Ilfracombe’s lifeboat crew were called out in gale force winds and heavy seas to help a cruiser with engine failure.

The all-weather lifeboat The Barry and Peggy High Foundation was launched at around 3.50pm on Sunday, September 29 after a Mayday call was made from the cruiser.

The vessel was reported to be at Foreland Point near Lynmouth, and the Ilfracombe lifeboat made its way through waves of up to four metres and gale force north-westerly winds.

The cruiser had been travelling from Bath to Appledore when the weather worsened. It continued to try to make passage, but in the heavy seas and strong tides it suffered engine problems, forcing the distress call.

The lifeboat escorted the cruiser as it made way, but as it reached Combe Martin Bay an engine failed, prompting the decision to tow the vessel to safety.

The cruiser was towed back to Ilfracombe harbour, arriving at 7.30pm, the spring tide meant the lifeboat could not return to station until 10pm.

Volunteer RNLI Coxswain Andrew Bengey said: "The motor cruiser crew were experienced sailors and were well equipped for the passage. Although they were caught out by the weather they were wearing life jackets and did the right thing to raise the alarm when their engine began to fail.

"The RNLI would urge anyone to always wear their life jackets and look at the weather forecast when heading out to sea."

The cruiser had been seen earlier that day near Minehead by a member of the public who believed the vessel to be in difficulties in the heavy sea conditions.

Watchet Coastguard sent their team to search the coastline for the vessel, but no sightings were made, and no distress calls were reported.

The RNLI Minehead lifeboat was launched and attempted to proceed westwards towards Porlock Bay, however it could only get as far as Selworthy Sands due to the extreme sea conditions.