HMS Medway – the Royal Navy’s permanent vessel in the region – saved the crew members who had taken refuge on a large band of sand their tug was towing when it began to flood.
The warship responded to the tug’s SOS message, which was sent at about 5pm UK time on Friday January 6, while it was 20 miles west of the island of Sint Maarten, near to the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla.
Medway launched its sea boat, which a navy spokesman said was put to the limits of its capability with 30 knot winds and 5ft waves.
Medway’s boatswain Petty Officer (Seaman Specialist) Sarah Griffiths said: “Whilst we were cautious as we made our approach to the barge and tug, we were able to reassure the crew and transfer them clear of the barge safely.
“They were hugely grateful.”
The five crew were described as uninjured but shaken and were transferred to a search-and-rescue boat which took them to shore at Anguilla.
Lieutenant Commander Carla Higgins, Medway’s executive officer, said: “The whole ship’s company leapt into action as soon as we made the decision to respond.
“The swift-thinking and actions of the team were fantastic and we were thankful to be conducting routine maritime security operations in the area to become the on-scene commander working with the local authorities and assist the crew to safety.”