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Displaying items by tag: May Day

Portrush athlete David McGaffin is taking the RNLI Mayday Mile challenge to a whole new level to raise funds for his local lifeboat station.

The McGaffin family has a long association with Portrush RNLI on Northern Ireland’s North Coast. David’s late father Tom was an integral part of the fabric and was one of the crew on the famous shout in 1989 when the lifeboat was launched to reports of two Spanish trawlers in difficulty.

David, a Springwell Running Club member and long-time supporter of Portrush RNLI, shared his story and why he is setting himself this gruelling challenge.

“The first marathon I took part in was Belfast on 6 May 1985 and was in aid of the RNLI. There was a lot of blistering, some bleeding and an amount of distress so the fact that the race is always held on May Day, which is also an international distress signal, is not lost on me.

”Growing up in Portrush, especially if you fish and mess about in boats, you are very aware of the work that the RNLI does and the amount of money that it takes to keep the service operating.

“My father Tom, who was a RNLI member for many years, initially as a shoreline member, then lifeboat crew and latterly as the deputy launch authority, spent many years fundraising for the RNLI and was one of the founder members of the Portrush Raft Race.

”The RNLI, especially the boat crews, can be a self-deprecating bunch and do not take praise well. To them it’s just a job they do, and once a mission is over, they get ready for the next one.

‘To complete this challenge I will have to run more miles in a month than I have ever done before and week four will be the most miles I will have ever run in a week’

“I have been fortunate to know many crew members, including some who served on the Portrush lifeboat in the 1960s. I have been on boats running for the cover of the harbour in bad weather as the lifeboat launches to someone in distress, and have stood safely on the harbour wall watching the lifeboat head out into the worst weather that the North Atlantic can deliver.

”What I do know about the RNLI is that they are ordinary people doing extraordinary things and deserving of all the medals, commendations and plaudits they receive.“

David added: ”In the absence of the Raft Race I will be taking part in the RNLI May Day Mile challenge, but taking it just a bit further.

“The challenge is simple: set an exercise goal, raise some sponsorship and then complete it. Those of you that know me will know that it’s not going to be that straightforward, there’s no point doing easy if you’re asking for money. I know that you expect some degree of pain, suffering and sacrifice to part you from your hard earned cash, and to that end I will be running the date each day. That’s one mile on the first, two on the second, three on the third and so on.

”To save you from doing the maths the first week is handy enough, week two is alright, it’s tougher going in week three, week four is insane and the last three days just mad. To complete this challenge I will have to run more miles in a month than I have ever done before and week four will be the most miles I will have ever run in a week.“

Portush RNLI press officer Judy Nelson praised David’s dedication to the lifeboat station, especially at a time when the station’s fundraising activities have been severely curtailed by the pandemic while crews have been busier than ever.

”To have someone like David who is not only running to raise funds but also raising awareness of the work our volunteers do is fantastic — we wish him all the best."

If you want to donate to David and the station you can do so via the JustGiving link HERE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Sharks in Irish waters

Irish waters are home to 71 species of shark, skates and rays, 58 of which have been studied in detail and listed on the Ireland Red List of Cartilaginous fish. Irish sharks range from small Sleeper sharks, Dogfish and Catsharks, to larger species like Frilled, Mackerel and Cow sharks, all the way to the second largest shark in the world, the Basking shark. 

Irish waters provide a refuge for an array of shark species. Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry provides a habitat for several rare and endangered sharks and their relatives, including the migratory tope shark, angel shark and undulate ray. This area is also the last European refuge for the extremely rare white skate. Through a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) project, Marine Institute scientists have been working with fishermen to assess the distribution, diversity, and monthly relative abundance of skates and rays in Tralee, Brandon and Dingle Bays.

“These areas off the southwest coast of Ireland are important internationally as they hold some of the last remaining refuges for angel shark and white skate,” said Dr Maurice Clarke of the Marine Institute. “This EMFF project has provided data confirming the critically endangered status of some species and provides up-to-date information for the development of fishery measures to eliminate by-catch.” 

Irish waters are also home to the Black Mouthed Catshark, Galeus melastomus, one of Ireland’s smallest shark species which can be found in the deep sea along the continental shelf. In 2018, Irish scientists discovered a very rare shark-nursery 200 nautical miles off the west coast by the Marine Institute’s ROV Holland 1 on a shelf sloping to 750 metres deep. 

There are two ways that sharks are born, either as live young or from egg casings. In the ‘case’ of Black Mouthed Catsharks, the nursery discovered in 2018, was notable by the abundance of egg casings or ‘mermaid’s purses’. Many sharks, rays and skate lay eggs, the cases of which often wash ashore. If you find an egg casing along the seashore, take a photo for Purse Search Ireland, a citizen science project focusing on monitoring the shark, ray and skate species around Ireland.

Another species also found by Irish scientists using the ROV Holland 1 in 2018 was a very rare type of dogfish, the Sail Fin Rough Shark, Oxynotus paradoxus. These sharks are named after their long fins which resemble the trailing sails of a boat, and live in the deep sea in waters up to 750m deep. Like all sharks, skates and rays, they have no bones. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage, much like what our noses and ears are made from! This material is much more flexible and lighter than bone which is perfect for these animals living without the weight of gravity.

Throughout history sharks have been portrayed as the monsters of the sea, a concept that science is continuously debunking. Basking sharks were named in 1765 as Cetorhinus maximus, roughly translated to the ‘big-nosed sea monster’. Basking sharks are filter feeders, often swimming with their mouths agape, they filter plankton from the water.

They are very slow moving and like to bask in the sun in shallow water and are often seen in Irish waters around Spring and early Summer. To help understand the migration of these animals to be better able to understand and conserve these species, the Irish Basking Shark Group have tagged and mapped their travels.

Remarkably, many sharks like the Angel Shark, Squatina squatina have the ability to sense electricity. They do this via small pores in their skin called the ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ which are able to detect the tiny electrical impulses of a fish breathing, moving or even its heartbeat from distances of over a kilometre! Angel sharks, often referred to as Monkfish have a distinctively angelic shape, with flattened, large fins appearing like the wings of an angel. They live on the seafloor in the coastal waters of Ireland and much like a cat are nocturnal, primarily active at night.

The intricate complexity of shark adaptations is particularly noticeable in the texture of their skin. Composed of miniscule, perfectly shaped overlapping scales, the skin of shark provides them with protection. Often shark scales have been compared to teeth due to their hard enamel structure. They are strong, but also due to their intricate shape, these scales reduce drag and allow water to glide past them so that the shark can swim more effortlessly and silently. This natural flawless design has been used as inspiration for new neoprene fabric designs to help swimmers glide through the water. Although all sharks have this feature, the Leafscale Gulper Shark, Centrophorus squamosus, found in Ireland are specifically named due to the ornate leaf-shape of their scales.

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