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A 76-year-old Polish yachtsman has been rescued after getting into difficulties off the Scottish coast, thanks to a text message sent by a French couple who were out hiking.

The pair were walking on a headland not far from Loch Eriboll when they spotted an eight metre yacht that seemed to be in trouble. They alerted a friend to the situation by SMS, and this friend in turn summoned the Aberdeen coastguard.

The rescue began: first the Coastguard sent out a general call for assistance, asking for any vessels in the area to check the situation out, and dispatched two rescue teams on foot to try to pin down exactly where the vessel was.

A fisheries patrol ship, Jura, arrived at the yacht to find a man waving for help, but apparently unable to communicate by radio. The Jura sent its rescue boat over to help when the man sent up a red flare, but the yachtsman spoke very little English.

Fortunately, Aberdeen Coastguard employs a Polish national, who was able to speak to the man once Coastguard rescuers had given him a radio handset.

Aberdeen Coastguard watch manager George Downie said: "It transpired the yacht's engine had seized and one of the lifeboat men reported "water up to the floor". He added that there were no towing facilities on the boat, and that the yachtsman refused to leave the boat, despite the worsening situation. Rescuers eventually rigged up a towing system, and got the man and his yacht safely to shore.

Downie added: "The 76-year-old yachtsman is very experienced and has sailed all round the world."

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