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It was when the Baltimore Lifeboat was called on the evening of Monday, August 13th 1979 to the assistance of the yacht Regardless that the outside world began to realize that something exceptional was happening to the record 303-boat Fastnet Race fleet writes W M Nixon. With a gathering gale, other yachts were already in difficulties. But as the gale developed into a storm, the call came from Ken Rohan’s Regardless - star boat in the then-winning three-boat Irish Admirals Cup team - that her high-tech carbon fibre rudder stock had broken clean off at sea south of Toe Head.

With one of the most experienced crews of all the boats on board, the fact that Regardless had sought help moved the scenario onto a new level. The Baltimore lifeboat, The Robert, was at sea under Cox’n Christie Collins with a very young Kieran Cotter in her crew, and when she found the disabled Regardless being tossed about like a cork, it took six attempts to get a towline aboard, but after that the fallen star was towed safely into Baltimore, and The Robert put back to sea on other related missions.

kieran cotter2Man of many rescues – the much-decorated Baltimore Lifeboat Cox’n Kieran Cotter at the day job in Baltimore

Several other lifeboats from along Ireland’s south coast and the boats from St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly and St Ives on the Cornish mainland, together with helicopters and ships, were also to be involved in the huge rescue effort which saved 132 lives. Yet despite their best efforts, there were to be 19 tragic losses in this exceptional storm, a situation which was to be analysed in several ways – including official reports – in its aftermath.

But gradually life returned to normal, and over the years the recollection of the storm of 1979 has seen the Baltimore Lifeboat, - which had been at sea for longer than any others - becoming the symbol of all the lifeboats involved, a situation which was reinforced when one of her successors, now with Kieran Cotter as Cox’n, played a central role in the rescue of the crew of George David’s super-maxi Rambler 100 when her keel snapped off at the Fastnet Rock in the race of 2011.

Baltimore lifeboat returns3An exhausted Baltimore Lifeboat crew returns to port on completion of their mission in the Fastnet Storm of 1979. They spent the longest time at sea of all the lifeboats on duty in this complex rescue operation

Meanwhile, The Robert, ON 955 and a classic Watson 47, was sliding gently into retirement and obscurity when she was discovered by Jeff Houlgrave. He may be best known on the big boat circuit for his involvement with Marina Projects and as Chairman of Superyacht UK, but one of his intriguing hobbies is the restoration of vintage lifeboats, and with The Robert
he found something very near to his heart.

robert lifeboat retired4The Robert as a cruiser in the early days of her retirement

Jeff houlgrave5One of Jeff Houlgrave’s individualistic hobbies is the restoration of vintage lifeboats, and The Robert was a very special case

It has to be confessed that when he signalled that this restoration was getting underway last year, the feeling was that time was tight enough to be ready for the big 40th at Baltimore in August. But we were able to put him in touch with Kieran Cotter, still the much-decorated Cox’n of Baltimore Lifeboat, to see what might happen early in August 2019, and last night the signal came through that the superbly restored Robert is now in Crosshaven, and will be heading towards Baltimore on Friday. Clearly, when Jeff Houlgrave gets going on a project, he doesn’t mess about.

With the re-jigging of the international programme such that the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 start on Saturday 3rd August precedes Cowes Week (10th August – 17th August) for the first time ever, there’s no way any Fastnet racers will be in the region of The Rock on August 13th and 14th, the precise date of the 40th Anniversary of the rescues. But in Baltimore a programme is being developed to reflect the current schedule’s reality while properly respecting the solemn significance of the event.

baltimore west cork6Baltimore West Cork – a summer paradise where the links within and between the sailing and lifeboat communities are notably strong. Photo: Tom Vaughan

For of all ports, it is Baltimore where the lifeboat crews and the sailing community are most intimately intertwined. Thus in the Beaufort Cup Series within Volvo Cork Week last year, the Lifeboat Service was represented by Baltimore with Deputy Cox’n Youen Jacob skippering their J/109 to such good effect that at times they were leading the very competitive fleet, and at the end it was so close that the theoretical winner, Commandant Barry Byrne with the Defence Forces crew on John Maybury’s J/109 Joker 2, reckoned that as he and his crew were given the choice of which charity their €10,000 prize should go to, they should divide it between the Children’s Hospital and Irish Lifeboats. That’s the way it is in Baltimore.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Baltimore RNLI launched yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 17 July) to rescue a windsurfer who got into difficulty in Baltimore Harbour in West Cork.

