A rescue boat crewman who made a hoax call to emergency services later told police it was a "big stupid mistake", Dornoch Sheriff Court has heard.
Donald Grant, 54, claimed a woman had fallen into the sea where he lives at Embo in Sutherland in September.
He then joined his colleagues, police, ambulance, coastguard and an RAF helicopter in the search.
Grant has been suspended as a member of East Sutherland Rescue Association. He has been ordered to make a donation.
Fiscal Roderick Urquhart told the court that Grant had been involved with the association for 12 years.
Mr Urquhart said he told police it was a "big stupid mistake" made during a difficult time following the breakdown of his marriage.
David Hingston, defence, told the court his client had no recollection of making the call.
The solicitor said: "He has no memory of it and can offer no explanation. In fact, he has always been a fierce critic of hoax callers."
Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood told Grant he had potentially placed members of the public in "grave danger" by depriving them of a lifesaving service.
He added: "Under other circumstances I would have had no hesitation in imposing a sentence of imprisonment.
"But having heard the background, I think the appropriate disposal is a compensation order which will be a significant token - £2,000 to the East Sutherland Rescue Association."
The association is not part of the RNLI.
Dan Holland, of RNLI Kessock, based in Inverness, said: "I would like to make it very clear that and is in no way connected to the work of the 45 volunteer RNLI crews around the country."