SEARCH OF THE RIVER FORTH
At first light this morning the search resumed for two fishermen missing overnight on a windswept, bitterly cold Firth of Forth.
But as every minute passed hopes were fading for the two men, believed to be neighbours from the Edinburgh area, as no sign of the men and their 12 foot motorboat was found.
Throughout the night no fewer than seven local lifeboats, inshore and offshore, from stations at Kinghorn, Dunbar, North Berwick, South Queensferry and Anstruther, were being co-ordinated by HM Coastguard at Fifeness, near Crail, in an effort to find the men alive.
"But with temperatures as low as they are, obviously our concerns are mounting the longer it takes to find any trace of the men or their boat," explained Alan McIlravie of Kinghorn Lifeboat at lunchtime today.
"But nobody involved in the search is giving up hope and the sweep of the entire Forth, from Alloa beyond the Kincardine Bridge, to the mouth of the river will continue to be covered until we do find them.
"The search is being co-ordinated in a grid fashion with each lifeboat having a particular area to sweep and we remain confident at this time that we will find the men, such is the detail of the efforts being made."
But for the Kinghorn crew the search has not been without added drama.
The men were reported missing around 8pm on Saturday night with the Kinghorn Atlantic 75 craft, one of the fastest in the RNLI fleet, being among the first to be launched.
"The sheer length of the search time has meant we have had to swap crews three times," continued Alan McIlravie, "and to add to our concerns we are expecting a crew of mechanics from the Scottish RNLI headquarters in Perth later today to swap engines on the lifeboat as the existing one has been overheating badly.
"But we are determined to remain at sea for as long as we have to," he added finally, "in the hope that the men can be found safe and well."
The Kinghorn Lifeboat has now been launched a record amount of times this year with the volunteer crew being called into action on more than 50 occasions.
Earlier this week RNLI national operations director Michael Vlasto issued a festive appeal for support from communities for their local crews.
"They give up their time freely 365 days a year and are always ready to risk their lives for others," he said.
"I would ask people, therefore, to spare a thought for those involved and also consider making a donation to help us continue this life-saving work."
Mr Vlasto also issued an important appeal for boat owners and others to take time to consider their own safety, always ensuring that their craft are in good order, to carry spare fuel, adequate safety equipment and to make sure that lifejackets are worn at all times.
The RNLI is a charity funded by voluntary donations and legacies and costs nearly £300,000 a day to run its 231 lifeboat stations around the UK and Republic of Ireland from where, during 2002 they rescued 7365 people, an average of 20 a day.