PICTURES: Fishermen helped to safety after boat sinks at Blakeney

Conservationists used to keeping an eye out for rare birds helped a different species evade danger when they came to the aid of three fishermen after their boat sank off the north Norfolk coast.

A group of National Trust coastal wardens at Blakeney Point helped the trio off the beach at the beauty spot after their boat was overcome by waves on Saturday and watched as the vessel dipped below the water.

Eddie Stubbings was the first to spot the men were in danger while on duty at the 'gap' - the break between the dunes where visitors access the beach - and rushed to their aid as they pulled themselves out of the water.

A sudden northerly wind had whipped up the sea and as the men sailed into the harbour waves began crashing over the boat, flooding it.

'They were basically sinking and by the time I saw them they were clambering out of the boat and were in the sea,' Mr Stubbings said. 'The wind was blowing them on shore, they weren't that far off shore.'

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He and fellow warden Paul Nichols led the men into the warm of the lifeboat house where they were given dry clothes and hot drinks before being taken by a National Trust boat to Morston.

Luckily one of the trio managed to drop the stricken fishing boat's anchor before getting to safety, which stopped the vessel from drifting into the Point's important colony of little terns.

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Mr Stubbings' colleagues Ajay Tegala and Joe Cockram were also on scene to assist the men and Mr Cockram took these pictures of the boat as it sank, and the ensuing salvage mission the following morning.

Fellow coastal warden Graham Lubbock and Morston ferry man Jim Temple helped the group recover the boat, which had taken a bit of a 'hammering'.

They bailed out the sand and water it had taken on board and dragged it by tractor to safety before the tides re-floated it back into the harbour and then towed to Morston.

This is not the first time Mr Stubbings and his colleagues have helped stricken sailors in difficulties after a sudden weather change.

He added: 'About five years ago while we were sat in the lifeboat house at 10pm we got a knock on the door and there were two blokes just in their underpants soaking wet shivering and exactly the same thing had happened to them.

'On this (most recent) occasion it was a light south westerly, the sea state was light and they'd been out all day. And then all of a sudden it just started going to a northerly and then the waves picked up. The weather can turn quite quickly.'

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