A British teenager has described how she escaped from a Dutch-flagged 100-year-old tall ship as it sank off the coast of Ireland last week.
Astrid as she was
Katie Spencer, 15, a pupil at a Plymouth high school, said the drama of being rescued was an experience she will 'never forget'. Katie was one of three Britons rescued from the Astrid which struck rocks while attempting to enter the harbour at Kinsale, County Cork, last Wednesday morning.
Arriving back at Gatwick Airport she had only the clothes she was wearing when the boat sank and a bin bag with some donated clothes in.
She had secured a berth on board the Dutch vessel after seeing EU-funded places advertised on her local newspaper the Cornish Guardian's website. Boats came from across Europe to join the voyage, called The Gathering, which was supposed to last two weeks – but Katie, from Morval, near Looe, said it was an experience she would never forget.
'I was just about to go to sleep when we heard the engines cut out,' she said.
'We thought it might have been planned so no one was too worried, although we all wondered what was going on.
'Shortly after people were running around shouting, 'Get up! Get up!' and we were told to put our lifejackets on. We also had to quickly take down a sail, as it was blowing us on to rocks.
'Everyone was told to go to the back of the boat. I was surprisingly calm; I coped well with it. We all knew what we had to do [in case of an emergency] and that helped us keep calm.'
She said they were quickly dispatched to waiting lifeboats and were ashore within minutes.
Her mum Kim, said Katie lost all of her possessions including her camera with photos documenting her once-in-a-lifetime trip.
She also lost her ipod, passport, clothes, waterproofs and jewellery.
'All she had was her phone and the clothes she stood up in,' Kim said.
'Fortunately the lovely folk of Kinsale gave them all spare clothes.
'It is a good job she had her phone with her as she was able to ring my husband from the main lifeboat to let him know she was safe.
'We had been following the boats' progress online and would have noticed it disappear from the trace and naturally been very concerned.'
A spokeswoman for the RNLI told the Irish Mirror: 'At 11.50pm the captain of the tall ship signalled he had a problem. We stood by, and other boats also stood by. We simply didn't have the power to pull the Astrid off the rocks.
'It seems it was complete engine failure. One boat took 12 people to safety and an RNLI lifeboat rescued the remaining 18.
'The coxswain on one of the RNLI boats said everyone on that ship should be proud of themselves. They did everything by the book.'
Katie, a regular sailor at Siblyback Lake, said: 'I'd definitely go on a tall ship again. It was an amazing experience and one I will never forget.'
Vincent O'Donovan, of Courtmacsherry RNLI, said he believed the historic ship had gone for good. 'It's completely under water now,' he said. 'That region is a notorious spot for losing ships. It'll be breaking up below the water now and I don't think it'll be saved.'
The iron-hulled Astrid was built in 1918 with a lug rig, and until about 1975 carried cargo on the Baltic Sea. After a period sailing under the Lebanese flag, which ended with a disastrous fire, she passed into British hands in 1984.
The ship was completely restored, square-rigged as a brig and redesigned to train up-and-coming tall ship sailors.
Katie's mum Kim, who runs a holiday cottage business with husband Michael, said: 'We're all very grateful to the RNLI for the rescue, the people of Kinsale and particularly the Kinsale Yacht Club,' she said.
She was also full of praise for the trip's organisers: 'There was no panic and we were kept constantly updated by the company,' she said.