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Displaying items by tag: Achill Island

Achill Island RNLI evacuated a male patient from Inishbofin late last night and into this morning, (Tuesday 5 October). The patient was brought to Cleggan Pier in Galway for further transport to University College Hospital, Galway.

The volunteer lifeboat crew of six with Dave Curtis as Coxswain, left Achill Island at 9.50 pm last night (Monday) to travel a distance of 20 nautical miles to reach their casualty on Inishbofin. The journey took the all-weather lifeboat, Sam and Ada Moody, past Clare Island and Inishturk, then south to Inishbofin in moderate sea conditions with waves of up to two metres in places.

It was a cold, dark night with westerly winds and showers. A light snow flurry greeted the crew when they arrived at Inishbofin, a journey that took the Trent class lifeboat just under an hour to complete on this particular leg. The patient was taken onboard the lifeboat which then travelled to Cleggan where the pier was lit up by members of the Cleggan Coast Guard unit who assisted with transferring the patient to the waiting HSE ambulance. The patient was then transported to University College Hospital in Galway for further treatment and the Sam and Ada Moody returned to Achill Island at 1.26 am this morning.

Speaking after the call out, Ciaran Needham, Achill Island RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: ‘As always, it is great to see inter-agency cooperation working so well in the early hours of the morning. Our volunteers train for all types of sea and weather conditions and are ready to respond whenever their pagers go off, day or night. We were delighted to be able to assist this patient and we wish him a speedy recovery.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Achill Island RNLI is delighted to welcome Ciaran Needham, a native of Sáile as the station’s new Lifeboat Operations Manager. Ciaran succeeds Tony McNamara, who recently retired from the role.

Ciaran is an electrician by trade and is also a member of Achill GAA where he trains regularly with his club mates. While Ciaran loves all things GAA, he is also an avid surfer, and it is his passion for surfing that has instilled a deep respect in him for the sea and how it can change in an instant.

Having lived in Sydney, Australia, for 10 years where he worked as an electrician and spent a lot of time surfing, Ciaran returned home to Achill Island two years ago, where he now lives with his partner, Mary Ellen Daly. While in Sydney, Ciaran was aware of the full-time lifeguards that patrolled Sydney’s sprawling beaches as he surfed. Back at home, he has always appreciated the role of the lifeboat and the unique volunteer nature of the RNLI, a charity reliant on the generous donations from the public.

Talking about why he joined Achill Island RNLI as Lifeboat Operations Manager, Ciaran said: ‘I’ve been involved with the sea for my whole life and knowing that there is a volunteer lifeboat crew always ready and willing to come to the assistance of anyone who needs it has always meant so much to me. It made sense to volunteer with Achill Island RNLI when this role became available, with the realisation that I could have been a potential casualty many times in the past, or indeed, at some stage in the future.’

As the Lifeboat Operations Manager, Ciaran is responsible for operational activities at the lifeboat station, authorising the launch of the lifeboat and the day-to-day management of the station.

When speaking about his vision for the lifeboat station in the years ahead, Ciaran said that he was looking forward to welcoming new members to Achill Island RNLI. Describing this as a new chapter for the station, he said: ‘I would like to welcome Martin Reilly as an additional Deputy Launching Authority and Eilish Power as our new Lifeboat Press Officer and I look forward to working with them in their new roles. I’m also looking forward to welcoming new lifeboat crew to the station and our new team will benefit from the experience that already exists in Marie Kilbane as Deputy Launching Authority, Dave Curtis as Coxswain and Michael Cattigan as mechanic, as well as all the existing volunteer crew.’

Ciaran reflected on the challenges presented by Covid restrictions over the past 18 months. Regular meetings with the crew, welcoming the public for open days and essential fundraising activities have all been interrupted and missed, but Ciaran looks forward to activities at the station beginning to return to normal. When speaking about what he admires most about the RNLI, Ciaran said: ‘It’s that volunteer aspect; that has to be admired above all else. The amount of training that our crew participate in, their commitment and dedication, it’s immense. And it wouldn’t be possible without the tireless work and effort by our always enthusiastic and hugely devoted fundraising branch.’