The inshore lifeboat launched at 2.01pm after a member of the public alerted the Irish Coast Guard that a windsurfer was being blown against the shoreline at Reengarogy.

With four volunteer crew aboard — helm Kieran Collins and crew members Micheal Cottrell, David Ryan and Ian Lynch — the lifeboat arrived on scene two minutes later to find the casualty in the water, swimming hard to keep clear of the rocks.

The casualty was brought aboard the lifeboat, along with his board, and once satisfied that he was unharmed, the crew took him back to the beach in Baltimore he had originally set out from.

While the inshore lifeboat crew were dealing with their casualty on the shoreline, instructors from Baltimore Sailing Club went to the assistance of another windsurfer who was in difficulty in the middle of the harbour and brought them safely to shore.

Weather conditions at the time of the call were blustery with a south-westerly Force 5 wind and sloppy sea.

Speaking following the callout, Baltimore lifeboat press officer Kate Callanan said: “This was a particularly fast response as the inshore lifeboat was on scene with the casualty within seven minutes of the lifeboat pagers going off.

“Thankfully a member of the public had spotted the danger that the windsurfer was in and did the correct thing in alerting the coastguard.

“If you see anyone that you think is in difficulty on the water or along the coast, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Baltimore RNLI launched yesterday morning (Friday 28 June) after a yacht became propped on a pot buoy two miles south of Mizen Head off the coast of West Cork.

The all-weather lifeboat launched at 10.03am following a request by the Irish Coast Guard to assist the 30ft yacht with one person aboard, which had been on passage from Baltimore to Bere Island.

Arriving on scene at 10.47am in misty and foggy conditions with an easterly Force 3-4 wind, the volunteer crew made a quick assessment of the situation, and launched the smaller Y-class lifeboat to try to free the yacht from the pot buoy while the all-weather lifeboat established a tow.

The pot line was cleared within a few minutes, and after the RNLI crew assessed that all was fine with the vessel, the tow was disconnected and the yacht continued on its journey to Bere Island.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The first of three callouts in 24 hours for Baltimore’s RNLI lifeboat volunteers was yesterday morning (Tuesday 25 June), when the all-weather lifeboat was launched to provide medical assistance and evacuation to a man on Cape Clear Island.

The lifeboat arrived at North Harbour in Cape Clear at 11.27am, 20 minutes after launch. The casualty was brought onboard within three minutes and the lifeboat returned to station in Baltimore, handing the casualty over to the care of the waiting HSE ambulance crew at 11.56am.

Baltimore RNLI was called out for a second time in the afternoon to a pleasure boat with engine trouble near the Kedge, east of Baltimore Harbour.

The inshore lifeboat was launched at 3.34pm at the request of the Irish Coast Guard to assist the 31ft pleasure boat, with two onboard, that had broken down east of Kedge Rock which is one mile south-east of the harbour entrance.

The lifeboat, helmed by Kieran Collins with crew members Ian Lynch and David Ryan, reached the casualty vessel at 3.45pm and immediately secured a tow line to its bow.

After confirming the two people onboard were safe and well, they towed the vessel back to its own mooring within Baltimore Harbour.

The third callout came early this morning (Wednesday 26 June) with another medevac, this time from Sherkin Island.

The Baltimore all-weather lifeboat arrived at Sherkin pier at 5.32am, just 10 minutes after launch, and the casualty as brought to the waiting ambulance crew in Baltimore at 5.48am.

Speaking following the callouts, Baltimore RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer Kate Callanan said: “Our volunteer lifeboat crews are always ready at any time of the day or night to help people in need.

“If you find yourself in difficulty or in need of medical assistance at sea or along the coastline, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Baltimore RNLI carried out a medevac last night (Friday 7 June) from Cape Clear Island off the coast of Baltimore in West Cork.

The volunteer crew launched their all-weather lifeboat at 6.20pm, following a request from the Irish Coast Guard to provide medical assistance and evacuation to an islander living on Cape Clear.

