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As the RNLI commemorates the charity’s 200 years of lifesaving this year, Lough Derg RNLI celebrates 20 years of service on the lake.

Last Sunday afternoon (12 May), volunteers past and present at the Lough Derg lifeboat station gathered with their families and RNLI staff members at Lough Derg Yacht Club to celebrate the milestone.

Christine O’Malley, lifeboat operations manager at Lough Derg RNLI and MC for the event welcomed everyone, especially those who’d travelled long distances to join the celebration.

Christine, a retired consultant geriatrician, talked about taking on the role of LOM five years earlier, and the “steep learning curve” as she absorbed the responsibilities involved, met the challenges and celebrated the rewards.

She then introduced Niamh McCutcheon, chair of the Lough Derg fundraising committee and an RNLI vice-president.

Niamh — who had been fundraising locally for the RNLI for decades before the lifeboat was stationed on Lough Derg — praised the tireless work of the fundraising committee who, in tandem with the volunteer crews, have raised awareness of and donations to the RNLI, thus facilitating the charity’s goals to save every one.

She also spoke of her pride in the seeing volunteers from Lough Derg RNLI at the Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in March.

Christine invited Niamh Stephenson, RNLI communications lead for Ireland, to speak next. Over the years Niamh and her colleague Nuala McAloon, RNLI regional communications manager for Ireland, have made themselves available to offer sage advice and guidance to the station’s lifeboat press officer on all media related matters.

Lough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spicer launched from the lifeboat station | Credit: RNLI/Eleanor HookerLough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spicer launched from the lifeboat station | Credit: RNLI/Eleanor Hooker

Niamh recalled her first stopover at Lough Derg RNLI — almost 20 year ago — and the warm welcome she received, including the daunting mountain of food volunteers had cooked for her visit.

Niamh spoke about the essential role of media and the bridge it forged between the activities of the lifeboat station and the public. She spoke of how media communications inspired support for the charity and attracted new volunteers to the crew and fundraising, as well as amplifying water safety messages for a new generation.

To thank past volunteers for their continued support, Christine invited area lifesaving manager Lisa Hollingum to speak and to present former crew with RNLI200 badges. Lisa commended the volunteers at Lough Derg RNLI for their dedication and commitment to maintaining the RNLIs high standard in all they do, and she looked forward to visiting the station again soon.

Liam Maloney, launching authority and former LOM at Lough Derg RNLI; Dr Peter Hooker, lifeboat medical advisor; and Eleanor Hooker, volunteer helm and lifeboat press officer had asked that Helena Duggan, RNLI assessor/trainer at Lough Derg RNLI from 2003 until 2022, present them with their 20-year Long Service Medals.

Helena recalled her early visits to the new lifeboat station at Lough Derg with her colleagues, the late Michael Carmody and Derek Potter, and the enthusiasm from volunteers as the station became established.

In a philosophical consideration of time, Helena stressed that the RNLI hugely appreciates the hours volunteers put into training, exercises and shouts, and that “every second you give to the RNLI is precious time, your time, and is never taken for granted”.

She made special mention too of the sacrifices and allowances families make so that volunteers may volunteer. Helena described the vast network of people, volunteers and staff, who work as a team to make the RNLI the organisation it is today.

The crew were honoured that current assessor/trainer Seán Ginnelly would travel all the way from Achill to join the celebrations.

Cutting the cake at last Sunday’s celebration at Lough Derg Yacht Club | Credit: RNLICutting the cake at last Sunday’s celebration at Lough Derg Yacht Club | Credit: RNLI

After receiving his medal from Helena, Liam Maloney gave a moving history of the origins of the RNLI lifeboat station on the lake. He acknowledged the successful proposal made to the RNLI by Teddy Knight and Charles Stanley Smith.

Carrig Primary School, where Liam was headmaster, provided a venue for new volunteers to have shore training in the year before the lifeboat went live for service on 24 April 2004. He smiled as he told us he taught many of past and current volunteers in the room. Liam recollected previous callouts, his anxiety for crew out in testing conditions and one in particular on a St Stephen’s Day morning that thankfully had a positive outcome.