Meanwhile, Rob King, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, welcomed Ciaran and wished him well in his new role: ‘I would like to thank Ciaran for accepting the role of Lifeboat Operations Manager with Achill Island RNLI and I very much look forward to supporting him and the Achill team.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Achill Island RNLI was involved in the medical evacuation of a female patient from Clare Island this afternoon (Tuesday, 7 September) following a request from the Irish Coast Guard.

The volunteer crew launched their all-weather lifeboat at 1.15 pm under Coxswain Dave Curtis and with six crew members onboard. It followed a request to assist the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 118 from Sligo, due to foggy weather conditions on the island at the time.

Weather conditions improved during the call out and the crew were able to secure a zone for the helicopter to successfully land and take the patient onboard the aircraft. The patient was then transferred to Mayo University Hospital and the all-weather lifeboat, The Sam and Ada Moody, and her crew returned to Achill Island at 3pm.

Speaking following the call out, Dave Curtis, Coxswain said: ‘This is another example of good inter-agency teamwork between our colleagues in the Irish Coast Guard and our volunteer crew. We wish the patient well for a speedy recovery.’

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Achill Island RNLI were delighted yesterday evening (Monday 23 August) to be able to bring home a patient they had medically evacuated from Inishturk almost two months ago.

The volunteer lifeboat crew had provided a medevac for 88-year-old John O’Toole from his home on Inishturk on 28 June, bringing him to Achill Island where he was transferred to Mayo University Hospital suffering from a severe infection.

He was later moved to a nursing home where he remained for four weeks before becoming well enough to finally return home.

John was surrounded by his wife Mary and daughters Phil Kilbane and Anne Maher prior to his departure from Achill Island in flat calm sea conditions and glorious evening sunshine.

Speaking of her father’s dramatic recovery, Anne said: “The doctor told us Dad could have died if the lifeboat didn’t take him off the island back in June.”

Echoing the appreciation of her sister, Phil Kilbane said: “The people of both Clare Island and Inishturk are forever grateful for the help and assistance of Achill Island RNLI to the islanders.

“A big thank you to the crew who volunteer their time, day and night, and for bringing our Dad back home safely this evening.”

Prior to the departure, local family Katie and John Sweeney and their son Seamus Tiernan were present on the pier to wave John off.

Seamus, a talented and well-known musician, played some traditional Irish tunes for John, much to his delight, as he boarded the all-weather lifeboat Sam and Ada Moody.

Achill Island RNLI recently bade farewell to long-serving lifeboat operations manager Tony McNamara, who retired after more than three decades of service, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Achill Island RNLI’s Tony McNamara retires as Lifeboat Operations Manager after 32 years of service to the charity.

Achill Island RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, Tony McNamara has retired after three decades of volunteering for the charity in an operational role. Tony will, however, continue to volunteer with the Achill Island RNLI Fundraising Branch.

Tony has been involved with the RNLI in Mayo since 1989 when a new lifeboat station opened at Ballyglass, the first all-weather lifeboat station to be opened in Ireland since 1929. Tony was stationed in Belmullet Garda Station where he worked as a Garda Sergeant at the time and where he was later promoted to the role of Garda Superintendent. He was further promoted to Chief Superintendent in 2005 before retiring from that role in Castlebar in 2009.

Tony was involved with Achill Island RNLI from its outset in 1994 when the Achill Lifeboat Committee was set up to work towards the establishment of a permanent lifeboat station on Achill Island in 1997. Tony was the Second Coxswain at Ballyglass RNLI until 2002 when he was appointed Honorary Secretary on the retirement of the late Paddy Leech, a role he held until 2005. Tony had at the same time been a committee member at the Achill Island Lifeboat Station since its inception in 1997.

Having moved back to Achill, Tony was appointed Deputy Launching Authority for the station before taking up the role of Lifeboat Operations Manager in 2017 on the retirement of Tom Honeyman. This role saw him managing all operational activities at the lifeboat station, authorising the launch of the lifeboat and the day-to-day management of the station.

As Lifeboat Operations Manager, Tony was also a key link to the fundraising branch where he now continues to volunteer his time to raise the essential funds needed to help save lives at sea. Like all lifeboat stations, Achill Island RNLI relies on donations from the public to operate and Tony very much enjoys the camaraderie and social aspect that comes with being a member of the branch.

