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A busy mother of two young children is among five new volunteers who will be carrying pagers and on call for the first time this Christmas at Sligo Bay RNLI.

As the charity continues its Christmas Appeal, Rachel Wirtz is preparing to swap turkey and pudding and run to the lifeboat station should her pager go off.

She is urging people across Sligo to help her crew, and the thousands of other volunteer crews on call over the Christmas period, to continue their lifesaving work.

Rachel joined the crew over a year ago but due to the pandemic and restrictions, she couldn’t work on completing her assessments face-to-face until this year. While she has been involved in callouts as shore crew, she hasn’t yet made a lifeboat callout to sea.

“The standard and extent of the training has been excellent, and I am learning terrific new skills,” says the mum-of-three who lives in Rosses Point. “There was a rush of adrenaline and excitement rather than apprehension for my first call out. I am excited about being able to contribute and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.”

Among the other new lifeboat crew members at Sligo Bay RNLI are Reece Meldrum and Aisling Murphy, while Noah Canham and Caroline Collery have joined the shore crew. Yvette Carter, meanwhile, will be spending her first Christmas as a lifeboat helm.

Like Rachel, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

Rachel adds: “This is my first Christmas on call, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

The four men taking on new roles with Clogherhead RNLI this ChristmasThe four men taking on new roles with Clogherhead RNLI this Christmas

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Clogherhead RNLI have appointed four people to new lifesaving roles as this Christmas the station stands ready to launch at a moment’s notice to save lives at sea.

Sean Flanagan, a pilot boat coxswain at Dublin Port, and Denis Levins, an officer with P&O Ferries, have been passed out as lifeboat coxswains, while Raymond Butterly has joined the station to become shore crew for launching the station’s impressive Shannon class lifeboat.

Barry Sharkey has also been appointed as the new full-time mechanic for the station, taking over from the retiring Padraig Rath.

The four men helped the charity launch its Christmas appeal at the Co Louth-based lifeboat station and are calling on the public to support the RNLI’s lifesaving work this Christmas, as they remain on call and ready to launch.

“We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case,” says Barry, who comes from a well-known local fishing family. “Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

At a time when business and contact hours are at the heart of the national conversation, Lough Ree RNLI is reminding everyone that the charity and its volunteer lifeboat crew remain on call 24/7 throughout Christmas and the New Year.

With 46 callouts so far this year, 2021 has been another busy year for Lough Ree RNLI. The charity came to the assistance of over 150 people who had experienced difficulty of some kind on the lake or River Shannon this year.

To remain always in readiness the volunteers have continued with weekly on-the-water training on board the station’s inshore lifeboat Tara Scougall.

Coupled with this were a number of multi-agency training and familiarisation sessions with other lifesaving partners on the water.

While the holiday period is traditionally a busy one on the lake for both boats and swimmers, Lough Ree RNLI press officer Tom McGuire said: “All who use the lake at this time need to be aware of the colder water temperatures and the higher water level which may obscure obstacles normally fully visible.

“In the event of anyone getting into difficulty a call should be made to the emergency services on 112 or 999 at the earliest opportunity. As always Lough Ree RNLI remains on call at all times; for some new crew members it will be a first Christmas on call.”

On land, the new lifeboat station is nearing completion on the shores of Lough Ree at Coosan Point in Athlone. All of the crew had an opportunity to walk through the facility last week and Lough Ree RNLI hope to move into the boathouse early in the the New Year.

A fundraising campaign has been ongoing throughout the year to raise a local community contribution of €100,000 towards the €1.2m project. This has been very successful and the target is well within reach after many great contributions, both big and small throughout the year. In the season of giving, Lough Ree RNLI hopes to reach its target very soon.

The station has a local bank account where all donations, large or small, are welcome. The account name is Loughree RNLI Boathouse Appeal, the BIC is AIBKIE2D and the IBAN is IE80AIBK93226458090098.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Santa Claus had to make his own way back from Rathlin Island yesterday afternoon (Sunday 19 December) after the volunteer lifeboat crew from Red Bay RNLI were diverted to go to the aid of a fishing trawler.