Eleanor Hooker thanked Aoife Kennedy, lifeboat station administrator and launching authority and her sister Doireann Kennedy, volunteer crew, for organising the entire event, including having volunteers bake and cook for the reception to follow the speeches.

Eleanor recollected earlier times with former volunteers and the collegiate spirit among all at the station. She spoke of the mutual trust and teamwork — essential ingredients at a lifeboat station.

Eleanor welcomed James Corballis, an RNLI volunteer who has moved to the area from Galway RNLI, to the station. She congratulated Laura Clarke, chair of the Lap the Lake fundraising Committee on the incredible success of the RNLI charity cycle the previous day.

On receiving his Long Service Medal, consultant anaesthesist Dr Peter Hooker joked that “normally people fell asleep after a few minutes of my talking to them”, and so promised he would keep his words brief. He said it was an honour to be a part of the Lough Derg RNLI team and wanted, especially to thank Helena for her years of teaching and care and friendship at the station.

Christine thanked all present and invited the assembly to move upstairs to enjoy an afternoon tea.

“It was lovely to see so many people who have supported the lifeboat station over the years, whether on the water, off the water, through fundraising or the RNLI support team,” she said. “These are the people who helped make the Lifeboat Station into the excellent service we have today.

“It was great to acknowledge the remarkable 20 years of commitment to the station from Liam Maloney, Eleanor Hooker and Peter Hooker with Long Service Awards from the RNLI. A huge thank you to all our volunteers, past and present, and to their families, who have all given so much to create and sustain this lifesaving service on Lough Derg.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Racing on Lough Derg is well underway already this season, with growing numbers appearing at Garykennedy Sailing Club's activities on Saturdays since April. Some 150 sailors turned out last Saturday for "The Visitors' Cup" which was part of a day event with 26 yachts entering the race with the proceeds in aid of RNLI. This coming Saturday sees The Commodore's Cup being raced by Iniscealtra S.C. at Mountshannon who will be out to match the numbers.

The Visitors’ Cup has been raced for in Garrykennedy Sailing Club since shortly after it was founded in 1985. All keelboats on Lough Derg are invited to participate in an open race. For many years a fundraiser for the RNLI has been incorporated into the event. This year saw a record 26 entries and 25 finishers. The club raised a record €2,500.00 for the RNLI. The GSC Commodore, Brendan O’Connor, drove the fund-raising effort and Larkin’s Restaurant and Pub of Garrykennedy sponsoring a free BBQ for all contributors to the fund.

Time and time again smaller clubs show the community spirit on this part of the Shannon. With a few generous volunteers on the committee and a hostess such as Maura Boyle of Larkin's Pub welcoming and feeding such a hungry bunch of sailors coming off the lake, this was the makings of one memorable event. It was T Shirt Sailing in a lovely breeze all afternoon. There was not a spider left on the twenty or so spinnakers flying full in tight proximity as this writer arrived on a Broom 37 towards the leeward mark off Williamstown.

A perfect day on Derg. Sophie and Lucy Keogh aboard Kieran Ruanes Christina with the girls grandad Barney Power  skippering Zombie in the backgroundA perfect day on Derg. Sophie and Lucy Keogh aboard Kieran Ruanes Christina with the girls grandad Barney Power  skippering Zombie in the background

Racing in GSC is highly eclectic and inclusive. The Visitors' Cup fleet included an X-332, a Rassy 36, Squibs, a Platu 25 and all specimens in between. The race was held in perfect conditions, 10 to 12 knots gusting to 20 plus, 20 plus degrees and wall to wall sunshine. The winner was Philip Despard, Commodore of Iniscealtra Sailing Club, sailing Maybee a Sigma 33, Celtic Carisma of GSC was second, sailed by the two-handed team of Nigel and Sue Smithwick. Rayon de Lune, First 31.7 helmed by Dan O'Connell GSC finished third.

