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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual Dun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI Christmas Eve public ceremony to honour the memory of 15 lifeboat volunteers that died on service 125 years ago has been cancelled this year and will be shown online.

On 24 December 1895, the number two lifeboat was wrecked while proceeding to the assistance of the SS Palme of Finland. The lifeboat capsized in gale force winds while attempting to rescue those on board the SS Palme that had run aground off Blackrock in County Dublin. The whole crew, 15 in all, drowned.

The volunteer crew of Dun Laoghaire RNLI usually hold the annual ceremony at the East Pier lighthouse as part of a long-standing local tradition to acknowledge the sacrifice of their colleagues in carrying out their duty. The ceremony also remembers all those who have lost their lives around the coast and on inland waters in 2020.

Instead, two wreaths will be placed by the lifeboat crew at sea, despite the covid-19 pandemic the station will continue to pay tribute to their lost colleagues featuring the service online through Dun Laoghaire RNLI's Facebook page later on Christmas Eve.

The tribute will feature musician William Byrne performing 'The Ballad of the Palme' and Fergal Keane of RTE, reading a newspaper account of the disaster. An ecumenical blessing will be given by Reverends Ása Björk Ólafsdóttir and Fr. Paul Tyrell before a lament is played by piper Paul McNally.

A joint guard of honour provided by Dun Laoghaire Coast Guard Unit and Civil Defence will not take place.

Stephen Wynne, Dun Laoghaire RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: 'We know a lot of people like to traditionally join us on Christmas Eve to commemorate this anniversary which allows us to pay tribute to those that sadly died on that day in 1895, and to remember all who have died at sea or on inland waters this year. However, it is not an ordinary year and we want everyone to be safe. We hope that people will visit our Facebook page shortly after the lifeboat crew lay the wreaths at sea as a beautiful tribute has been prepared.'

What started as a small fundraiser for Galway RNLI and Cancer Care West has turned into something spectacular as the players and members of Galway Corinthians RFC have raised over €8,500 for both organisations through two fundraising efforts.

The first featured the senior players in the club with Jack Noone and Kenneth Casburn behind the organisation of ‘Movember’ where players, management and committee members grew facial hair of some kind for the month of November.

The second featured the mercurial talents of club president Kieran Faherty.

Known fondly as ‘Flash’, Kieran is an accomplished artist and he generously provided one of his paintings known as ‘Brewing Up A Storm’, a stunning view of Galway Bay that has proved very popular with prints and cards selling out quickly.

But what inspired the painting? “I am often asked that,” Kieran says. “Pretty much my signature pieces are all about colour, and Connemara is my inspiration for many.

“As a kid I only saw greyness in the Connemara landscape, but age opens your eyes. Now I embrace all the wonderful changing coloured landscape that the mountains, bogs and lakes give up to us.”

He added: “I think my inspiration for this piece is the challenges it offers, as it sits in stormy waters, and I think appropriately it is raising funds for a charity that lives in stormy waters with their incredible brave crew.”

The fundraising has been warmly welcomed by both organisations, with Mike Swan, Galway RNLI lifeboat operations manager, saying: “I wanted to express my personal gratitude for the effort of the members of Corinthians Rugby Club and thank them for their very generous donation, of which will be put to good use saving lives at sea.

“Given the year that’s in it, the crew are overwhelmed with the support from the people of Galway.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A new video featuring five of the most dramatic RNLI rescues of 2020 has been released today as the lifesaving charity braces itself for another busy Christmas: 

Figures for the last 10 years for the festive period (Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day) show that RNLI lifeboats in Ireland launched 122 times, with their volunteer crews coming to the aid of 56 people including four lives saved.

The incredible footage shows how the RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews will go to the aid of anyone who needs their help, whatever the weather and no matter how dangerous the conditions.

Among the Irish rescues, the video features:

  • Three lifeboats from Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay and Rosslare Harbour battling for hours in strong winds and breaking seas to save a 4,000-tonne coaster and nine crew from being washed onto the rocks.
  • A crew member from Portrush RNLI jumping from their all-weather lifeboat into stormy seas to rescue a teenager who got into difficulty while jumping into the sea off rocks.

The RNLI has launched its Christmas Appeal and is asking for support so the charity’s lifesavers can continue to save lives at sea: Please visit - RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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RNLI Lifeboat volunteer Carol Flahive has received a long service badge in recognition of 20 years' dedicated service to the community.

