He then hatched an ingenious plan to use five body boards on the stricken vessel like stepping-stones to help the family cross the mud-bank to safety.
The drama unfolded in the river Ilen in Skibbereen, Co Cork, on Saturday night. The alarm was raised at 8pm when a family motor boat, with a father and two children on board, became stranded on the mud as the tide went out.
The RNLI inshore lifeboat, Bessie, was launched but when it arrived at the scene, the crew found the mud-banks were surrounded by water. A rescue from land was impossible and a rescue from the water would have been very restricted.
Coxswain Micheál Cottrell decided to attempt a rescue and lifeboat crewman Ronan Callanan volunteered to cross the 80 feet of deep estuary mud to reach the stricken vessel.
He waded through the mud to the family group who were inadequately prepared for an overnight aboard the boat.
He ran an anchor to secure the vessel and boarded it and discussed the rescue attempt with the father. They decided that carrying the children across the mud wouldn’t work.
So they decided to use the body boards on the boat as stepping-stones to safety.
Everyone took a body board on which they could spread their weight across the mud. The fifth board was used to allow a progressive further step to safety.
The group made very slow progress, but they eventually reached the safety of the inshore lifeboat, exhausted.
Coxswain Cottrell, and crewman Paul O’Driscoll helped them on board the lifeboat and they were brought to shore at Oldcourt near Skibbereen. There were no injuries.
The lifeboat then proceeded back to Baltimore, where the boat and the crew had to be washed down with hoses.
“It was one of the most tiring things I have ever done,” Mr Callanan said.
The alert was raised at 8pm and the lifeboat was launched at 8.06pm. The lifeboat crew didn’t get back to base until 9.52pm.