LIFEBOAT volunteers were called to investigate after a small fishing boat was discovered adrift 20 nautical miles off the Dorset coast with no-one aboard in gale force conditions.

The small vessel had been spotted adrift in rough seas late in the afternoon.

A Swanage RNLI lifeboat spokesman said: "The crew strapped into their seats anticipating a rough ride, plotted a route and headed around Peveril Point.

"The shock-absorbing seats on the all weather lifeboat did their job well and a little over 30 minutes later the all weather lifeboat arrived on scene.

"Conditions were challenging, but several close passes by the small casualty boat indicated that it had broken from a mooring and drifted out to sea."

This information was passed to the UK coastguard, along with accurate position and drift details.

The spokesman said: "Consideration was given to taking the boat under tow, but the conditions were not conducive to managing this safely, so the boat was left to drift.

"The UK coastguard were now happy that the incident did not involve missing persons, so further searching was not required and the all weather lifeboat was able to re-trace its steps back to the shelter of Swanage Bay, where the crew finally washed down the boat around 7.30pm - about four hours after the initial launch."

The launch took place on Tuesday. (August 25)