A NORTH Highland lifeboat battled mountainous seas yesterday to go to the rescue of a stricken fishing vessel.
It took more than nine hours for Thurso lifeboat to reach the boat, which was drifting towards the shore, and tow it back to the safety of Scrabster harbour.
The lifeboat crew were hampered by gale force winds, squalls of hail, sleet and rain and waves of up to 10 metres.
Shetland Coastguard tasked the Thurso crew to go to the aid of the fishing boat, which had six people on boards and had fouled its propellor north of Whiten head in the rough seas.
The Severn class lifeboat Roger and Joy Freeman launched just after midday from Scrabster Harbour.
A spokesman said: "The crew were strapped into their seats from the very start for what was to be a rough, bumpy passage west along the north coast." It took the lifeboat an hour and 45 minutes to reach the fishing boat.
The spokesman continued: "Although there was no immediate danger to the vessel, it had been drifting slowly towards the shore whilst the lifeboat was en route.
"It was 2.5 miles north of Eilean nan Ron when the lifeboat arrived on scene just before 2pm."
Crew members managed to attach a tow rope between the two boats.
But it was not an easy journey back, with the tow rope parting on five occasions, in both day light and darkness.
The spokesman said: "After being at sea for nine hours and 30 minutes the lifeboat took the casualty alongside at Scrabster Harbour. The crew then refuelled the lifeboat and made her ready for service again by 10.10pm.
The coxswain on this service was Dougie Munro who has recently received his 40 years service medal from the RNLI.
Mr Munro is a younger brother of Wing Munro who retired as coxswain only a fortnight ago after almost 48 years service at Thurso RNLI,
Between them the two brothers have clocked up nearly a century of service to Thurso Lifeboat.
The RNLI is to post a video of the dramatic rescue on its website later this morning.