Reflecting on the last three decades, Tony who is also a keen angler and a former scuba diver said: ‘The story of the RNLI encompasses the spirit of the volunteer - the crew, the fundraisers and the public who value that commitment and support it so generously.’

While many of Achill Island RNLI’s call-outs are to medical evacuations from Mayo’s inhabited islands, Tony, as Lifeboat Operations Manager, has over the years set off his crew’s pagers for a range of other incidents too including to swimmers, surfers and boat users who found themselves in difficulty.

Some call outs are etched in Tony’s memory. These include the tragic Rescue 116 accident in March 2017 off Blackrock Island which claimed the lives of all four crew members onboard. Tony was the first point of contact at Achill Island RNLI by the Irish Coast Guard and this request was one which would see the all-weather lifeboat, Sam and Ada Moody, and her volunteer crew search for 28 consecutive days. Tony also sadly recalls the tragic drowning of two young siblings, also his neighbours, in Blacksod Bay in July 2001 when he responded with the Ballyglass RNLI crew.

There are better memories too including back in December 1993 when four surfers were miraculously rescued over two miles off Easkey having spent several hours in the freezing, dark sea. Tony was the Ballyglass RNLI Coxswain that night and he remembers the euphoria onboard the lifeboat when all four were found alive.

Following Tony’s retirement, Ciaran Needham has taken up the helm as the new Lifeboat Operations Manager at Achill Island RNLI: ‘I am delighted to be handling the baton to Ciaran and I wish him well in that role’ Tony added. ‘I have no doubt that Ciaran will be very successful in leading the station into the future as we approach the 200th anniversary of the founding of the RNLI in 2024.’

Married to Anastasia for 48 years with three daughters, Ruth, Claire and Lucy, and six grandchildren, Tony said he is looking forward to retirement: ‘I look forward to the freedom from the pager and mobile phones which have been a constant in my life since I joined the Ballyglass crew in 1989 but I will miss the RNLI family and the contact I had with our friends in Malin Head Coast Guard Radio Station who monitor the emergency radio channels day and night.’

When speaking about his lifeboat family, Tony said: ‘I would like to thank my Deputy Launching Authority, Marie Kilbane, herself a former crew member, who covered for me in my absence. Likewise, our Honorary Medical Advisor, Doctor Noreen Lineen Curtis who has always been there for us and was always ready to go to sea when needed. I want to thank all the team at the coalface - our crew who never seek the limelight but who carries a pager day and night to answer the call, I will miss the regular contact with them.

Rob King, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, paid tribute to Tony: ‘I would like to thank Tony for his years of operational service with Ballyglass and Achill Island RNLI stations and for his guidance and leadership during his tenure as Lifeboat Operations Manager. I am delighted that he will remain involved with our fundraising team, and I wish him well.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Achill Island RNLI was involved in the medical evacuation of a patient from Clare Island at the weekend.

The volunteer lifeboat crew launched at 9.29 am on Saturday (14 August) under Coxswain Dave Curtis and with five crew members on board. It followed a request from the Irish Coast Guard to assist with the evacuation of a patient from the island. Sea conditions were flat calm at the time and the weather was overcast with some drizzle.

The all-weather lifeboat Sam and Ada Moody arrived at Clare Island at 9.51 am. Four crew members proceeded to go ashore and prepare a safe landing site for the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 118 from Sligo which was also tasked to the scene. The lifeboat crew then assisted the island nurse and the crew of Rescue 118 with transferring the patient to the aircraft before they were airlifted to the hospital.

Speaking after the call out, Achill Island RNLI Coxswain Dave Curtis: ‘We were happy to help and would like to wish the casualty well. We train regularly for situations like this and this call out was a good example of a good inter-agency response from our own volunteers here in Achill and our colleagues in the Irish Coast Guard.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

An online petition claims that “untold damage, both visually and physically” would be caused by development work at Achill Island’s Keem Bay.

The campaign behind the petition is appealing to Mayo County Council to U-turn on its plans for various infrastructure works for the Keem Bay ‘Signature Discovery Point’.

