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In the late hours of Friday, August 4th, 2024, the volunteer crew of the Donaghadee RNLI lifeboat station in Northern Ireland received a call from HM Coastguard.

The Coastguard reported an emergency medical issue involving a female passenger on a visiting cruise ship. The Donaghadee All Weather Lifeboat Macquarie was immediately launched to address the situation.

The lifeboat crew, consisting of seven members, including a seagoing lifeboat medical advisor, Dr Courtney Roberts, worked with HM Coastguard and the cruise ship to determine the best course of action for the distressed passenger. In reasonable sea conditions, the lifeboat approached the cruise ship's port side pilot door, where the casualty was transferred by stretcher to the lifeboat along with the cruise ship's paramedics.

Once onboard the lifeboat, the casualty was assessed by Dr Roberts, who administered oxygen to make her more comfortable. The ship's paramedics simultaneously gave the casualty intravenous fluids and adrenaline. Upon return to Bangor Harbour, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Coastguard Rescue Team took custody of the casualty.

Dr Roberts stated, "The casualty was certainly very ill and did require immediate emergency medical attention. We were able to administer high-flow oxygen and monitor her vital signs while she was been transferred from the ship to the shore and into the care of the ambulance service. Of course, we all wish her a speedy recovery." Thanks to the quick and efficient response of the Donaghadee RNLI lifeboat crew, the situation was resolved without further incident.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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A kayaker is thanking the RNLI for saving his life after the charity’s local volunteer lifeboat crew pulled him from the waves on Father’s Day last year.

Grandad Glenn Bradley was enjoying the good weather and calm conditions in Cloughey Bay at Northern Ireland’s Ards Peninsula with his wife, Jo, on their kayaks when she capsized.

Unable to get back on board, Jo swam to shore while Glenn tried to retrieve her boat, which was being blown out to sea by a rapidly increasing offshore wind.

Glenn said: “I was lashing the kayaks together to tow hers back in when I realised the wind had picked up and I was about 400 metres offshore, and I just could not get back in.

“I waved my paddle left to right in the air to signal to Jo that I was in distress as I was getting blown further and further out.”

Realising he was fighting a losing battle, Glenn turned out to sea, spotted a rocky outcrop and made a desperate bid to paddle to it.

He said: “I just thought, ‘I’ve got to stay in this boat as long as possible and hope to get rescued,’ and I was just stabbing at the water trying to stay afloat when I saw North Rock, put my head down and went for it.”

After capsizing in the huge swells 50 metres short of the tiny island, he made it to the shore dragging his kayak behind him and collapsing, exhausted.

Glenn Bradley says: “I’m only here to celebrate Father’s Day this year thanks to the RNLI. They saved my life” | Credit: Glenn BradleyGlenn Bradley says: “I’m only here to celebrate Father’s Day this year thanks to the RNLI. They saved my life” | Credit: Glenn Bradley

A volunteer crew from Donaghadee RNLI lifeboat had launched after Jo’s 999 call, and they arrived shortly after Glenn made it to North Rock.

Glenn was picked up from the waves and returned to shore where his family was waiting — even making it back in time for their Father’s Day meal.

Glenn said: “When I saw those unsung heroes of the RNLI appear on the horizon, I just felt relief.

“I made it to the restaurant that night, and I’m only here to celebrate Father’s Day this year thanks to the RNLI. They saved my life.”

An experienced kayaker, Glenn ordinarily would not take to the waves without a lifejacket and a means of calling for help. But thinking he would be in and out quickly, he had been caught out by the quick change in conditions.

Sam Hughes from the RNLI Water Safety Team said: “Luckily, due to his experience on a kayak and his wife’s quick thinking in calling 999 and asking for the coastguard, the outcome was a happy one for Glenn and his family on Father’s Day.

‘“Even experienced kayakers get caught out, so we recommend anyone heading out on a kayak always checks the tide times and weather forecast, wears a buoyancy aid and takes a means of calling for help in a waterproof pouch.”

In 2022, RNLI lifesavers — lifeguards and lifeboat crew — came to the aid of 535 kayakers and canoeists, saving 24 lives.

The RNLI’s key safety advice for anyone kayaking or canoeing is:

  • Take a means of calling for help as part of your kit and keep it on you, within reach, at all times.
  • Wear a suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
  • Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off.
  • Make sure you have the right skills by taking a training session — British Canoeing or Canoeing Ireland run a range of courses.
Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Donaghadee RNLI’s lifeboat volunteers were paged on Monday (24 April) to assist a 10-metre yacht with three crew members onboard that was in difficulty off the Co Down coast in Northern Ireland.

