NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Missing fishermen 'survived on two biscuits'

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Media captionJim Reid says the rescue boat crew initially waved at them and sailed on

Two fishermen feared lost at sea off the Aberdeenshire coast survived on a bottle of water and two biscuits.

Jim Reid, 75, and his grandson David Irvine, 35, from Inverbervie, are back on dry land after being found in their creel boat on Thursday morning.

They were discovered about 45 miles off the coast of Montrose by another fishing vessel, the Sylvia Bowers DS8.

The pair, who had been missing since Tuesday, said they were "glad to be found".

Their 16ft boat, the Water Rail, ran off course when their compass stopped working in thick fog.

They were unable to call for help as Mr Irvine had forgotten to bring his mobile phone with him, and the pair were forced to survive for two days on just two biscuits and a bottle of water.

"We had a litre and a half of water and a flask of tea," said Mr Reid. "After the first day it was just a sip each.

"We had two biscuits, but they didn't last long - they were gone by dinner time. We didn't think it was going to be that long."

'Completely lost'

The pair had planned to be out for just a few hours when they left Gourdon harbour on Tuesday afternoon - but were stranded when their boat's compass gave out.

Mr Irvine said: "We didn't know where we were because the compass wasn't showing where to go. Because of the fog on the first night, we were completely lost."

Mr Reid, who has been fishing for 62 years, added: "After about seven hours, we knew we were lost.

"I've been out thousands of times in fog and never once made a mistake.

"After seven hours I set a course to come in west, and after nine hours we still weren't finding land."

After letting off their two emergency rockets on the first night, Mr Reid joked that the pair passed the time by "cursing each other".

Image copyright Mark Spence
Image caption The Water Rail sank while being towed back to Montrose by the local lifeboat

Several large ships passed by without noticing them, until the fishermen finally managed to flag down the Sylvia Bowers - although it too nearly missed them.

"We couldn't believe it was so close," said Mr Reid.

"There was a bit of comedy about it - they were coming towards us and I was waving a red ball, indicating something was wrong, and they sailed on past. You could have heard my language.

"I was waving at them to come back, and they finally did."

Despite the fact they were found with two litres of fuel left in the boat's engine, which they had been running at night to keep warm, the pair said they never gave up hope of being rescued.

And both said they were more worried about everyone back home than they were about being lost.

Mr Irvine added: "We have to thank everyone who was looking for us.

"We've been told that there were lots of people out so we have to thank them for risking themselves going out looking for us."

'Over the moon'

Sylvia Bowers crew member Mark Spence, who spotted the boat in the water, said the pair were "perfectly fine" after they were picked up.

"We were just looking about and saw the small vessel not far from us waving at us to stop, so we slowed down and woke up the skipper," he said.

"Once we got to their boat they told us what was wrong and we got them aboard and tied their boat to ours."

Mr Spence said the men were "over the moon" to be found and had been "perfectly fine".

He added: "They were cold when they came aboard, and hungry, but they soon warmed up and had had some food - I'm just glad they were found."

The Buckie-based fishing boat towed the Water Rail closer to land before transferring it - and the men themselves - to the Montrose lifeboat to be taken ashore.

The Water Rail sank as it was being towed in to shore, but both men said neither the experience or the loss of their boat would put them off going fishing again in future.

'Give them back'

A large-scale search for the fishermen involving lifeboats, fishing boats, helicopters and a plane had earlier been called off.

Mr Reid's sister Dorothy Milne said she had feared the worst for the missing pair.

"It was just terrible, just awful," she said.

"Marion - David's mum - went out her back door last night and shouted at the sea - 'Give me them back!'

"I never knew the search had been called off.

Image caption An RAF helicopter was involved in the search

"My other sister and I had been away on a trip and when we came back we'd heard they'd been lost at sea.

"My eldest brother lost his son at sea 25 years ago and we just thought, it can't happen again."

The search area took in a stretch of coastline from Stonehaven to St Cyrus, and far out to sea - but not as far offshore as the boat was eventually found.

Richard Smith from the local lifeboat station said the rescued pair were "extremely lucky".

"The RNLI and many other vessels had spent many hours searching," he said.

"For example we had more than 20 volunteers and four lifeboats out, we spent hundreds of man hours, and the search had officially been called off on Wednesday night - and they've been found.

"This is an extremely brilliant outcome and we're all very pleased for them."

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