The lifeboat arrived at North Harbour in Cape Clear within 20 minutes, and was headed back to the mainland with the casualty on board after just a two-minute turnaround.

By just after 7pm the casualty had been handed over to the care of a HSE ambulance crew in Baltimore.

Conditions at sea during the call out were good, with a north-westerly Force 4-5 wind, a one-metre sea swell and very good visibility.

Speaking following the callout, lifeboat press officer Kate Callanan said: “If you find yourself in a medical emergency whilst on an island call 999 or 112 and explain to the operator what the nature of the call is.

“The operator will then make sure that the call is directed to both the coastguard and the National Ambulance Service. We wish the casualty a full recovery.

“Our thoughts today are also with the family, friends and colleagues of the crew members of the French lifeboat service SNSM who lost their lives yesterday during a rescue.”

There were seven volunteer crew onboard the lifeboat on this callout: coxswain Kieran Cotter, mechanic Cathal Cottrell and crew members Jerry Smith, Kieran Collins, Pat Collins, Colin Rochford and David Ryan. Assisting at the boathouse in Baltimore were Gerald O’Brien, Aidan Bushe and Don O’Donovan.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Baltimore RNLI rescued two sailors this morning (Thursday 23 May) after their 30ft yacht ran into navigational difficulty at the mouth of the Ilen River in West Cork.

Baltimore RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat under Coxswain Aidan Bushe and with six volunteer crew members onboard was already on the river at 11.10am when it was requested to divert to the scene and go to the sailors' aid.

The yacht was on passage to Baltimore when the sailors got into difficulty and the vessel ran aground on rocks in strong tidal conditions.

Weather conditions were otherwise good at the time with clear visibility, a smooth sea state and a light to light westerly wind.

Once on scene, the lifeboat crew checked that the sailors were safe and well before working with them to set up a tow line. The lifeboat proceeded to pull the yacht off the rocks and after checking that the boat was not damaged and that the sailors could make their way to Baltimore unaided, the lifeboat departed the scene.

Speaking following the call out, Baltimore Coxswain Aidan Bushe said: ‘Even the most experienced sailors can get into difficulty and we were happy to be of assistance to the yacht’s crew this morning. As we approach the summer, we would remind people of the importance of knowing their buoyage. Knowing your sea marks can mean the difference between having a good day out or running into problems.

‘Regardless of activity, we would remind everyone to respect the water. Always wear a lifejacket and always carry a means of calling for help. Check the weather forecast and tide times and make sure someone ashore knows where you are going and what time you are due back. Should you get into difficulty, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Baltimore RNLI carried out a medical evacuation last night (Wednesday 22 May) from Heir Island off the coast of West Cork.

Baltimore’s volunteer lifeboat crew launched their inshore lifeboat following a request from the Irish Coast Guard at 8.34pm to provide medical assistance and evacuation to a woman on Heir Island who had sustained injuries following a fall.

The inshore lifeboat arrived at the pier on Heir Island at 8.50pm and removed the casualty to the lifeboat station 20 minutes later, where she was handed over to the care of HSE Ambulance crew.

Conditions at sea during the callout were calm with good visibility and no sea swell.

This was the first call for Baltimore’s new Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, Rita Daphne Smyth, since she arrived on station last September.

Speaking following the callout, Baltimore RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer Kate Callanan said: “Baltimore lifeboat is often called upon to safely transport casualties between the islands and mainland, and our volunteer crews are trained in casualty care.

“If you find yourself in need of medical assistance, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. We wish the casualty a full recovery.”

There were four volunteer crew onboard the lifeboat: helm Jerry Smith and crew members Kieran Collins, Micheal Cottrell and Ian Lynch. Assisting at the boathouse in Baltimore were Rianne Smith, Marty O’Driscoll and Kieran Cotter.

In other lifeboat news, the outgoing chair of Clonallen Bridge Club, Warrenpoint, Maire Murray, chose the RNLI as the charity of choice for the year 2018-19.

At a recent meeting of the Clonallen Bridge Club a cheque for £500 was handed over to John Fisher, Kilkeel RNLI lifeboat operations manager by the club’s incoming president Marius McQue.