These would include a glass walkway protruding over the cliff overhanging the bay, as well as a path to the top and ‘traffic management’ works.

The petition says these proposals, despite having “objective of improving visitor experience, would threaten the very reason that Keem is one of the most beautiful places in the world”.

More than 2,000 people have already signed the petition, which can be found at Change.org.

Published in Island News
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When I first saw Clochmor, Achill, County Mayo, in the late 1960's it was as if I had walked into a Paul Henry painting. The Famine era pier, built from the local red sandstone, was intact. Currachs and tarred wooden boats were tied alongside or stored upside down. A fleet of old fishing boats called the pier home. The white cottage above the pier, the forlorn, abandoned coastguard station on Darby's point, even the billowing layers of stratocumulus clouds were somehow straight off his canvas from 100-years earlier.

Nowadays it resembles more a scene from the latest 'Mad Max' movie, crossed with a scene from that Kevin Costner 'Waterworld' one.

The tiny pier is still discernible under a pancake of cement. It has been extended in an L shape and covered in a layer of concrete, steel pilings, arc lights, and bulletproof bollards. The hinterland has been bulldozed into an extensive work area and car park which is permanently cluttered with an amazing collection of steel containers, junk, machinery, plastic tubes, anchors, coloured ropes, pallets, trailers, lobster pots, broken down vans, boats, fish cages, fish pumps and fish boxes. Oil storage tanks, nets, trawl winches, abandoned pilot houses, otter boards, chains and one or two yachts.

The new pier is home to a fleet of indestructible workboats built in the fjords of Norway. The extensive sand flats are used, with the help of the tide, to service the giant circular fish pen floats. Hardy fish farm workers, clad in hi-viz suits operate the cranes and loaders, fish pumps and winches in all weathers.

I love it. Happy as that proverbial clam in the mudbank. Having found a spot on the shoreline where I can park my two boats (Accolade and a 14 ft punt). It's not unlike being in an ultra-safe anchorage or a marina, only much safer.

I acquired Accolade, an ageing Jag 22, some years ago in an earnest attempt to interest my two then kids in the joys of sailing. That, unfortunately, did not happen, and she had lain idle on her trailer as we holidayed in foreign parts.

Accolade sits there; trailer well blocked up. I try not to let her get too dilapidated looking. I bail out the rainwater. I keep an eye on the brightwork, try and keep the interior ventilated and attack the green moss and lichen which tends to develop here and there. I make cups of cocoa on the stove, sit in the sun and keep an eye on the industrious fish farm doing its business at the pier, the workboats coming and going.

There is a thriving sailing scene in Clew Bay-based at Rosmoney near Westport. But out Achill way, there are few yachts. It's not a very hospitable location with strong winds, fast currents and few shore facilities. Angling is its main draw and the recreational boaters who do show up tend to be trailing ribs and motorboats of various shapes and sizes.

Achill Yawls racingAchill Yawls racing. Illustration by Pete Hogan

The exception, however, is the Achill Yawls, a thriving fleet of traditional open boats with a dipping lug sail which is based on the working boats of the region dating back to the time of Granuaile. The Achill Yawl Festival / Cruinniú Bádóirí Acla takes place each summer with a series of weekend races based in Achill Sound, Mulranny and Clare Island. Like the hooker races in Connemara, they have their own rules, such as a start from standing with sail down. I don't know if they observe the port/starboard rule, the rock on which international sailing is founded. Don't mention windward-leeward.

The Achill Yawls differ from the traditional boats of the Galway region in that they seem to prefer white sails as opposed to the romantic red. Also, they use aluminium spars which are a big break with tradition. This allows them to carry a huge spread of sail, making the sailing very exciting. The boats are open and use sand and rocks as ballast. Filling them with water in a gust is a distinct possibility.
July this year came, and the Covid lockdown was lifted. I rushed across country from Dublin to check on Accolade. It was looking highly unlikely that I would be invited to sail on my buddies boats in the Med or Galicia this year, so I decided to launch Accolade from its safe resting place. Staycation was the new right thing to do. The resident fish farm is very helpful in the matter of launching. I hitched a ride on a passing hi loader and in no time at all boat and trailer were deposited on the beach beside the pier at low tide. Off we floated on the rising tide and went alongside the pier. One of the local fishermen, with his truck hoist, volunteered to step the mast. All in a day's work and I was sailing. I couldn't believe my luck.

