A DUTCH sailor has told how a lucky twist of fate saw him rescue two fishermen who had been drifting at sea for nine hours after their fishing boat sank.
Jan Van-den-Berg, 64, and his wife Gerrie, 63, were on their way from Scotland to Whitby in their pleasure yacht when they spotted the stricken fisherman on the horizon.
The two men had gone out fishing that day in the Hartlepool-based boat Stella Maris but sunk when they struck a submerged object.
They spent the next nine hours on a tiny liferaft and had been unable to send out a distress call because of how fast the boat sunk.
Luckily, they were spotted by semi-retired painter and decorator Jan, whose yacht Jager was part of a fleet of Dutch vessels that recently stayed at Hartlepool marina.
He said: “I noticed an orange spot on the horizon. The weather was so nice and calm that I thought it couldn’t be anybody in trouble, but thought ‘you never know’ and thought I had better take a look.
“As I got close I could see somebody waving. I didn’t know if it was in distress.
“I saw they were two fishermen, they said their boat had sank and the dinghy was taking on water as well.”
Jan pulled them on board, gave the men some food and drink and alerted the coastguard.
The men told Jan and Gerrie how other ships had failed to spot them despite sending up distress flares.
Jan added: “Obviously they had been adrift for nine hours at this point so they were very, very relieved.
“It was a calm day but had the weather turned or been bad conditions it could have been disastrous.
“I believe they were very lucky that we were passing and also because of the conditions.”
Hartlepool RNLI Lifeboat was launched to pick up the men, who were from Sunderland area, and the Jager followed them back to town where they stayed overnight.
Before continuing their journey yesterday, Jan and Gerrie were sent flowers, chocolates and whiskey from the grateful fishermen’s families.
Jan, who hails from Appledore in Holland, added: “It was great to receive their gratitude and we are glad everything turned out for the best.”