Fisher said: “As a charity we are always very thankful for all the money collected and donated to the RNLI. Giving our lifesavers the equipment they need to save lives is very expensive so be assured that the funds raised are used in the best possible way.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Lifeboats in Baltimore and Portaferry were launched yesterday evening (Friday 26 April) as Storm Hannah swept over the island of Ireland.

Baltimore RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crew launched their all-weather lifeboat at 8.30pm after learning of a local fishing trawler that was dragging its anchor in high winds near Sherkin Island in West Cork.

The lifeboat arrived on scene at 8.43pm and transferred four extra crew aboard the 26.2m trawler. Once they were satisfied that the casualty vessel was back at safe anchor, the lifeboat returned to station by 9.11pm as the storm intensified.

Conditions at sea during the callout were very rough, with Force 10 winds gusting to Force 11, and a two-metre sea swell within the harbour.

Elsewhere, the volunteer lifeboat crew from Portaferry RNLI launched to reports of a missing dingy with three people on board.

The lifeboat crew proceeded to Pig Island near Newtownards in Strangford Lough and were joined in the search by local coastguard and Rescue 119 from Preswick in Scotland.

However, all rescue teams were stood down after a thorough search of the area revealed nothing.

Commenting on the callout, Jordan Conway, Portaferry RNLI lifeboat press officer, said: “Despite the weather conditions deteriorating as the volunteer lifeboat crew reached the scene, a full search was carried out in conjunction with our colleagues in the coastguard and Rescue 119.”

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Castletownbere RNLI also launched last night to a 33ft fishing vessel which lost all power in Bere Haven Harbour are the storm bore down.

While the severe weather has now passed, sea conditions will remain rough over the next few days, and Baltimore RNLI’s Kate Callanan urged anyone on or near the water to “exercise caution in particular along the coastline.

“If you get into trouble or see anyone in difficulty at sea or along the coast, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in Weather

#Lifeboats - Baltimore RNLI carried out a medevac on Thursday night (11 April) from Sherkin Island off the coast of West Cork.

The volunteer crew launched their all-weather lifeboat following a request from the Irish Coast Guard at 9.29pm to provide medical assistance and evacuation to an islander living on Sherkin.

Conditions at sea during the callout were calm with good visibility and no sea swell.

The lifeboat arrived at Sherkin pier at 9.45pm, the casualty was brought onboard and the lifeboat departed the island within four minutes, handing the casualty over to the care of HSE ambulance crew at 10.08pm.

Speaking following the callout, Kate Callanan, Baltimore RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer, said: “Baltimore RNLI regularly provides the vital service of medical evacuations (medevacs) for residents and visitors to local islands such as Sherkin, Cape Clear and Heir.

“If you find yourself in need of medical assistance, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Elsewhere, volunteer lifeboat crews from the Aran Islands and Galway RNLI participated in a multi-agency training exercise on Galway Bay this week.

The all-weather lifeboat from Aran Islands RNLI and the inshore lifeboat from Galway Bay RNLI were among the many emergency service agencies that took part in a maritime mass rescue exercise.

The scenario training, which saw the lifeboat crew practise an evacuation of survivors from a seagoing ferry in a busy shipping lane, was organised as part of a multi-agency exercise co-ordinated by the Irish Coast Guard.

Among the other agencies involved were the Irish Coast Guard rescue helicopters located at Sligo and Shannon, Doolin/Inisheer Boat Unit, Costello Bay, Killaloe, Kilkee and Cleggan Coast Guard units, Galway Fire Service and the HSE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#OptimistBaltimore Sailing Club have started preparations for the annual invasion of Irish Optimist sailors for the week from next Sunday 17 February.

The International Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland’s (IODAI) team of coaches are making plans for training both on and off the water.

Participating sailors are reminded to check and label all their equipment before packing for the week, especially if it has been put away all winter.

“We are looking forward to a great week of fun, action and friendships both on and off the water,” the IODAI said.

Meanwhile, registrations are now open for the 2019 Optimist Trials which will take place as part of the Irish Sailing Youth Nationals at the Royal Cork from 25-28 April.

Entry is by invitation only based on 2018 season results. Entries made before 10pm on Thursday 28 March will avail of the early bird rate of €120 (entry thereafter is €200) with the final date for entries no later than 10pm on Thursday 11 April.

Published in Youth Sailing
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