LIFEBOAT crews have issued a warning after being called to rescue three young men who were found drifting out to sea with no life jackets and a single mobile phone to raise the alarm.
The men – aged between 18 and 22 – were drifting off the East Lothian coast on their speed boat when crews finally tracked them down.
The trio became stranded last Saturday after their engine broke down and they lost sight of shore when bad weather closed in.
One of them raised the alarm on their mobile phone not long after they left Peffer Sands, between Whitekirk and Auldhame.
But it took lifeboat crews about five hours to find them because the visibility was so poor and the men were unable to give them their location.
Gary Fairbairn, Dunbar RNLI coxswain, said: “If their phone had no battery or no signal then it probably would have been a totally different outcome. It could have been fatal. They were lucky, really lucky.
“The wind was offshore and taking them further and further out to sea. When we finally found them they were two and a half miles off the land.”
Mr Fairbairn urged people not to go out on the sea without a life jacket and radio “at the very least” and flares “if possible”.
The coxswain also recommended that they should tell friends or family and provide an approximate time for their return.
He said: “This incident underlines once again what a dangerous place the sea is – especially for the unprepared.
“Conditions off the coast can change very quickly and I appeal to everyone heading out for enjoyment to take advice on conditions and make sure you are prepared with adequate and operational safety equipment so if things go wrong you can cope.”
The weather was so bad that when the RNLI were tasked with the rescue, crew members said that “you could hardly see your hand in front of your face”.
Crews started a standard search pattern with help from their inshore lifeboat, and another boat that was in the area at the time, the research vessel Alba na Mara.
They also fired off several flares in the hope that the men – understood to be from Perthshire – would be able to see them through the dense fog.
As their search continued, the research boat found them “shocked but relieved” and they were taken back to shore on the lifeboat.
Meanwhile, their speedboat was towed back to Dunbar.