SEARCHES for a missing fishing boat using sonar are being hampered by bad weather, investigators have said.

Investigators from The Marine Accident Investigation Branch say that they are ‘confident’ fishing boat which vanished with three aboard will be found ‘in near future’.

The Nicola Faith disappeared four weeks ago and no trace of the boat or her crew has been found.

Alan Minard, Ross Ballentine and skipper Carl McGrath failed to return from a fishing trip on 27 January.

A search off the north Wales coast for the Conwy vessel involving seven RNLI lifeboats, a helicopter and a plane failed to find any sign of it.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has been leading the hunt.

A spokeswoman said: “Extensive sonar searches are being carried out in the areas between Rhos-on-Sea and Conwy, but the searches have been hampered by weather conditions.

“We are confident that the vessel will be found in the near future. Our investigations are ongoing and a report will be produced and be made publicly available when complete.”

Relatives and friends of Mr McGrath, 34, Mr Minard, 20, and Mr Ballantine, 39, who are all from the Conwy area, kept a vigil at Llandudno’s RNLI lifeboat following their disappearance.

Pictured in order: Alan Minard, 20 – Carl McGrath, 34 – Ross Ballantine, 39.

An online prayer service was also by St Paul’s Church in Llandudno.

The trio set sail from Conwy on January 27 to fish for whelks in the Irish Sea, and were due back in port at around midnight the same day.

The last known contact with the boat is understood to have been at around 9.30pm that night.