Every club should have a professional singer on board and the Commodore's talented daughter Sarah O'Connor Ryan held the attention of the sailors enjoying the evening sun after the fine BBQ . If there was an Afloat prize for M C Entertainer of the month Sarah would be a worthy recipient. Sailing skills are expected in such a vibrant active club as GSC, but the singing skills and social life sets this club above the rest. Sarah's amazing voice and charming presence pulled out other members such as Paul O'callaghan from Zombie, Declan Moore, Joe Byrne, Mary Hurley, Shirley O'Neill and Mary Keenan, not to mention Tadg Murphy who were only some of the crew belting out tunes to the delight of the crowd all evening and competiting with Eurovision in the background.

The activities of the Squib class is certainly getting recognition on Derg with growing numbers at Dromineer and now Mountshannon. Iniscealtra Commodore Philip despard is keen to grow the fleet. He believes with this season's plans, they will increase the fleet, promoting evenings of "Try Sailing" to attract interest from Limerick, Ennis and Shannon. Class sailing has been the backbone of Irish sailing down through the years and its great to see the fleet now mustering such numbers on the Shannon.

Published in Inland Waterways
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Lough Derg RNLI launched on Sunday afternoon (5 May) to assist a family of four on board a 28ft cruiser reported to be on fire.

Following the request by Valentia Coast Guard just before noon, the inshore lifeboat Jean Spier was under way by 12.16pm with helm Eleanor Hooke and crew Doireann Kennedy, Joe O’Donoghue and Tom Hayes on board. The wind was westerly Force 2 and visibility was very good.

As the lifeboat was launching, the coastguard informed the volunteers that the family — two adults and two infants — had been taken off the casualty vessel and that Killaloe Coast Guard had also launched to assist.

At 12.26am the lifeboat crew could see the casualty vessel just south of Lough Derg Navigation Mark E. The family had transferred onto a 18ft fishing boat which was standing off close by.

A few minutes later the lifeboat came alongside the fishing vessel and found the casualties to be safe, unharmed and wearing their lifejackets.

The skipper of the casualty vessel informed the lifeboat crew that when he noticed smoke and an acrid smell coming from the engine housing, he immediately shut down the engine and with that, the smoke ceased. They were unable to deploy their anchor as it required the engine to be running to operate.

Once satisfied that sufficient time had elapsed and the engine had cooled, the RNLI helm permitted the skipper and an RNLI volunteer to board the casualty vessel.

The skipper found that a piece of cloth was in contact with the engine’s exhaust system, and identified it as the source of the smoke and smell. The cloth was removed and the casualty vessel’s engine started immediately when tried.

The lifeboat informed the coastguard of their findings and of the decision to take one adult and the children onto the lifeboat from the fishing vessel, and to accompany the casualty vessel to Dromineer Harbour with the skipper and an RNLI volunteer on board.

However, at 12.45pm the engine on the casualty vessel failed. As Killaloe Coast Guard were now on scene, the RNLI helm requested that the mother and two infants be transferred to the coastguard lifeboat and be taken ahead to Dromineer.

Given the remote location and the inability to secure the cruiser, the helm made the decision to take the casualty vessel under tow to the closest safe harbour in Dromineer, where it was safely tied alongside at 1.44pm.

Christine O’Malley, lifeboat operations Manager at Lough Derg RNLI, advises boat users: “As we are now heading into the summer season, remember to have your vessel fully serviced before embarking on your journey. If you find yourself in difficulty, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Lough Derg RNLI were requested to launch on Thursday afternoon (18 April) by Valentia Coast Guard to assist two people on a 36ft cruiser reported aground inside Navigation Mark H at Gortmore Point.

The inshore lifeboat Jean Spier launched at 1.03pm with helm Eleanor Hooker and crew Steve Smyth, Chris Parker and Joe O’Donoghue on board. The wind was westerly Force 4, gusting Force 5, and visibility was good with frequent squalls.

At 1.15pm the lifeboat located the casualty vessel inside Navigation Mark H and 25 feet from shore. The lifeboat stood off to observe the casualty vessel, which appeared to be raised out of the water and pivoting on a central point.

With a volunteer taking soundings at the bow, and using on board electronic charts, the lifeboat navigated a safe passage to the starboard stern side of the casualty vessel. RNLI volunteers noted hazards in the water close by.