Carol joined Wicklow lifeboat in November 2000 and over the years has been in charge as the Helm on the Inshore lifeboat and crew on the all-weather lifeboat Annie Blaker.

In recent times Carol qualified as a Navigator on the all-weather lifeboat and looks after crew training as Local Training Coordinator at the Station.

Carol has built up a wealth of experience and knowledge during exercises with Wicklow lifeboat, which she has passed on to the new generation of crew.

Carol has been on numerous launches on service and exercise over the last 20 years. Two "Shouts" in particular stand out, from July 2014 where multiple casualties were rescued after being cut off by the tide at Silver Strand Beach and in July 2016 when the crew assisted a solo French yachtsman south of Wicklow Head in bad weather.
The Coxswain and crew were later commended for their actions during the callouts.

Carol was awarded her long service medal during an outdoor Covid-19 compliant ceremony on Saturday afternoon by Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mary Aldridge who said: "It gives me great pleasure to present this award to Carol after 20 years voluntary service to the maritime community in Wicklow. It's such a pity that all the crew members cannot be present to honour Carol, but such are the times and challenges that Covid presents. It is fantastic to see Carols family here. It is the family and partners that also give a big commitment to the RNLI when the pagers go off and they are at home worrying about their loved ones. I want to take this opportunity to thank the families and partners of all our volunteers at Wicklow Lifeboat Station, and on behalf of all the Crew congratulate Carol for her dedicated service."

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Lough Ree RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew were requested to come to the assistance of four people on board a barge which ran aground on Saturday afternoon (12 December).

The 36ft Dutch barge was stranded where the River Shannon meets Lough Ree.

Launched at 1.30 pm in calm conditions, Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat Tara Scougall reached the scene near Lough Ree Yacht Club seven minutes later. The volunteer crew found all four people on board safe and well and proceeded to tow the barge off the rocks.

The Lough Ree RNLI volunteer crew assessed the barge for damage and accompanied the craft and crew to Athlone Town Marina.

Lough Ree RNLI Helm Stan Bradbury said, ‘Navigation can be difficult at this time of year for boat users, with obstacles hidden or obscured by Winter flood waters. We would also advise boat users to wear a lifejacket at all times for their own safety.

Published in Inland Waterways
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In Galway city, the RNLI inshore lifeboat rescued a man caught in rising tide while out walking at Ballyloughane beach near Renmore.

A member of the public spotted the man who had taken refuge on Hare island at about 11 am, and the alarm was raised with the Irish Coast Guard.

Galway lifeboat launched within minutes and took the man safely on board at Hare island, bringing him back to Galway docks. He did not require medical attention.

Galway lifeboat launch authority Mike Swan urged the public “ to be aware of the tide times and to take extra care when out walking any of the coastal areas around the bay so as not to get caught out”.

“Thankfully this ended well,” he said.

The Galway RNLI crew on the callout were helmsman Declan Killilea, with Stefanie Carr, Greg Cullen and Olivia Byrne.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Both lifeboats at Clifden RNLI were launched this morning just before 11 am after a Coastguard request to go to the aid of a ten-metre fishing trawler that was taking on water and in danger of sinking.

With two crew on board, the trawler was on passage to Clare when they raised the alarm.

While wind conditions were a south westerly force 3/4, there was a very large swell on the scene and another large tanker vessel nearby.

All weather lifeboat coxswain James Mullen explained ‘When the lifeboats arrived on scene there was a large tanker vessel providing the casualty vessel with some shelter from the 7/8 meter seas.

A ten metre trawler that was taking on water and in danger of sinking.With two crew on board, the trawler was on passage to Clare when they raised the alarm

The Atlantic 85 helm Joe Acton immediately transferred two crew aboard with a salvage pump and began pumping out the vessel. Once the water level dropped low enough for the vessel to use their own engine power we headed back to shore.

However, on the way to Clifden the boat started to take on more water than the two pumps could handle and the engine overheated so we made the decision then to take her under tow. The larger salvage pump was transferred from the Shannon class lifeboat to the casualty via the inshore lifeboat by crew member Chris Nee.

With both lifeboats pumps working and the vessels own bilge pump, the flow of water was stemmed and the boat was escorted safely back to Clifden. Both helicopters Rescue 115 and 118 were also on scene and we are glad to have been able to bring the casualties and the vessel safely back to shore’.

Clifden RNLI Deputy Launching Authority John Roberts said ‘The crew did extremely well today in a very large swell to carry out this rescue and without their assistance this vessel was in serious danger of sinking. Well done to all involved.’

