A LONE sailor of an inflatable boat was rescued by Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat this morning after the vessel's engine failed, leaving him at the mercy of strong winds that were pushing him out to sea.

The sailor managed to contact UK Coastguard's Humber Operations Centre by mobile phone at 8am to ask them for help.

He was about two miles out to sea from the Tyne piers.

UK Coastguard immediately requested the launch of Tynemouth RNLI all weather lifeboat, and made an emergency "Pan Pan" broadcast over Marine VHF radio to ask any vessels in the vicinity to look out for the small boat.

Launching just a few minutes after the alarm was raised the lifeboat, with a crew of six volunteers, sped to the scene and started searching for the vessel.  

Despite the sailor of the casualty vessel having put an anchor out, it had been blown another two miles out to sea where the lifeboat crew located it. 

The vessel was filling up with water and only the inflatable hull was preventing it from sinking completely.

As the man was brought on board the lifeboat, he said to the crew: "I thought I was a goner".

As he was being checked over for any possible injuries, the man's boat was taken under tow by the lifeboat, and they were taken to safety at Royal Quays Marina, North Shields, where they were met by members of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade who had also been tasked to look out for the vessel from shore.

Once the boat was safely moored and the sailor ashore, the lifeboat returned to station, arriving at 10am.

Adrian Don, spokesman for Tynemouth RNLI, said: "The occupant of the rigid inflatable boat had gone out to sea at around 4am. His main outboard engine failed and he attempted to return to the Tyne using his emergency auxiliary engine but made little progress against the strong westerly winds, and eventually that engine also failed.

"The man put an anchor out and called for help, but as the boat's battery was almost dead he was unable to use his marine VHF radio and had to rely on a mobile phone with low battery to call for help.

"Despite having the anchor out, the boat was being steadily pushed out to sea by the wind, and the choppy sea was filling the boat up.

"Thankfully our volunteer crew members quickly located the vessel and brought it and the sailor back to safety.

Mr Don added: "He is a very lucky man".