The 25-metre trawler with six crew on board was six miles northeast of Rathlin Island off the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland when it requested assistance after its propeller became snagged in nets.

Thankfully the lifeboat crew were nearby as they had delivered Santa to Rathlin Island during their weekly training exercise.

Unfortunately, it meant that Santa had to take the ferry back to Ballycastle as the lifeboat crew immediately made their way to the trawler and carried out the rescue mission.

As the trawler had snagged its nets round its propellor, the lifeboat crew took the vessel under tow to Ballycastle in a four-hour operation.

Commenting on the callout, Red Bay RNLI coxswain Joe McCollam said: “We were sorry to leave Santa to make his own way home from Rathlin but we knew we were leaving him in very good hands with the local ferry crew.

“The snagged trawler was in some difficulty and the crew were not able to move the vessel. That area can be quite treacherous, and they needed to be brought to a safe harbour.

“Thankfully the lifeboat crew were nearby and able to bring them to Ballycastle. We also heard that Santa had a safe and enjoyable journey back from Rathlin and is looking forward to Christmas.”

Meanwhile, a Glasgow native who moved to Cushendall three-and-a-half years ago and has since joined the lifeboat crew at Red Bay RNLI is preparing to drop everything this Christmas if her pager sounds and there is an emergency at sea.

As the charity launches its Christmas Appeal, Hazel Imrie —who runs a hardware store in the town — is urging people across Co Antrim to help her fellow crew at Red Bay, Portrush and Larne and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the festivities to continue their lifesaving work.

Red Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie with the station’s inshore lifeboat | Credit: RNLIRed Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie with the station’s inshore lifeboat | Credit: RNLI

“I joined the crew at Red Bay in February 2020 just before COVID hit,” Hazel says, “so unfortunately with the pandemic and restrictions, my training was disjointed, and it wasn’t until this year that I could focus on completing my assessments.

“I have always had an interest in the work of the RNLI and I knew when I moved here with my partner, who is from Cushendall, that I wanted to get involved because I could see how integral the service is to a coastal community. I wanted to give something back to the community that I was living in.”

With no prior maritime, sailing or boating experience, Hazel fully immersed herself into the rigorous training involved in becoming a crew member.

“I have valued the support of an experienced team and I have learned so much from others. Everyone has been so welcoming, and the training has been hands on, practical and a really enjoyable experience.”

Now as Hazel prepares for her pager to sound, she says there is a mixture of emotions involved ahead of her first callout: “I am excited but there is also anticipation and concern because you are going into the unknown, but I am also reassured because I know when that call does come, everyone else who turns up is experienced and will support me.”

Like Hazel, thousands of volunteer crew members around Ireland and the UK sign up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water safely returned.

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

Hazel says: “This is my first Christmas on call and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Inishturk islander John O’Toole will enjoy his 89th Christmas at home with his wife Mary, his children and grandchildren in the coming weeks.

He and his family won’t take this for granted. however, since John spent several weeks in hospital during the summer after his medevac by Achill Island RNLI when he became seriously unwell in June this year.

As thanks to the lifeboat crew that came to his aid, John and his family are supporting the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal.

John spent almost two months being treated for his illness in Mayo University Hospital before recuperating in a nursing home and finally becoming well enough to return home courtesy of Achill Island RNLI to Inisturk in August.

Speaking about her father’s dramatic recovery, John’s daughter Annie Maher said: “On that day in June when Dad took ill, the Achill Island lifeboat was called to transfer Dad from home to the mainland to get medical attention at Mayo University Hospital.

“Without the quick response of the lifeboat on that day, it may have been a very different outcome.”

Supporting the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal comes easy to the O’Toole family, who have been long-standing supporters of the charity that saves lives at sea.

Having John at home brings back fond memories of Christmases in the past, and that unique relationship that exits between the islanders and the RNLI.

File image of Achill Island RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLIFile image of Achill Island RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI

Annie recounts stories of how the young children on Inisturk would donate all the money they gathered on their traditional Wren Boys Day collection to the RNLI, which they affectionally refer to as ‘the lifeboat’.

