A ROUTINE exercise became a rescue mission for Hoylake lifeboat volunteers when they were called to help a stranded porpoise.

The crew were tasked by UK Coastguard at around 7pm on Tuesday, who had received reports of the beached mammal off Meols.

They were part of a multi-agency involving Wirral Coastguard Officers and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) volunteers, who were already on the scene on the scene at Barber's Folly, assessing the porpoise's condition.

Hoylake's Hovercraft H-005Hurley Spirit arrived at the scene, but initially stayed back to avoid engines and fan noises causing any distress to the porpoise.

BDMLR determined the porpoise was healthy enough to be returned to the water and the Hovercraft was moved into position to recover the animal.

It was already a particularly important launch for Hoylake RNLI Hovercraft volunteer, Harry Jones, who was being officially assessed by the RNLI after undergoing considerable training to become Hover Commander.

Wirral Coastguard Rescue Team and volunteers from the BDMLR were on the scene at Barber’s Folly, assessing the porpoise’s condition.

The porpoise was deemed healthy enough to be returned to the water and the Hovercraft was moved into position to recover the animal.

The porpoise was lifted on board the Hovercraft with assistance from UK Coastguard and RNLI volunteers.

Two of the volunteers boarded the Hovercraft to monitor the porpoise as it was transported to the water’s edge.

The BDMLR and RNLI volunteers calmly lifted the porpoise out and walked it to deeper water where it was refloated. No doubt happy to be back in familiar territory, the porpoise swam away to the delight of all volunteers involved.

The Hovercraft returned the BDMLR volunteers to the shore and the crew continued with their training exercise.

Harry Jones was passed out as a qualified Hover Commander by the RNLI Assessor, who had witnessed the happy outcome to what was a surprisingly eventful exercise.

The newly-qualified Hover Commander said: "This wasn't your typical exercise and it will certainly stick in my memory!"

He added: "There was a brilliant sense of teamwork as the three agencies worked together to ensure the porpoise was returned to the sea safely and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

"The porpoise rescue also saw RNLI volunteer crew member, Dan Whiteley, meet his fiancée, Siân Holmes, on the scene, as she had qualified as a BDMLR marine medic just a few days earlier.

"The couple were pleased to have the opportunity to work together to rescue the stranded porpoise."

Kristen Cureton, BDMLR North West regional coordinator, added: "After an assessment and administering some basic first aid to the stranded adolescent harbour porpoise, we sent photographs to BDMLR headquarters, where our vet confirmed that the porpoise was in a good condition to refloat.

"With the help of the Coastguard and Hoylake RNLI, we were able to return it to the water safely. We'd like to thank all of the emergency services that attended.

"Without them, particularly the Hoylake RNLI hovercraft, we couldn't have rescued the porpoise."