Photo gallery and video: Caister lifeboat scrambled to emergency on board historic Great Yarmouth drifter

The Caister Lifeboat, Bernard Matthews II on a training exercise to pick up a casualty from the Lydia Eva, during its first sailing of 2014.

Picture: James Bass The Caister Lifeboat, Bernard Matthews II on a training exercise to pick up a casualty from the Lydia Eva, during its first sailing of 2014. Picture: James Bass

Monday, June 9, 2014
1:19 PM

A genteel jaunt aboard a historic Norfolk ship took a dramatic turn when a passenger fell ill and a lifeboat was scrambled to make a mid-sea rescue.

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The Caister Lifeboat, Bernard Matthews II on a training exercise to pick up casualty Lucy Clapham from the Lydia Eva.

Picture: James BassThe Caister Lifeboat, Bernard Matthews II on a training exercise to pick up casualty Lucy Clapham from the Lydia Eva. Picture: James Bass

But passengers aboard the heritage-steeped Lydia Eva were not too perturbed when their fellow traveller hit the deck, as the 999 call was part of a live training exercise for the crew from Caister lifeboat.

The all-weather Bernard Matthews II was launched on Saturday after crew aboard the steam drifter made an emergency call to Humber Coastguard, reporting a passenger suffering from a possible heart attack.

The Lydia Eva was on the first trip of 2014 from its home moorings in Great Yarmouth when it played a part in the exercise – the first of its kind in its 84-year history.

A small crowd gathered earlier in the morning to watch as she steamed out of the town with a VIP skipper at the helm. Peter Duncan, 71, has been a lifelong fishermen and used to follow the herring shoals from his native Scotland all the way down the east coast.

He was joined by his twin brother and fellow fisherman Andrew and together the pair passed on invaluable lessons to Bill Edwards and Aaron Stearne, two master mariners who will be steering the Lydia Eva on future trips.

Peter, who with his brother has written three books about their life at sea, said it was “brilliant” to take the helm, after travelling down from Scotland especially.

“I still go offshore with these big survey vessels and now and again take a trawler out. We love doing it, we’re passing on something to people. We want them to know about the way of life we had.

“Our legs are sore when we’re walking about out on a shopping trip because we’re so used to this rolling about. We’re happiest at sea.”

Passengers – including High Sheriff of Great Yarmouth Henry Cator – enjoyed the slightly choppy ride out to sea, but as the ship passed Scroby Sands windfarm the “casualty” suddenly fell ill and the lifeboat was scrambled.

Pulling up alongside the coal-fired drifter, the lifeboat crew jumped on board to assess the patient, before administering oxygen and lifting her onto a stretcher.

As the waves rocked both vessels the casualty was carefully transferred to the lifeboat before being whipped back to shore in a matter of minutes.

The exercise was also an important training session for Coastguard staff who were on radio contact throughout the rescue.

Paul Garrod, chairman of the independent lifeboat, was among the crew on board. He said: “It was a great exercise, I thought it went really, really well. The three crew who worked with the casualty did a professional job.

“From a chairman point of view I’m very pleased with what I saw. It gives us more confidence if we do have to do it on an active call and I know we can certainly rise to the challenge.”

■ The lifeboat is hosting its fourth annual beer festival from June 13 - 15. Featuring more than 40 beers and ciders, a hog roast and live bands, the festival is being held at the lifeboat station off Beach Road from 6pm on the Friday, from noon on the Saturday and from noon-4pm on the Sunday.

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