She said that the islanders were always assured that even in really bad weather conditions, ‘the lifeboat’ would always come to their aid. “What a wonderful service it is to all still living on the islands around Ireland.”

She also spoke about the RNLI collection box which was always on the counter in the local pub, and the islanders happily popped their change into it.

“Dad has made a remarkable recovery following his return home,” Annie said. “He enjoys daily short walks with mum and the dogs while keeping an eye on the sheep. He is looking forward to spending time with family and friends and maybe have a little glass or two of rum.”

She concluded: “Dad, Mum and all of us understand the commitment and dedication of the Achill lifeboat crew and all involved with the lifeboat. We wish them all a very Merry Christmas and safe New year. May God watch over them all while at sea.”

These callouts would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, lifeboat crews have remained on call, available to launch at any hour, day, or night, to help those in trouble at sea.

Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, the RNLI can continue to operate the lifesaving service and work towards the charity’s goal, to save every one.

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Nine months into her role as lifeboat operations manager at Kilrush RNLI, Shawna Johnson is preparing for her first Christmas on call since taking up the management of the Co Clare lifeboat station.

As the charity launches its Christmas appeal, Shawna — who has been volunteering with Kilrush RNLI since 2013 — is preparing her crew to swap their turkey and pudding for the cold waters of the sea should the call for help come in.

She is urging the public to help her crew and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the Christmas period to continue their lifesaving work.

As LOM, Shawna is responsible for all operational activities at the lifeboat station including authorising the launch of the inshore lifeboat and the day-to-day management of the station.

“I was appointed to the role in April and had to hit the ground running with three callouts in my first week,” Shawna says. “Thankfully, all were successful with the crew towing two boats and their crews to safety and coming to the aid of a kayaker who had got into difficulty.

“That first week was nerve-wracking because while I had been a crew member on the lifeboat and then a deputy launching authority, this was the first time I was the station manager with responsibility for everyone and everything. However, once I got the first call out out of the way, I knew I could do this.”

Like Shawna, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water safely returned.

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

Shawna says: “This is my first Christmas on call as lifeboat operations manager, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Courtmacsherry RNLI was alerted on Sunday afternoon (12 December) that a windsurfer was in difficuly off Harbour View Strand in Courtmacsherry Bay and needed immediate assistance.

Within minutes of the crew pagers being activated, both the all-weather Trent Class lifeboat Frederick Storey Cockburn and the inshore D Class lifeboat were launched and headed to the scene of the alert.

Under Coxswain Mark Gannon, and a total of nine volunteer crew members, both boats sped to the area quickly as there was a strong Force 7/8 wind with high swells at sea.

Thankfully the windsurfer was able to get ashore safely with the help of other surfers and did not require any extra assistance when the lifeboats arrived.

Courtmacsherry RNLI lifeboat operations manager Brian O’Dwyer said: “It was great to see the quick reaction of our volunteers today, who dropped whatever they were at and rushed to the station in order to help other in danger.

“It was good to get that 999 or 112 call for assistance made straight away, as minutes are so important in these incidents at sea”.

This was the 26th callout of 2021 for Courtmacsherry RNLI, which is an all-time high for the West Cork station.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Portrush RNLI was requested to launch by Belfast Coastguard at 2.30pm yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 23 November) to reports of a fishing vessel in difficulty 800 metres east of the Barmouth.

The 26ft vessel with two males on board was reported to have lost power and was drifting near the entrance to the Bann on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast.

The all-weather lifeboat and its volunteer crew launched at 2.42pm on a beautiful afternoon with good weather conditions, a clear sky, good visibility and a southwesterly wind.

Eleven minutes later the lifeboat arrived at the scene and the crew carried out a dynamic risk assessment to decide on the most appropriate course of action for the fishermen and their vessel.

It was agreed that the best plan was to attach a tow line and tow the vessel to safety. This was done and once the fishing vessel was towed to Portrush Harbour, the lifeboat and crew arrived back on station at 4.50pm.

Lifeboat operations manager Beni McAllister said: “Once the crew arrived on scene, as always, an assessment was carried out along with the crew of the stricken vessel to agree the best course of action. This is a procedure that our crew carry out on a regular basis.

