A British sailor has been rescued from his yacht in the North Sea after his stearing gear failed, leaving him drifting near an oil platform

A British sailor has been rescued from his yacht in the North Sea. Julian Mustoe, 82, had been sailing from the Shetlands to Norway on 6 October 2015 when his steering gear failed and he was left drifting dangerously close to an oil platform in waves up to 23 ft (7m).

Mr Mustoe had already sailed nearly 100 miles from Lerwick and was 85 miles from Bergen. He had been making good progress despite strong winds and large seas, when the stainless steel head fitting on the yacht’s rudder stock failed, leaving him unable to steer his boat. He reported that the fitting, weighing less than a kilogram, failed because it was too insubstantial.

His 25ft (7.6m) yacht Harrier of Down began drifting towards the North Alwyn oil and gas platform in the Dunbar oil field. The oil platform launched its emergency response vessel (ERV), the Vos Protector, when Harrier of Down was half a mile from the platform. At 2050 Mr Mustoe called the UK Coastguard, which co-ordinated his rescue, although he refused to be airlifted from his boat.

A Total spokesman said: ‘A small yacht was reported to be drifting within a half mile of Total’s North Alwyn platform. The coastguard and North Alywn’s emergency response vessel (ERV) offered support to the yacht. At all times the situation was closely monitored and under control by both the coastguard and the ERV. The North Alwyn platform did not go to muster and no plans were made for evacuation.’

As boat was still sound, however, Mr Mustoe declined to abandon his yacht, and requested a tow instead. The Norwegian Coastguard sent a cutter to Mr Mustoe’s assistance. The cutter was able to attach a long tow-line to Harrier and intended to tow the yacht to Bergen. Mr Mustoe was taken aboard the cutter at this point, and was not allowed to remain on his yacht.

The tow initially went well despite rough conditions, but the following day, the boat was began taking on water and was eventually overwhelmed. As the coastguard vessel was not equipped to lift the yacht, it sank, along with the majority of Mr Mustoe’s possessions.

Mr Mustoe said: ‘All night they towed Harrier behind the ship successfully. But for some reason Harrier began to take on water earlier this morning and at about 0900 she sank full of water. They couldn’t get her out because the weight was too great. So I was all right in the big ship but my lovely boast has been lost.’

Julian Mustoe

Julian Mustoe

Julian Mustoe had owned Harrier of Down for ten years and had completed a circumnavigation, following the route of Darwin’s voyage aboard HMNS Beagle, between 2001 and 2012, the first part of which was on his previous boat, a 25ft Folksong of the same name.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Mustoe said: ‘I have got my Visa card, chequebook and passport but everything else has gone to the bottom of the sea. What I’m going to do with myself, I don’t know. I confess that I’m beginning to think my luck has run out.’

Mr Mustoe is now back in the UK and is staying with friends, who have begun an appeal to help get the sailor back on his feet and on the water, with another boat to make his home: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/harrierappeal

Mr Mustoe was interviewed by Norwegian media once the coastguard cutter was alongside in Bergen and the video can be seen here: