HotRIBS - The online RIB Magazine
[ article ]
  # 009
Delta Ribs - Storm Survival
by Murray MacLeod. Murray Proves Rib Pedigree

As Production Manager at Delta Power Services, Stockport, I spent a fair amount of time trialing some of the many boats we built. On this occasion, we had just finished a demonstrator of the first Patrol versions of the extremely capable Delta 6.6x, this one being fitted with two V4 100hp Suzukis.

For its first trip, as was normal for a serious trial, we decided to take the boat to Holyhead on the north west corner of Anglesey as this gave us immediate access to the testing open waters of the Irish Sea. Leaving at the usual 6am start from Stockport, accompanied by my good friend and boss, Charles Dyas, we stopped for breakfast somewhere in North Wales before arriving around 09.00 for our normal check-in with the Holyhead Coastguard.
We descended the slipway only to find the wind somewhat stronger than the forecast had predicted, with waves crashing over the breakwater. We donned our drysuits, helmets and lifejackets, launched the boat, performed all our usual safety checks and were now ready to set off. We made our way out of the harbour but, on venturing out beyond the breakwater, we immediately encountered 4 to 5 metre seas. Being based in the Hebridean Isle of Lewis I was much more accustomed to a slow Atlantic swell and I found the short, steep seas quite difficult to contend with.

They were, however, no problem to the Delta 6.6x so we headed out to the Skerries, with a following wind and rain lashing onto our port quarter. At this point, I was at the helm, but as

Murray McLeod,
Production Manager at Delta Power Services

we rounded the Skerries, we confronted very different conditions; wind force 9 to 10 and 8 to 10m breaking seas. In some places, the sea was breaking for the visible length of the wave and, considering that visibility was down to a few metres, it was true white-out conditions.

At this point, I decided to hand the helm over to Charles as he had infinitely more experience of handling the 6.6x range in such extreme conditions. However, during the changeover I accidentally pulled off one of the kill switch cords leaving us with one dead engine. As I was frantically scrabbling about on the deck, trying to find the missing cord, Charles was attempting to

steer with one engine. Thankfully, I managed to locate the cord before it was swept out of an open elephant's trunk but just at this point we took on board a substantial portion of the Irish Sea which washed right over us, leaving us flush with green water from tube to tube.

It's quite a frightening situation to be in - out of your seat with no foot straps to keep you in place, you could so easily be tipped or washed out in such conditions. Even with power restored, the run back to Holyhead was a nerve-wracking event.

What in normal circumstances would have been a short journey became an endurance event which seemed to last an eternity. The
conditions in which we found ourselves, with very short and steep breaking seas, conspired to try and turn us end over end. With the boat getting pitched and thrown about by the power of the sea, it felt as though we spent a good deal of time at 90 degrees to what should have been the surface of the water. Many things went through my mind that day.. who would tell myfiancée that we'd been lost, or perhaps if they found the RIB but no survivors, or neverfound the bodies... it's amazing the thoughts you have in such a short space of time!

In time we reached the safety of dry land, entirely due to Charles' ability and skill at avoiding the most severe of the crashing seas.

I always tell people that the sea teaches you something new every day but the return leg of that journey taught Charles and I the value of life itself. Never take the sea for granted.

~ Murray MacLeod, SeaTrek



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