Capsize survivors get their boat back

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TWENTY years ago this week Hartlepool RNLI welcomed back its lifeboat after major repairs following a capsize which could have had tragic consequences. ANDREW LEVETT looks back at the story of The Scout.

IT all began with a winter storm when Hartlepool’s lifeboat and her crew of volunteers were called out to help a stricken oil tanker.

Danish vessel the Freja Svea was grounded off Redcar and the RNLI’s Hartlepool boat, The Scout, battled through 45ft waves and 60mph winds to reach her.

A freak wave caught The Scout on her quarter and rolled the boat over twice – the first capsize for an RNLI lifeboat in ten years.

Most of the crew suffered nothing worse than a few cuts and bruises but lifeboatman Robbie Maiden was swept overboard.

Somehow Robbie, now coxwain of Hartlepool RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat Betty Huntbatch, survived in the freezing water for 35 minutes before a Sea King helicopter battled through the force nine gale and driving snow to pluck him out of the sea.

Once The Scout had limped back to harbour the damage was assessed and it became clear substantial repairs were needed.

Her mast, aerials and electrical instruments all needed replacing, as did the wheelhouse and cabin and the engines needed stripping down and rebuilding.

In early March 1993 a battered Scout limped into the yard of Amble repairers Marshall Branson and after five months work costing £56,000 she came back to Hartlepool twenty years ago this week looking like a brand new boat.

Mechanic Ian Gilbraith told the Mail at the time: “Really that’s what she is. She’s virtually a new boat with all new equipment.”

Lessons were learned nationally from the incident said Ian Maiden, Robbie’s brother and fellow crew-member: “We’ve now got a second VHF radio. When we capsized the only one we had flooded and we were totally without contact while we tried to set up the temporary one.”

The Scout, named for the Scouting movement which raised the money to build the boat, remained in Hartlepool until 1997 and the RNLI subsequently sold her to the Uruguay lifeboat service.

During her time in Hartlepool The Scout and her crew of volunteers rescued 86 people and property estimated to be worth £800,000.

Were you saved by The Scout? Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.