Lee Gallacher (pictured), who works at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Fareham, was staffing the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s stand in September when he fell into conversation with a man who had come up to express his appreciation.
As they spoke, it emerged that Lee was one of the Maritime Operations Officers who had been at the other end of the line a few weeks earlier coordinating efforts to bring the vessel safely into Portsmouth.
Lee, who joined HM Coastguard earlier this year, said: “His gratitude was noticeable. In the operations room, we rarely get to meet those whom we help. It certainly reinforced my decision to join HM Coastguard and use my career skills and local knowledge to save lives and improve safety at sea, something I am very passionate about.”
The incident began at about 4.30pm on 28 August when the alarm was raised to a yacht suffering engine failure as it travelled east to Gosport.
When Lee took over the situation from a colleague, he continued regularly checking the welfare and position of the crew of three. They were all kitted out with lifejackets but starting to tire from the journey.
Between Lee and the skipper, they came up with a plan to maintain emergency and navigational lights by protecting reserves of the onboard battery, which was failing to charge.
A sailor himself, Lee realised that with the tide turning and wind dropping, there was a risk the yacht would struggle to make way once it came into the central Solent.
As it slowly made progress under sail, Lee provided updates on shipping positions. He liaised with Southampton Vessel Traffic Services (VTS), the city’s Harbour Master patrol launch to give a tow, and then the King’s Harbour Master in Portsmouth to guide the yacht in.
With the help of a second tow by a nearby vessel in Portsmouth harbour, the crew was safely berthed by 6.15am the next morning – 14 hours after the alarm was first raised.
Lee said: “As a career sailor, I was able to put myself in the skipper’s shoes and think what resources he needed to manage on-board to keep the vessel safe.
“He thanked me and all of the assets involved for our compassion, understanding and local knowledge to aid him back to his home berth safely.”