The Shannon class lifeboat was crewed by James Mullen, John Mullen, Ashling Sweeney, Chris Nee and Andrew Bell and the Atlantic 85 boat was crewed by Joe Acton, Brian Ward and Thomas Davis.

Published in Fishing
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The families of RNLI lifeboat volunteers have joined an all-Ireland appeal for support after the charity’s usual Christmas fundraisers were cancelled.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the charity that saves lives at sea launched its 2020 Christmas appeal as so many traditional community fundraising events such as raft races, open days and sea swims have had to be called off due to coronavirus restrictions.

In Donegal, Lorraine Cassidy’s husband James and sons Nathan (22) and Oisin (21) are all volunteer crew members on Bundoran RNLI’s inshore lifeboat. They know all too well how important it is for crews to have the right lifesaving kit and PPE.

Nathan adds: “RNLI volunteers have had a challenging year but thankfully, with many additional safety measures and procedures in place to ensure our safety, we have remained on call 24/7 throughout the pandemic.

“We have our standard PPE but now also wear masks and gloves and take extra precautions at sea. We know the extra PPE comes at a financial cost to the charity and during a time when fundraising activity has had to be halted.”

Further south are Robert and Colette Foster, whose daughter Caoimhe (20) is a volunteer crew member on Crosshaven RNLI’s inshore lifeboat.

“We are very proud that Caoimhe has been a volunteer lifeboat crew member in Crosshaven for three years now,” her father Robert says. “Our son Cillian (17) is also joining the crew but due to Covid-19, won’t be starting his training until next year.

“Our youngest Clodagh is 12 and having watched Caoimhe’s involvement in the last few years, she is already aspiring to be part of the future crew.”

In East Cork, Mark Nolan has been a volunteer at Youghal RNLI for 23 years, first as a crew member on the station’s inshore lifeboat where he served for 13 years before moving to shore crew. In 2017 he became a deputy launching authority where, among his tasks, he authorises the launch of the station’s lifeboat when the alarm is raised.

Mark’s son Jack (22) followed in his father’s footsteps five years ago when he, too, joined the lifesaving team in Youghal.

“You worry when the pager beeps and you are responsible for authorising the launch of the lifeboat,” Mark says. “While Jack is my son, I would have similar concerns for all crew members who go out on the lifeboat to save others who are in trouble at sea.”

Jason Chambers and his wife Lauren received a special guard of honour from Portrush RNLI after their wedding last week (Photo: Mairéad McDaid/Remain In Light Photography)Jason Chambers and his wife Lauren received a special guard of honour from Portrush RNLI after their wedding last week | Photo: Mairéad McDaid/Remain In Light Photography

For Portrush RNLI relief mechanic Jason Chambers and his wife Lauren (McGee), who is a professional wedding photographer, 2020 has been a year like no other.

The couple who have two children, Tyler (9) and Isla (5), were originally due to get married on 18 April but when Covid-19 restrictions came in shortly after they returned from their hen and stag parties, they were forced to postpone and rethink their plans.

A stressful few months later and amid restrictions changing regularly, the couple eventually got their big day last week.

And much to Jason’s surprise and delight, four fully kitted-out lifeboat crew members representing the station were waiting outside the Arcadia in Portrush following the ceremony to provide a socially distant guard of honour to wish the couple well.

Lauren is also well used to family events being interrupted by the pager. And this Christmas will be no different for the Chambers.

“From the moment I met Jason, the RNLI pager became a part of my life, too. The lifeboat has always been in Jason’s blood and he comes from a long family line who have been involved in helping to save lives at sea for generations.

“It can be difficult seeing Jason leave when the pager goes, and he heads for the lifeboat. I worry about what he might go through when he is out on a shout. Even at Christmas, we know that he might have to drop everything like the other volunteers in Portrush, Red Bay or Larne and run out the door to go and save someone’s life.”

The same goes for Sue and Peter Irwin, longtime volunteers with Donaghadee RNLI, whose son Jack is a volunteer on Bangor RNLI’s inshore lifeboat.

“However, I also know how important the crew member’s role is and how rewarding it is for Jack to make his contribution just as it was for Peter and is for me as a fundraiser,” Sue says.

“The RNLI depends on the goodwill of others to support the work our volunteer crews do and that is why as a family, we would urge people if they can, to give to the Christmas appeal.”

Meanwhile, for one teenager who has helped out where he can at Kilkeel RNLI since he was a child, this year Christmas will be extra special as he will finally be eligible to join the crew on his 17th birthday on Christmas Eve.