Around 8.10pm on Monday evening, the crew were asked to launch the RNLI Trent class relief lifeboat Macquarie to go to the assistance of the yacht which had experienced engine failure just off Burr Point near Ballyhalbert.

In a northwesterly wind with good visibility — albeit fading light — and a calm sea state, the crew were able to make full speed to the last reported location of the yacht and reached the scene at 8.45pm.

During passage, volunteer crew member David Cull was able to liaise by VHF with the skipper of the yacht to reassure him of their pending arrival and give advice on how to make the yacht ready to receive a towline.

Once on scene and in now faded light, the lifeboat volunteers were able to quickly establish the towline with yacht’s crew and begin the tow back to Bangor Harbour, where they arrived roughly two-and-a-half hours later and where the yacht’s crew were passed into the care of the local coastguard rescue team.

Speaking following the callout, Donaghadee RNLI coxswain Philip McNamara said: “The skipper of this yacht did absolutely the correct thing in asking for assistance as soon as he knew he had an issue, and had everything ready to make it easy for us to quickly establish the tow once alongside.

“The importance of having a means of communication, and on this occasion a VHF, cannot be underestimated.

“This was a classic example of how well this works when things go unexpectedly wrong. As always, my thanks to the volunteers who dropped everything to attend the callout — a great crew to work with.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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On Sunday, 05 March, Donaghadee RNLI Lifeboat volunteers were called out on service during their training exercise.

The crew were completing their Sunday morning training exercise onboard the recently received relief lifeboat Macquarie when they were contacted by His Majesty's Coastguard via radio requesting that they go to the assistance of a speedboat broken down with two persons onboard just outside the Craiganadam rocks at Millisle.

At approximately 11.40 am, the crew were in the middle of Donaghadee Sound completing a radio direction-finding exercise and had the daughter boat, with crew members onboard, in the water. They quickly retrieved the daughter boat and made full speed in calm conditions with a slight offshore wind to the casualty boat, arriving on scene at approximately 12 noon.

Once on scene and the situation had been assessed, a tow line was secured to the vessel from the lifeboat, which then towed it as close to shore as possible. The daughter boat was relaunched and with crew member Rebecca McCarthy and trainee crew member Courtney Roberts onboard, they were able to tow the casualty vessel into the slipway at Millisle lagoon, where the Coastguard Rescue Team met the boat owners.

The lifeboat then returned to Donaghadee Harbour and was made ready by the crew for it’s next call out.

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Donaghadee RNLI rescued a lone sailor on Friday afternoon (18 November) after his 27ft yacht broke down off the Copeland Islands north of Northern Ireland’s Ards Peninsula.

The volunteer crew were requested by Belfast Coastguard to launch their all-weather lifeboat just after 11.30am and go to the aid of the sailor, who had got into difficulty during his passage from Kircubbin on Strangford Lough to Carrickfergus.

The lifeboat, under coxswain John Ashwood and with five crew onboard, was launched immediately from Donaghadee and made its way to the scene half a mile northwest of Lighthouse Island.

Weather conditions at the time were challenging with a Force 5-6 northwesterly fresh breeze and a lumpy swell.

Once on scene, the crew observed that the sailor was safe and well. He had got into difficulty when a rope was caught around a propellor of the yacht, causing the engine to cut out and leave him without power which also led the vessel to drift. He raised the alarm via his mobile phone.

With the lifeboat alongside the yacht, the crew assessed the situation and a decision was made to pass a towline to the sailor. This proved difficult given the weather and the swell, but a tow was successfully established.

With the yacht under tow, the lifeboat began to make slow progress in the weather to reach the nearest safe port at Bangor Marina, a passage that took approximately an hour.

Speaking following the callout, Ashwood said: “We found the sailor safe and well and wearing his buoyancy aid but as he was very cold, we were glad to bring him back to the safety of the shore in Bangor.

“We would encourage anyone planning a trip to sea at this time of year to go prepared. Always check the weather forecast and tide times and always wear the appropriate clothing for your activity.

“Check your engine is well maintained and that you have the appropriate means of calling for help should you need it such as a VHF radio or a mobile phone. Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

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Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been abandoned, lost, or discarded in the ocean.

They are a major environmental hazard to marine and other wildlife, contributing to an estimated 10% of all marine plastic as well as causing harm to two-thirds of marine species.