Launching at ClochmorLaunching at Clochmor. Illustration by Pete Hogan

The weather being settled, I betook myself and my boat out to the mooring located off the beach at Achillbeg. And there Accolade stayed for the summer.

There are many interesting cruising destinations within a few hours sail of Cloghmor. The most obvious, easy and handy, is the main harbour of Clare Island. About 5 miles away, it has a good anchorage or moorings, or it is often possible to go alongside. There is refreshment to be had in the hotel or the community centre. There is a beach and the romance of the ancient Granuaile Castle overlooking the harbour. But it is busy, with ferries and fish farm vessels coming and going.

The Harbour,  Clare IslandThe Harbour, Clare Island. Illustration by Pete Hogan

Further south are the harbour of Ronagh and the beach resort of Old Head. Ronagh is a busy ferry port and car park but nothing else. Old Head has a wonderful beach, a drying pier and there is quite a clutter of local moorings and speed boats. It's a fair old walk into the village of Louisberg from either location. On the other side of the bay is Mulranny with a host of facilities. But it can be a bit exposed to the prevailing south-westerlies.

Inner Clew Bay with its famous island archipelago is all very well, but I find that any time I wander in there in a yacht, I invariably go aground. On a falling tide. Then there is the uphill slog to get back west when the tide finally releases the captured vessel.

Lifeboat at anchor in AchillLifeboat at anchor in Achill

Turning to the north from Clochmor there is the small maze-like harbour of Purteen on Achill Island and that gem of a beach, Keem Bay, usually sheltered. Beyond there lies the splendid Achill head and points north.

One might think that Achill Sound itself would be a logical route to the north. But it is shallow and strewn with big clumps of growing seaweed which are difficult to avoid. For obscure reasons, the newly constructed, opening bridge, mid-way along the sound, never opens! If you don't believe me, try it. The body of water to the north of the bridge includes the aptly named Bulls Mouth for which the Admiralty pilot gives a possible spring rate of 8 knots. It is a pity that the route to the north is barred in this way. The large expanse of water in the shelter of Achill Island, including the island of Inishbiggle would make wonderful extra cruising grounds. One could even sail all the way to the rear side of Mulranny.

To the south, the jewel in the cruising crown, the island of Boffin, is an easy days haul from Clochmor. This seems to be the destination of choice for the numerous boats of the Westport fleet. Boffin has everything, a safe harbour, good facilities, beaches and craic. Nearby Inishturk is a bit exposed as an anchorage.

About the same distance from Achill and just as rewarding is the Killary. Relatively few yachts seem to bother exploring its further reaches. Slightly further south is High Island, difficult of access but with a wealth of monastic relics and history to rival the more famous Skelligs. Cleggan and further south, Clifden, complete the range of destinations north of Slyne Head. I have never sailed into either but have always enjoyed visiting the busy Cleggan by road.

Map of Blind SoundMap of Blind Sound

The most unusual jaunt I took this year was to circumnavigate Achillbeg island. Indeed I think I can claim to be the first, and probably the last, proper yacht to achieve this foolhardy honour. My copy of the Irish Coast Pilot dates from 1954. (Tenth Edition) It describes Blind Sound, the channel separating Achillbeg Island from Achill Island as: 'a narrow channel which is navigable by boats with local knowledge' and adds 'except in a heavy sea' My current edition of the Irish Cruising Clubs Sailing Directions for the South and West Coasts, the gold standard for a cruising guide to the west coast, ignores Blind Sound altogether. Rightly so.

I have circumnavigated Ireland, I have circumnavigated the world. I have circumnavigated Dalkey Island, Lambay Island and The Aran Islands. But I had never circumnavigated Achillbeg. The problem lies with Blind Sound, the narrow neck separating Achillbeg and Achill Island. Having traversed Blind Sound many times in a 14-foot punt and by kayak and having perused its layout in all states of the tide and weather countless times over the years, I could claim to have some local knowledge. It is a horrendous place. One should not go anywhere near it in anything claiming to be called a yacht.