“We are just glad we were able to get the vessel and her crew to safety. We would advise anyone going out to sea to make sure that they do the necessary safety checks before leaving port, especially at this time of year.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Portrush RNLI was requested to launch in the early hours of this morning (Saturday 20 November) to reports of a casualty taken ill on 42m research vessel some three nautical miles northwest of the Causeway Coast town.

The all-weather lifeboat launched for the medevac at 1.19am in good conditions with clear skies, although the sea state was slightly choppy.

Six minutes later, the lifeboat arrived on scene and two RNLI volunteers were transferred on board the vessel to assess the condition of the casualty.

The decision was then made to transfer the casualty onto the lifeboat in order to bring him to Portrush Harbour and to a waiting ambulance.

Lifeboat operations manager Beni McAllister said: “This is a scenario that are crew are trained to undertake as a routine exercise but as always, doing it at night is slightly more complicated.

“The two crew members who went aboard the vessel have been trained in casualty care and knew exactly what had to be done. The other crew members then carried out the transfer in order to get the casualty and the crew members onto the [lifeboat] and the casualty handed over to the coastguard and the [Northern Ireland] Ambulance Service waiting back at the harbour.

“We wish the casualty well and hope he makes a full recovery.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A fundraising volunteer for Lough Derg RNLI has received an award for her services to the Co Tipperary lifeboat station.

Laura Clarke was presented with the Excellence in Volunteering Award by RNLI community manager Jennifer Grey during the annual Christmas card and gift sale at Lough Derg Yacht Club in Dromineer yesterday (Tuesday 9 November).

Laura has been a volunteer on the Lough Derg RNLI Fundraising Committee for 11 years. She says she became a volunteer because the charity “was one my late father loved and always supported, and it was something I wished to continue”.

She recalled that her father Mr Crawford had donated to Portrush lifeboat station in Northern Ireland for the build of their new lifeboat. In 2019, Laura organised a fundraising swim in memory of her father that raised significant funds for the RNLI.

As well as a long family association with the lifeboats, Laura’s husband Caleb is honorary treasurer for both Lough Derg RNLI’s lifeboat station and fundraising committee, while her brother-in-law Peter Clarke was a volunteer helm with the station for 14 years.

In commending Laura for the award, RNLI director of fundraising Jayne George wrote: “Your productive, innovative and reliable attitude has not only optimised our fundraising opportunities at local events but throughout the pandemic has raised more than £2,000 in Christmas card and gift sales alone.”

Of the volunteer’s hard work throughout these difficult past two years, Jayne added that Laura’s enthusiasm and dedication “embodies the RNLI core values of being courageous, trustworthy, selfless and dependable”.

Laura said it is a “great honour to be a part of an organisation that is such a force for good in the world. I’m thrilled to receive this award.”

Niamh McCutcheon, chair of the Lough Derg RNLI fundraising branch and member of the Irish Council of the RNLI. added that she is “delighted to see Laura’s commitment, dedication and significant efforts acknowledged with this award”.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The team at Skerries RNLI in North Co Dublin is calling for new volunteers to help them to save lives at sea.

In particular, the charity is looking for new volunteers to take up the roles of inshore lifeboat crew, shore crew and tractor driver.

Volunteers in each of these roles play a critical part in ensuring that the inshore Atlantic 85 lifeboat is launched quickly and safely and can continue to save lives at sea in the local community.

“Volunteering with us gives people the opportunity to make a real difference in their local community, to save lives and become part of the larger RNLI family,” Skerries RNLI lifeboat operations manager Niall McGrotty says.

“We can’t keep people safe without the support of our wonderful volunteers, who truly make a difference every day no matter which role they are fulfilling.

“Becoming a volunteer in one of these roles is a great chance to play a crucial part in helping to save lives. We’re ideally looking for enthusiastic people who live or work within close proximity to the station.”

The RNLI provides first-class training and equipment, guidance and support to all volunteers, from volunteer lifeboat crew to shop volunteers and event marshals.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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