Wildlife trapped in nets can succumb to a slow, inhumane death, whilst ingestion of marine plastic is a massive issue.

Ards and North Down Council recently posted on Facebook that its Parks Team had managed to remove and safely dispose of a ‘ghost’ net from the beach at The Parade in Donaghadee, a seaside town on the north County Down coast. The Council had received notification of it from a member of the marine conservation charity Sea Shepherd NI, and it turned out to be larger than anticipated.

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Donaghadee RNLI’s volunteer crew were requested to launch their all-weather lifeboat yesterday (Sunday 19 June) to reports of a kayaker who appeared to be struggling against the tide in strong offshore winds just off Cloughey Beach on Northern Ireland’s Ards Peninsula.

Pages sounded at 2.17pm and a crew of six under the command of coxswain Philip McNamara launched Saxon into a moderate to rough sea, with a Force 6-7 northwesterly wind and excellent visibility.

While the crew were making full speed to the last reported position of the kayaker, Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Team — who were already on scene — kept eyes on the paddler some 2km north of the North Rock.

It transpired that the casualty had initially been out in a blue kayak and had got into difficulties. He managed to swim ashore and proceeded to go out in a yellow kayak in order to recovery the blue one. With a strong offshore wind and unable to locate the blue kayak, he attempted to return to shore and began to struggle.

At around 2.55pm, HM Coastguard also tasked a search and rescue helicopter which was en route from Prestwick. In the meantime the Portaferry coastguard team were able to report that the casualty had drifted to 1km north of the North Rock.

When the lifeboat arrived on scene, the crew quickly located the casualty sheltering on the North Rock itself. Due to shallow conditions and the sea state beyond the capability of the lifeboat’s daughter boat, second coxswain John Ashwood used a loudhailer to request the kayaker make his way off the rock and toward Saxon. He was able to do this and he was recovered onto the safety of the lifeboat. Subsequently, the search and rescue helicopter was stood down.

Once onboard, a casualty care assessment was carried out to ensure the kayaker was not suffering any ill effects from the situation and it was determined that he was well. Shortly after he was returned to shore at Portavogie Harbour where he was reunited with his son and handed over to the care of the Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Team.

Brian McLawrence, Donaghadee RNLI lifeboat operations manager said: “There was great teamwork today between the coastguard rescue team and ourselves; a pleasure to work with them as always.

“Time is of the essence in these situations. We would advise that as soon as you suspect that you or a loved one is in trouble, waste no time, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

McLawrence added: “The man was lucky to get to the relative safety of the North Rock itself. We wish him all the best and hope he enjoyed the remainder of his Father’s Day.

“We do recommend if you are going to enjoy the water on a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard that you wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid, and carry a means of communication such as a VHF radio or your mobile phone in a waterproof case – it could save your life.”

Mayor of Ards and North Down, Karen Douglas one of the station’s most avid supporters, six-year-old Quinn Whyte, and Donaghadee RNLI volunteers at the lifeboat station’s open day on Saturday 18 June | Credit: RNLI/Margaret RammMayor of Ards and North Down, Karen Douglas one of the station’s most avid supporters, six-year-old Quinn Whyte, and Donaghadee RNLI volunteers at the lifeboat station’s open day on Saturday 18 June | Credit: RNLI/Margaret Ramm

The previous day, Donaghadee RNLI held its annual lifeboat open day which gave the general public have access to the all-weather lifeboat Saxon, where they were greeted by volunteer crew members and given a tour of the boat.

There were record numbers queuing right around the lighthouse for the whole day. The harbour itself was busy with stalls, games and food outlets and the lifeboat shop reported a roaring trade all day.

The lifeboat station was also open and welcomed many visitors throughout the day, with tea and coffee, sandwiches and buns, all supplied by volunteer crew members, partners and family.

Visitors throughout the day included Mayor of Ards and North Down, Karen Douglas who joined in the morning for a tour of the station and lifeboat.

She was joined by one of the station’s most avid supporters, six-year-old Quinn Whyte. Quinn is passionate about the RNLI and lifeboats; he visits them all over the country and has his bedroom decorated in lifeboat memorabilia.

He started to support Donaghadee RNLI’s ‘Betty’s 5p Pots’ campaign earlier in the year, whereby you fill a small jam jar with 5ps and donate them at the lifeboat shop. So far this year he has collected a massive 87 pots — with each one holding around £2.25, that’s quite the achievement.