Andrew Young’s father Gary has been a RNLI volunteer for the last 32 years. Watching his father work as station mechanic and helm, Andrew was inspired to become a crew member at a young age and is now looking forward to making his own contribution.

“I have been coming to the station with Dad for years and I always loved watching the crew prepare and train between call outs,” Andrew said. “I have helped out where I can but I am really excited now to start my own training to become a crew member and I will look forward to the day that I, too, can help bring someone in difficulty to safety.”

All families share pride in their loved ones’ lifesaving efforts, but they also worry when the pager beeps and they’re called out to save others who are in trouble.

The sense of relief when they help to bring those in difficulty back to safety, but also when they return home safety themselves, is one that they all feel.

And they’re united in declaring that the best Christmas gift they can wish for is any kind of donation, no matter how small, to the RNLI Christmas appeal.

Funds raised will provide the lifesaving kit volunteers so need to continue to help saving lives at sea. For more visit RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A man whose life was saved by the RNLI off the Waterford coast earlier this year, has urged people to support the RNLI’s Christmas appeal. Michael Power from Tramore had been sea swimming when he got into serious difficulty. Pulled unconscious from the water by Tramore RNLI, the lifeboat crew never gave up on him and despite his family being called to his bedside to say goodbye, Michael went on to make a full recovery. Now in thanks to the volunteer lifeboat crew that saved his life, Michael is calling on people to support his lifesavers after the RNLI have seen a drop in income as traditional fundraising activities had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

In January this year, Michael Power set off for a swim along the Guillamene cove in Tramore, County Waterford. A regular swimmer Michael kept his head down and was aware of other swimmers in the vicinity. Not keeping an eye as he usually did on the coastline, he eventually became aware that he was not moving even after increasing his strokes. He had become caught in a rip current and could not get out of it. He tried to get to safety, but he was rapidly losing energy and began to panic. Michael subsequently learned that he had developed Hypothermia before slipping into a coma. He has no memory of the man who raised the alarm from the shore or the RNLI lifeboat crew who were on scene minutes later to find him face down in the water and unresponsive. Onlookers from the cliff watched in shock as the volunteer crew pulled him lifeless from the water and commenced CPR. His next memory is waking up in hospital with his family having been called in to say goodbye.

Now Michael wants to thank his rescuers by calling on people to support the RNLI’s Christmas appeal and donate to the charity that saves lives at sea and on inland waters. Michael has also been down to the lifeboat station to thank his rescuers in person, along with his grateful family.

Commenting on his near-drowning Michael said, ‘I am known as the miracle man around here now. I am so grateful to my rescuers and that I am here to be able to tell my story. I know the lifeboat crew who rescued me personally, as I live locally and swim in the sea regularly, so I can only imagine how difficult it was for them to pull me out of the sea in that condition. The doctors told me that I should not have survived, and that the lifeboat crew undoubtedly saved my life. So, this is my way of saying thank you.’

‘When I visited the lifeboat station, they presented me with my swimming cap and googles that they had kept safe, unsure if I would survive but unwilling to dispose of them. It was an extremely emotional moment and I have plans to frame them as a reminder of that day that I can’t even remember. I know there are so many families out there who have reason to be grateful to the RNLI and mine certainly have, they are tremendous people.’

The RNLI have launched their Christmas appeal this year as so many traditional community fundraising events such as raft races, open days and sea swims have had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions. This year the charity has spent funds on PPE, including face masks, gloves and thousands of litres of hand sanitiser. This is money the charity hadn’t budgeted for but needed to be spent to keep its lifesavers and the public protected during the coronavirus crisis.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Coosan Point on Lough Ree is home to one of Ireland’s busiest lifeboat crews. But they operate from temporary facilities and the RNLI say they urgently need a permanent, new base to continue their lifesaving missions.

The Institute is seeking donations to help fund a new, purpose-built lifeboat station and are aiming to raise €100k.

Lough Ree volunteer crews have been rescuing people from the lake’s 28km stretch of inland water since 2012, launching more than 370 times and helping over 1,060 people.

The permanent station near the existing slipway at Coosan Point – crucial for the efficient launching and recovery of the lifeboat will include

  • Secure boathouse for lifeboat, launch tractor and trailer
  • Crew training and meeting rooms
  • Changing facilities, showers and WCs
  • Offices and operations room
  • Workshop and fuel storage facilities
Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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