There are rocks all over the place and the tide rips through at about six knots. So I have always been tempted to give it a go, but never had the nerve.

But conditions were Ideal. Two guests were staying, Owen, a keen kite surfer and his wife Elaine. Would they like to go for a sail? I asked after brunch one day. We set off shortly after high water and with an, unusual, east wind. Owen steered. The tide was about an hour after high water so would be pushing us through as we approached from the Clochmor side. I stood on the bow and indicated the course direction to Owen on the helm. Elaine on the main sheet.

Past the big red beacon marking the entrance to Achill sound we whizzed, the tide against us but the wind pressing us on. The tide splits, and we picked up the stream ebbing out Blind Sound. Then, under the power cables running across to the lighthouse on Achillbeg. Owen, an electronic wizard, was a bit worried. I assured him that we would have enough room, and luckily we did! Then the serious bit. Standing on the bow, I could see the giant boulders slipping by underwater and the overfalls. Bit of a veer to port and then we were through. One for the record books. We hardened in the sheets and tacked back past the lighthouse. We felt like a group of mountaineers who had just conquered a new route on Everest.

At the end of Summer I hauled Accolade out again with the help of the fish farm, blocked up the trailer, and that was that. The country has gone into lockdown again; my sailing now consists of following the Vendee Globe on the computer. I keep a weather eye on the storms tracking into Achill and hope for the best. I look forward to returning next Summer. Maybe I can circumnavigate Achill. Stay safe.

Published in Island News
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Outgoing Gaeltacht minister Sean Kyne has expressed disappointment at the Government decision to approve early re-opening of offshore islands to visitors from Monday (June 29).

The Attorney General had advised the Cabinet that there could be legal consequences if it did not abide by the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), Mr Kyne confirmed.

Offshore communities had been taken by surprise when NPHET announced a week ago that travel to and from islands could resume from June 29th.

The Government’s “road map” had originally set from August 10th as a date for all but essential travel to and from islands.

Mr Kyne said he contacted Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Cabinet colleagues about the need for a more phased approach, given the lack of time to prepare for anticipated large numbers of domestic visitors.

Mr Kyne confirmed that he had received appeals from Aran island medical professionals urging caution, but had also been contacted by tourism interests seeing an early reopening.

He said that NPHET’s advice to Cabinet was that there was no reason on public health grounds for curtailing visitors to the islands.

“I am disappointed - I expect some businesses will decide against reopening on Monday,” Mr Kyne said.

Two Aran islands – Inis Oírr and Inis Mór – held surveys which voted overwhelmingly against an early reopening.

All three Aran islands are in a declared Irish Water “drought” category, and have had water rationing due to the severe dry spell.

In Inis Oírr’s case, 92 per cent of residents and businesses voted against re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

A number of other islands have limited health facilities, lack of provision for public toilets, and limited scope for social distancing on piers during busy ferry berthing periods.

"The Government seemed to be more afraid about protecting itself against law suits by businesses than our public health," one island resident said.

Earlier this week, the Irish Islands Federation, Comhdháil Oileáin na hEireann called on the Government and NPHET to provide “clear guidance and protocols” on the safe re-opening of islands to visitors.

The federation pointed out it had not received any written reply to submissions to State agencies, "seeking direction and supports for the offshore islands".

Government Covid 19 data suggests that up to six electoral districts with islands had less than five cases of the virus, but the Department of Health would not comment further.

Island representatives are only aware of one case on the largest Aran island of Inis Mór and a very small number on Achill island, Co Mayo, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

The island federation had no comment to make yesterday.

Published in Island News

The past weekend’s good weather tempted a group of jet-skiers who subsequently ran into difficulty in Clew Bay, as The Irish Times reports.

Achill Island RNLI launched its lifeboat on Saturday evening (25 April) to reports of three men on personal water craft needing assistance between Newport in Rosmoney — waters considered treacherous for even the most experienced of mariners.

All three were towed to Rosmoney with a locally owned RIB in an operation that also involed the Irish Coast Guard and An Garda Síochána.

Gardai also mounted further patrols of Lough Derg, where earlier this month they had exercised their emergency powers to warn inland waterways users to stay at home as measures to control coronavirus remain in place.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

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