An RNLI volunteer boarded the casualty vessel and established that there were actually three people on board, safe and unharmed and all wearing their lifejackets. A fourth person had left the cruiser to swim to shore.

The skipper of the casualty vessel had deployed the anchor in an attempt to prevent further drift towards shore. They informed the lifeboat crew that they had damaged their propellers and suffered engine failure after hitting rocks.

An RNLI volunteer checked under the floorboards and reported back to the lifeboat that there was no ingress of water or visible damage to the hull.

Given that the vessel was high out of the water and appeared to be pivoting on a rock, and hadn’t changed its aspect to weather with the anchor out, the lifeboat helm made the decision to take everyone off the cruiser and onto the lifeboat, having first ensured that the casualty vessel was secure with windows closed and gas supply switched off.

The lifeboat informed Valentia Coast Guard of this decision and the plan to moor up at the nearby Gortmore Harbour, so that two RNLI volunteers could walk back to locate the person who swam to shore. Shore crew back at boathouse informed the cruiser company.

Accompanied by one of the people from the cruiser, two volunteers set out on foot from Gortmore Harbour to search for the fourth of their group.

A member of the public who had offered to drive down the road to assist in the search located the individual and drove him back. With the four reunited, the lifeboat took them to Portumna where their car was located.

The lifeboat departed the scene at 2.39pm and was back at station at 3.03pm.

Aoife Kennedy, launching authority at Lough Derg RNLI advises boat users “to stay with your vessel and if in danger call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard”.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Lough Derg RNLI were requested to launch on Saturday (30 March) to assist a lone sailor on a 35ft cruiser with fouled propellers and adrift in Dromineer Bay.

Following the request from Valentia Coast Guard, the inshore lifeboat Jean Spier — with helm Owen Cavanagh and crew Doireann Kennedy, Tom Hayes and Ania Skrzypczynska-Tucker on board — launched at 5.28pm. Winds were with south-easterly Force 3 with good visibility.

At 5.42pm the lifeboat was alongside the casualty vessel, where the skipper was found safe and well and wearing a lifejacket.

The skipper explained that as the wind had dropped he was unable to sail home, and a line overboard had fouled the propellers so the cruiser couldn’t motor back to harbour.

Given the location on the navigation channel, and the hour, the lifeboat helm decided the safest course of action was to assist the casualty vessel back to the nearest safe harbour.

At 6.02pm the casualty vessel was secured alongside in Dromineer Harbour. The lifeboat departed the scene was back at station at 6.10pm.

Peter Kennedy, launching authority at Lough Derg RNLI advises boat users to “stow lines carefully and always make sure someone on the shore knows where you are going and who to call if you don’t return on time”.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Following an emergency call from a member of the public on shore on Sunday morning (24 March), Lough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spier was requested by Valentia Coast Guard to assist a family of four on a 34ft cruiser reported aground near Portumna, at the northern end of Lough Derg.

Already afloat on exercise with helm Dom Sharkey and crew Joe O’Donoghue, Tom Hayes and Ciara Lynch on board, the lifeboat headed immediately to the scene. The lake was calm with good visibility; winds were with south-westerly Force 1-2.

The lifeboat had the casualty vessel in sight at 11.24am. Using local knowledge and on-board navigation charts, the lifeboat made a safe approach to the casualty vessel.

An RNLI volunteer transferred across to ensure the passengers were safe and unharmed and wearing their lifejackets. The volunteer made a thorough inspection of the casualty vessel and, once satisfied it was not holed, reported back to the lifeboat.

Given the remote location and that there were children on board the cruiser, the lifeboat helm decided to assist the casualty vessel back out into safe water.

The lifeboat crew checked the drives and propeller on the cruiser and found them to be in good working order. With an RNLI volunteer remaining on board, the cruiser then made way under its own power to the closest safe harbour.

The lifeboat departed the scene at 11.52am and was back at station at 12.21pm

Christine O’Malley, lifeboat operations manager at Lough Derg RNLI, advises boat users to “plan your passage noting the navigation buoys along the route. Always carry a means of communication.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Cyclists will ‘Lap the Lake’ for the third year running to raise funds for Lough Derg RNLI on Saturday 11 May.

