Belfast Telegraph

Lost fishermen got by on biscuits

Two fishermen feared lost at sea have said they got through their two-day ordeal on a small flask of tea and a couple of biscuits.

James Reid, 75, and his grandson David Irvine, 35, returned to shore today after their "miracle" discovery by another boat off the Aberdeenshire coast.

The men had been due to return to Gourdon harbour on Tuesday morning on their vessel the Water Rail but they ran off course when their compass stopped working.

Thick fog then resulted in them getting "completely lost" and they were unable to contact anyone as Mr Irvine said he forgot to take his phone.

A large-scale search for the boat was called off last night but the pair were spotted by a passing fishing vessel this morning, 46 miles off the coast of north-east Scotland.

The crew of the Sylvia Bowers DS8 reported picking them up safe and sound at about 8am. A lifeboat later brought the men ashore to be reunited with their relieved families in Montrose.

The pair, from Inverbervie, said they first realised they were in trouble after seven hours but never gave up hope of being rescued and passed the time "cursing one another", according to Mr Reid.

He said: "We had a litre and half of water, a small flask of tea enough for two and half cups and two biscuits, that was it.

"We set the compass and it must have stuck, it wasn't in the right direction.

"We didn't know where we were."

He said it was "the best thing in the world" when the lifeboat arrived while Mr Irvine said he felt "relief and shock".

The first thing he said to the rescuers was "boy, am I glad to see you", said Mr Reid.

Mr Irvine recounted the conversation he had with his mother on the morning of their rescue.

"I just said hello, I'm on my way to Montrose and she said: 'Why?'

"I said: 'Do you know who you are speaking to?'

"She thought it was my brother she was on the phone to, she wasn't expecting a call from me, and then she just sort of went to bits and I said: 'I'll see you in a couple of hours'.

"When I saw there wasn't really a lot being said, and hugs."

The pair said they were more worried about the lifeboat crews looking for them than for their own safety.

Mr Irvine said: "We have spoken to a couple of family members and they have told us that there were lots and lots of people out, so we have got to thank them for being out and risking themselves looking for us."

Their boat sunk while being towed back to shore.

When asked how long it will be before he is back out on the water, Mr Reid said: "It depends what my wife says."

A massive air and sea search was launched at around noon on Tuesday after the small fishing boat was reported overdue.

The men had set sail in the early hours and were expected to return at about 10am.

Mr Reid's sister Dorothy Milne, who lost her nephew at sea more than two decades ago, spoke of her relief following the discovery of her brother.

Ms Milne, 72, said: ''It's just magic, that's all I can say.

''We found out he was lost on Tuesday. My sister and I were away on a trip. I just thought, we've lost another at sea.

''I heard he had been found this morning. I was lying in my bed.

''My brother-in-law phoned and said 'I hope you're lying down', and I thought, he's about to tell me they're dead.

''He said, 'They're alive, Dot - 50 miles away they are'. It's just a dream.''

She went on: ''I lost my nephew Johnny Reid 25 years ago. He went out on his boat and never came back.

''He went out in the boat at Bervie, around the cliffs and that was him, never seen again.

''It's dangerous. The sea can be calm one minute and the swell can come and that's it.''

Mr Reid said he had just one hour of sleep throughout the ordeal while his grandson got "half a day's" sleep.

The lifeboat crews did not know that they had finally found the missing fishermen when they rescued the vessel, according to Mr Reid.

Mr Irvine said: "It was unbelievable it was so close, it was just there. We had seen so many that were far away that we couldn't reach."

Mark Spence, understood to be a crewman on the boat that found the missing men, wrote on Facebook: ''Ma night was affa boring untill we came across the two lads thats been lost at sea for 3 days now , got the lads on board safe and sound, now towing their boat to montrose to get them ashore, both men safe and sound.''

He said it was ''magic'' to find them.

The post on the Fishing News group page has garnered thousands of ''likes''.

The coastguard said the navigation gear on the Water Rail had failed, leaving the two men in thick fog, unable to tell where they were going.

Chief coastguard Richard Martin said: ''We are delighted that the two men have been found safe and well and will be reunited with their families.

''We thank all those involved in this search and rescue operation - including the crew of the Sylvia Bowers, the fishing boat which found the men.''

Local councillor Alison Evison said: ''It's wonderful, tremendous news. There is a lot of relief all round and a lot of joy.

''It's a miracle, really. Everyone's prayers have been answered.''

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead hailed the discovery as ''great news''.

He said: ''It's times like these that really brings home how dangerous a job our fishermen do, day after day, to provide fresh fish for us all to enjoy and I am delighted that this incident has had a happy ending.''


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