Mayor Douglas with Quinn at the helm of the all-weather lifeboat Saxon | Credit: RNLI/Margaret RammMayor Douglas with Quinn at the helm of the all-weather lifeboat Saxon | Credit: RNLI/Margaret Ramm

The volunteer team were delighted to Quinn him around the station and the lifeboat as a treat, and fully expect to see him joining the crew in the future.

The station also had a visit from Helen Winter and her son Patrick who made a very generous donation in memory of Helen’s late husband Harold Winter, who was a passionate fundraiser for the RNLI during his lifetime. Patrick himself is an avid sailor and fully appreciates the requirement for and the service of the RNLI.

The day finished with a display by the lifeboat and crew, and volunteer Rebecca McCarthy used her stand-up paddleboard to paddle into the harbour and demonstrate how to attract attention if you are in difficulty as well as the importance of carrying a flare and a means of communication.

The lifeboat came alongside Rebecca and another crew member, Nicola Butler, jumped into the water in full lifeboat PPE to demonstrate the use of the A frame, which is required to get casualties out of the water. Everyone watching appeared to enjoy the display and congratulated the crew with a warm round of applause.

Evelyn Bennett, chair of the Donaghadee fundraising team said: “Everyone at our station, crew and fundraisers, are over the moon at how our open day went, especially given that this was our first since 2019.

“The support we get from the public is what enables our volunteer crew to go to sea and save lives. We rely on donations and legacies and we are delighted to say that this year’s lifeboat day has raised in excess of £2,400 with some monies still to come in. This sum is takings from the entry to the lifeboat, stallholders and the collection buckets on the day.

“Our lifeboat shop and stall on the harbour was certainly kept busy raising in excess of £1,100 — a truly successful and thoroughly enjoyable day all round. We cannot thank the everyone enough for coming along and enjoying the day with us and look forward to next year!”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Donaghadee RNLI Lifeboat was launched on Sunday 12 June, at the request of Belfast Coastguard to come to the assistance of a small speedboat that had broken down and was drifting out to sea.

The volunteer crew were paged and requested to launch by the Coastguard at 9.42 pm after a report from a member of the public on Ballyhalbert harbour that a small speedboat was adrift.

With good visibility, a slight sea state and light westerly winds the lifeboat Saxon launched with a complement of seven volunteer crew members onboard and made full speed to the reported location of the casualty vessel in roughly 35 minutes.

Upon arriving on scene the crew members ascertained that the three people on board were in good health, a towline was secured to the vessel and it was towed into Ballyhalbert harbour to the care of the Coastguard Rescue Team.

Saxon returned to Donaghadee Harbour at approximately 11.12 pm, where the crew members cleaned the boat down and made it ready for the next call out.

John Ashwood, Volunteer Coxswain commented ‘ A good outcome this evening as we were alerted while we still had some light, albeit fading, otherwise this could have been a different scenario. We strongly advise that if you are going to sea that you carry a means of communication, preferably a VHF radio which the lifeboat can use to locate your position. The importance of wearing proper life jackets can never be underestimated too. We were glad to get the casualty vessel and three crew members into the safety of Ballyhalbert Harbour.’

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Donaghadee RNLI Lifeboat was launched yesterday, Thursday 09 June, to assist a French yacht which had run aground at Ballyferris Point, in County Down.

The volunteer crew of Donaghadee Lifeboat were requested to launch by Belfast Coastguard yesterday at 11.56 am to reports of a 9-metre yacht which had run aground on rocks just off Ballyferris Point, roughly 6 miles South of Donaghadee.

The yacht, with a French lone sailor onboard was en route from Arklow to Bangor when he ran aground on rocks and used his VHF radio to contact the Coastguard for help.

The lifeboat made full speed in a moderate sea, fair visibility and with a fresh south-easterly wind were on scene at 12.24 pm. The crew assessed the situation and with the aid of a local rib passed a 150 metre towline to the yacht. A tow was attempted but due to a rapidly falling tide and the yacht being well stuck, but with no danger to the yacht or sailor, the decision was made for the lifeboat to return to Donaghadee and allow the tide to rise.

Saxon was relaunched again and back on scene at approximately 3 pm, where the tide had come in enough to allow the yacht to begin to float. Crew members launched the smaller daughter boat with Chris Stewart and David Cull aboard and re-attached a new towline. A fresh attempt was made to tow the yacht off the rocks again but was unsuccessful. Eventually, the yacht did float free itself and Chris Stewart boarded the yacht. An experienced sailor himself, Chris was able to sail the yacht and allow the gentleman to assess the damage, of which there didn’t appear to be anything major.

