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Safer Waters Charity Provides Safety Cover for Recreational Water Users in Northern Ireland

19th October 2021
A Safer Waters training exercise
A Safer Waters training exercise on Belfast Lough

Last year Mike Meharg, George King and Allan Black set up Safer Waters, now a registered charity and not-for-profit provider of voluntary safety cover and training for recreational water users in Northern Ireland. It is a recognised RYA Training Centre based in Bangor Marina.

Clients include sailors, windsurfers, kayakers, paddle boarders and sea swimmers, with priority given to cover for community groups that lack safety resources of their own. There is no charge for the service, other than direct running costs such as fuel and travel expenses. Safer Waters provides cover for events throughout Northern Ireland, travelling by road or sea as necessary.

The volunteers have about two hundred years of combined practical experience of providing safety and rescue cover at sailing events throughout Belfast Lough. In this time of rapidly growing participation in community recreational water use, it serves a useful role in allowing people to participate in their chosen activities safely. Very often clubs running large events are short on safety cover and this is where Safer Waters can step in. Despite covid restrictions, in Belfast Lough the group has in the last month attended six events, involving some 450 participants.

Safer Waters attended the Irish Laser Class dinghy event at Ballyholme YCSafer Waters attended the Irish Laser Class dinghy event at Ballyholme YC

Its proactive approach to safety and training means less reliance on blue light services such as the RNLI and Coastguard being called out as a last resort when things go wrong. Currently four safety boats are available, but it is hoped that within the year this number will be increased. Funding is sourced entirely by membership and donations, but to enable further growth and service coverage the organization is actively seeking sponsorship or grant funding.

Safer Waters at Carrickfergus MarinaSafer Waters at Carrickfergus Marina

Safer Waters Commodore Mike Meharg is enthusiastic about the charity; "Safer Waters is a charitable community group, set up to provide proactive and trained safety cover for all water users at minimum cost, by people who are passionate about their boating and enjoy a purpose on the water. We like assisting others to enjoy their time on the water". Team

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