Stricken lifeboat winched off rocks in the North

The stranded Portrush lifeboat was pulled off the rocks on Rathlin Island today.

The stranded Portrush lifeboat was pulled off the rocks on Rathlin Island today.

The Katie Hannan will be transported by barge to Plymouth where the RNLI hopes it can be salvaged after it was forced aground during bad weather last month.

The £2m (€2.6m) lifeboat was attempting to rescue a ferryman whose boat was caught in gale force winds close to the harbour entrance.

RNLI Ireland spokeswoman Naimh Stephenson said: “We are hopeful we can save the lifeboat. This operation took an awful lot of planning and logistics, involving a number of agencies and we are very pleased how it went off and the fact that the boat is still intact.

“The fact that it was able to stay buoyant for so long has increased our confidence that we can salvage the lifeboat but until we look at it very carefully internally we won’t really know.”

It was found to be holed on the port side after an hour and a half rescue operation involving 80m-long barge the Terra Marique from Ellesmere Port in England.

The rescue craft, fitted with a crane, had to be flooded with water to carry the 40-tonne Katie Hannan.

It is expected to arrive early next week.

Coastguards and a tug from Lough Foyle, the Shrove, were brought in to pull the vessel off the rocks.

Lifeboat crews from Red Bay and Larne, Co Antrim, and officials from the Environment and Heritage Service assisted.

The top part of the boat, as well as the two engines and gear box have already been removed as part of preparations.

There have been several failed attempts to free the vessel, and a major investigation is under way to find out what happened on January 29 when it was blown on shore by a freak wave.

A stand-in lifeboat has already taken up station at Portrush.

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