taken on more water. The pump had to be set up and the whole grueling two and a half hour pumping out process repeated. There was still no surety that things would turn out differently.
Swn y Mor is the beautiful old lifeboat that stays on the pontoons in Tarbert. She is a worthy vessel and has been around the world under the tutelage of her current skipper and his wife. It was Swn y Mor who went across to Robbers Rock on the second rescue attempt.
Rescued from Robbers Rock
Morning tides are always higher. This was a last ditch attempt but more water could only be a good thing. As long as it was outside the boat! The tow rope was tied around Shemaron’s wheelhouse and attached to the lifeboat. Swn y Mor began to pull. At first, the attempts were to no avail. However after a little while the tow the rope went slack. With no drama, Shemaron began to bounce then like a feather on a breeze, she floated off Robbers Rock. A little while later I was standing on the harbourside watching the sweetest thing, Shemaron coming in under her own steam!
Fly Away bumped into the harbour on a lively wake followed moments later by Shemaron who was gliding sedately towards the pontoon. Hard on their heels and loud on the claxon was the Lifeboat Swn y Mor with one more rescue under her belt!
With that life clicked back into focus.
Shemaron has been checked by divers and appears no worse the wear for her escapade.
In the words of trustee and engineer at hand Tony Barker –
“After an epic weekend of effort from all involved who helped get her back off the rocks.
Thanks to all who assisted words do not express thanks enough.”