Tynemouth RNLI tows sailing cargo ship to safety

Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat tows the Tres Hombres to safety at North Shields. Picture by Adrian Don/RNLI.
Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat tows the Tres Hombres to safety at North Shields. Picture by Adrian Don/RNLI.

The world’s only engineless sailing cargo ship was towed to safety by Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat this morning.

The lifeboat and volunteer crew members responded to a request for help by the skipper of the Brigantine-type sailing ship Tres Hombres.

Earlier in the morning, a motor launch belonging to the 32m, 128tonne vessel had broken down and had been towed back to the mother ship by Cullercoats RNLI lifeboat.

The skipper of the Tres Hombres then asked for assistance in getting his vessel to a safe harbour because as it is powered only by sail and has no auxiliary engine, it relies on the now broken-down motor launch to manoeuvre in port.

With very strong winds expected tomorrow the vessel could have been in a precarious situation so, after discussions with the UK Coastguard, it was decided that the safest option was to tow it into the River Tyne.

Tynemouth RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat was requested to launch at 10.44am and made best speed to the Tres Hombres, which was anchored off Whitley Bay, with Cullercoats RNLI lifeboat standing by the vessel.

Once the lifeboat met the sailing ship, the volunteer crew quickly got it under tow – while a crew member went on board to ensure the tow ropes remained secure.

The Tres Hombres and its crew of 15 were then taken to North Shields Western Quay without further incident, escorted by Cullercoats RNLI lifeboat. Two Cullercoats crew members were ashore on the quay to assist with mooring.

Once the sailing vessel was made fast on the quay, the lifeboats returned to their respective stations.

Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat spokesman Adrian Don said: “This is one of the most unusual services our volunteer crew members have carried out and the casualty vessel is unique as the world’s only engineless sailing cargo ship.

“The Tres Hombres and her crew were in no immediate danger, but having no engine and with her launch broken down, they had no means of safely getting into harbour and with very poor weather expected, her skipper had no alternative but to ask for assistance.

“Our volunteers were happy to help and quickly got the vessel into the shelter of the Tyne harbour.”