But while passing Chausey – around an hour into their journey – the crew received a frantic mayday call at about 7.30pm from a French fishing boat which was rapidly taking on water and was about to sink. Five miles away, the Normandy Trader’s crew responded immediately, maintaining radio contact with the fishermen and heading towards them at full speed – armed with emergency water pumps, spare parts and tools. Once alongside, Chris Le Masurier, the owner of the vessel and the Jersey Oyster Company, jumped aboard the sinking craft, climbed into the engine room – which had already filled with up to six feet of water – and began trying to plug the leak. The scallop dredger was no more than half an hour from sinking, Mr Le Masurier estimated.
‘The two fishermen who were on board were quite shaken up about it and did not know where the water was coming from, so we got the pump fired up, lowered the water level and then it became quite apparent where the leak was,’ Mr Le Masurier said.
‘One of the water pipes to the engine had split, so we worked to stop the water coming in as best we could, shut it down and got the Granville lifeboat to tow them in, and that was there around an hour later.
‘I would say they probably had about 20 minutes to half an hour left from when we arrived and then they would have been in their liferaft – if it had carried on, the engine would have stopped and then it could have quite easily sunk.
‘The back, where the engine was, is quite weighted down by all the dredging gear, so that would have been the first bit to go.’
Mr Le Masurier, who exports over 700 tonnes of oysters to France each year, said that they were one of the few vessels in the area at the time and they were the only one which had responded to the mayday.
‘The fishermen were very taken aback by the whole thing. I think they were quite shaken,’ he said. ‘They were quite frightened, I think.’
‘Because a lot of the vessels work out of the tidal ports, most of them were heading back into port as we were heading out and it was really quiet out there.’
Leon Ollivier, Hayden Carter and Nathan Ollivier, the skipper, were on board with Mr Le Masurier.
The stricken vessel, Le Petit Caprice, was safely and successfully towed back to Granville following the incident on Tuesday.