A piece in the December 2014 edition of Sea Breezes (From the Lookout) caught my eye, and reminded me of an incident that I had almost forgotten about.
The Editor’s recollection is quite correct. The trawler assisted by the Ailsa Princess was indeed the Fleetwood vessel Boston Islander. I was the Radio Officer on the Ailsa Princess that Sunday afternoon, on what should have been a routine crossing of the North Channel. Radio watch was kept on 500kHz W/T, which was the Morse calling and distress frequency, as well as VHF Channel 16 on Radio Telephony. Though not required by regulations, it was my practice to monitor the frequency of 2182kHz, which was the Radio Telephony calling and distress frequency for smaller vessels that did not carry a Radio Officer.
I heard Boston Islander call Portpatrick Radio / GPK on 2182 and sensed that something was not quite right, so followed the conversation onto the working channels. I learned that the trawler was in trouble and broken down off the Antrim Coast and in danger of drifting onto rocks. I passed this information onto Capt David Brown, so when the distress call was broadcast we were already primed to go and assist.
I remember it being a busy afternoon communicating with the distress vessel, Portpatrick Radio, Coastguard and a helicopter that arrived on scene. While we were towing the Boston Islander, the Purser brought a passenger to the Radio Room who wanted to make a radiotelephone call. She was very annoyed that her journey should be delayed by our rescue efforts! Subsequently, when it came to salvage negotiations, the Owner and Insurers were less than enamoured about paying out. As was my practice, I kept a meticulous Radio Log and this was subsequently one of the documents used in the arbitration. I think we waited at least two years, before all the ship’s staff aboard that day received their share of the salvage award.
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