After discussion with the yachtsman, it was agreed that he would be towed to the safety of Bangor Marina where he could fully assess for damage before attempting to continue his journey toward Scotland and on to Norway.

The yacht was assisted with its berthing in Bangor Marina by the Bangor Coastguard Rescue team.

As the lifeboat was leaving Bangor Harbour at 5.53 pm to return to Donaghadee they were requested again by Belfast Coastguard to attend to a second yacht that needed assistance.

The 11-metre German yacht with a couple onboard was struggling to make headway through Donaghadee Sound. They were sailing toward Bangor and due to a strong tide, a drop in the wind and the loss of their main engine, they were not making any headway.

They contacted the Coastguard via their VHF radio and asked for assistance as they were beginning to suffer from exhaustion.

Saxon arrived on the scene to the yacht which was at the north end of Big Copeland Island, less than 10 minutes later and a crew member proceeded to pass a tow rope to the struggling vessel.

At this stage the conditions had improved slightly compared to earlier in the day, visibility was excellent and the sea state was slight.

After a 40-minute tow, the yacht and its tired crew were delivered to the safety of Bangor Marina and once again were assisted with berthing by four of the Coastguard Rescue Team.

The lifeboat and the crew returned to the station and made the boat ready for its next service.

Philip McNamara, Donaghadee Lifeboat Coxswain commented ‘A busy week for our crew members as we did in fact have three callouts this week and also had a visit from our Chief Executive. As always, I commend the crew as they are a credit to the station with their dedication and ability to turn up and get the boat to sea at the drop of a hat.

We would like to extend our gratitude to the owner of the local rib who assisted us with the French yacht, it is much appreciated.

Even the most experienced sailors can run into difficulty or suffer from fatigue, and it is a positive thing to recognise when you need assistance and ask for it as early as possible – so well done to both yacht owners in their professionalism. We do always recommend that before going to sea you have a working means of communicating with the Coastguard, carry lifejackets and safety equipment, lots of advice can be found on the RNLI website.’

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Donaghadee RNLI Lifeboat was launched on Thursday 19 May, to assist a yacht taking water onboard approximately 12 miles North East of Bangor, County Down.

The volunteer crew of Donaghadee Lifeboat were requested to launch by Belfast Coastguard on Thursday at 3.22 pm to reports of an 8-metre yacht in difficulty at the mouth of Belfast Lough.

The yacht, with 3 people onboard, left Stranraer at 9.45am and was en route to Bangor when it requested assistance from the Coastguard due to taking on water. They reported that they could see Kilroot Power Station but were unable to narrow down their position.

In moderate sea conditions but good visibility Donaghadee Lifeboat Saxon, launched at 3.33pm and proceeded at full speed toward Belfast Lough. Meanwhile, Irish Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter 118, which had been on another callout further North, were able to offer assistance in locating the yacht.

To help find them, the crew of the yacht set off a red flare, enabling the crew of the lifeboat to determine their position and consequently Saxon was on scene at 4.11pm followed shortly by the Search and Rescue helicopter.

As the vessels own pump was doing a sufficient job at keeping the water at bay, the crew on the lifeboat established a tow-line to the stricken yacht and proceeded to tow at a speed of approximately 5 knots to the safe haven of Bangor Marina, arriving shortly after 6pm.

The lifeboat refuelled and returned to Donaghadee Harbour and were available for their next callout shortly after 7pm.

Earlier in the week on Tuesday 17 May at 5.55 am, the volunteer crew were launched at the request of Belfast Coastguard after reports from a member of the general public who reported sightings of a man in a small boat holding onto a lobster pot just North of Ballywalter Harbour. The lifeboat launched into moderate/rough conditions and proceeded at full speed toward the casualty, who’s outboard engine had broken down. It transpired that the casualty had contacted a family member with a boat to assist, the lifeboat stayed on scene until the assisting vessel arrived and returned to Donaghadee Harbour at 7.20 am.

Philip McNamara, Donaghadee Lifeboat Coxswain commented ‘Two positive results this week from our callouts – a credit to the member of the public who called in the the small punt holding onto the lobster pot, we would always encourage the public to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard if they are worried, the earlier we are launched the more likely a positive result.

We were happy to ensure the remaining safe passage of the 8 metre yacht into Bangor Marina, again the importance of asking for help as earlier as possible to ensure a positive outcome played a big part in this callout, also having the relevant equipment onboard to help us locate you is essential. As always the crew’s quick response and skill were superb, and I extend my thanks to them.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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