With Lough Derg RNLI marking 20 years of lifeboat service on the lake in the same year that the charity that saves lives at sea celebrates its bicentenary, the 2024 fundraiser will be a doubly special occasion.

As with the 2023 event, cyclists may again choose between a 120km route or a shorter 65km one.

The longer route will take participants on a full circuit of Lough Derg, giving entrants the chance to cycle through three counties: Tipperary, Clare and Galway. The shorter route will take cyclists to just beyond Killaloe, to a turnaround point at the Twomilegate lakeside amenity park.

Whichever route riders chose, they will have the opportunity to delight in the outstanding beauty of the lake and the River Shannon.

Riders’ safety and well-being is also a priority, with first-aid providers, out-riders, marshals and bike maintenance stops along the routes, as well as comfort and refreshment stations.

“We were thrilled with the success of the previous two years’ Lap the Lake cycle,” said Laura Clarke, chair of the event committee. “We were blessed with fine weather so that cyclists were able to enjoy the most breathtaking scenery around the lake.

“2024 is a particularly special year for the RNLI as the charity marks 200 years of lifesaving work. This event, now open for registration, is about raising funds for our local lifeboat on Lough Derg, which celebrates 20 years of service.”

Event tickets are €65 per person for the full route and €50 for the shorter route. All funds raised will go to Lough Derg RNLI. To find out more and to book your place among the riders this year, visit the Eventbrite page HERE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

On Saturday 30 December, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI to launch to investigate whether anyone was in trouble aboard a 20ft cruiser reported aground west of Garrykennedy Harbour.

At 3.30pm the inshore lifeboat Jean Spier launched with helm Eleanor Hooker, crew Chris Parker and Joe O’Donoghue on board. The wind was southerly Force 5, gusting Force 7, with fair visibility but heavy squalls.

Eleven minutes later, the lifeboat located the casualty vessel midway between Garrykennedy Harbour and Parker’s Point.

The lifeboat navigated a safe passage to the vessel, which was grounded on rocks close to the shore. An RNLI volunteer went aboard the vessel to determine whether there was anyone on board and in need of assistance, but found the vessel was empty. The RNLI crew located the boat’s registration so that Valentia Coast Guard could make contact with the owner.

Given the location and the deteriorating weather conditions, the helm made the decision to make the vessel safe, deploy its anchor, secure its canopy and leave it at the location. The lifeboat helm informed Valentia Coast Guard of this decision.

Lifeboat helm Eleanor Hooker advises boat users “to check the mooring lines on your vessel to ensure they are secure, particularly in anticipation of poor weather conditions”.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Volunteers representing Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat station were honoured with a scroll and a cheque for €500 at the annual Nenagh Municipal District Awards on Monday evening (20 November) in recognition of their volunteer work on Lough Derg.

The award, presented by Cllr John ‘Rocky’ McGrath, Cathaoirleach of the Nenagh Municipal District Tipperary Council Council, was in recognition of the volunteers “dedication and commitment to saving lives and their spirit of volunteerism in contributing of their time and efforts to enhance water safety on Lough Derg”.

The Lough Derg volunteers offered their grateful thanks to Rosemary Joyce, district administrator of Nenagh Municipal District and her team for their warm welcome and hospitality at the Civic Offices in Nenagh on Monday evening.

“Our heartiest congratulations too to the local communities, organisations and individuals who also received awards for their volunteer work,” they added,

Eleanor Hooker, helm and lifeboat press officer said it was a “tremendous honour for volunteers at Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat station to receive this award in recognition of the team’s lifesaving work and water safety programmes on Lough Derg”.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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A community page for Mountshannon is looking to find a good home for an impressive model boat found on Lough Derg over the summer.

As of Monday afternoon (20 November) no one had yet come forward to claim the model of a period battleship.

The person who found it is now looking to rehome it, and all enquiries can be directed to the Facebook page HERE.

Published in Model Boats
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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago