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What started as a small fundraiser for Galway RNLI and Cancer Care West has turned into something spectacular as the players and members of Galway Corinthians RFC have raised over €8,500 for both organisations through two fundraising efforts.

The first featured the senior players in the club with Jack Noone and Kenneth Casburn behind the organisation of ‘Movember’ where players, management and committee members grew facial hair of some kind for the month of November.

The second featured the mercurial talents of club president Kieran Faherty.

Known fondly as ‘Flash’, Kieran is an accomplished artist and he generously provided one of his paintings known as ‘Brewing Up A Storm’, a stunning view of Galway Bay that has proved very popular with prints and cards selling out quickly.

But what inspired the painting? “I am often asked that,” Kieran says. “Pretty much my signature pieces are all about colour, and Connemara is my inspiration for many.

“As a kid I only saw greyness in the Connemara landscape, but age opens your eyes. Now I embrace all the wonderful changing coloured landscape that the mountains, bogs and lakes give up to us.”

He added: “I think my inspiration for this piece is the challenges it offers, as it sits in stormy waters, and I think appropriately it is raising funds for a charity that lives in stormy waters with their incredible brave crew.”

The fundraising has been warmly welcomed by both organisations, with Mike Swan, Galway RNLI lifeboat operations manager, saying: “I wanted to express my personal gratitude for the effort of the members of Corinthians Rugby Club and thank them for their very generous donation, of which will be put to good use saving lives at sea.

“Given the year that’s in it, the crew are overwhelmed with the support from the people of Galway.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The families of RNLI lifeboat volunteers have joined an all-Ireland appeal for support after the charity’s usual Christmas fundraisers were cancelled.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the charity that saves lives at sea launched its 2020 Christmas appeal as so many traditional community fundraising events such as raft races, open days and sea swims have had to be called off due to coronavirus restrictions.

In Donegal, Lorraine Cassidy’s husband James and sons Nathan (22) and Oisin (21) are all volunteer crew members on Bundoran RNLI’s inshore lifeboat. They know all too well how important it is for crews to have the right lifesaving kit and PPE.

Nathan adds: “RNLI volunteers have had a challenging year but thankfully, with many additional safety measures and procedures in place to ensure our safety, we have remained on call 24/7 throughout the pandemic.

“We have our standard PPE but now also wear masks and gloves and take extra precautions at sea. We know the extra PPE comes at a financial cost to the charity and during a time when fundraising activity has had to be halted.”

Further south are Robert and Colette Foster, whose daughter Caoimhe (20) is a volunteer crew member on Crosshaven RNLI’s inshore lifeboat.

“We are very proud that Caoimhe has been a volunteer lifeboat crew member in Crosshaven for three years now,” her father Robert says. “Our son Cillian (17) is also joining the crew but due to Covid-19, won’t be starting his training until next year.

“Our youngest Clodagh is 12 and having watched Caoimhe’s involvement in the last few years, she is already aspiring to be part of the future crew.”

In East Cork, Mark Nolan has been a volunteer at Youghal RNLI for 23 years, first as a crew member on the station’s inshore lifeboat where he served for 13 years before moving to shore crew. In 2017 he became a deputy launching authority where, among his tasks, he authorises the launch of the station’s lifeboat when the alarm is raised.

Mark’s son Jack (22) followed in his father’s footsteps five years ago when he, too, joined the lifesaving team in Youghal.

“You worry when the pager beeps and you are responsible for authorising the launch of the lifeboat,” Mark says. “While Jack is my son, I would have similar concerns for all crew members who go out on the lifeboat to save others who are in trouble at sea.”

Jason Chambers and his wife Lauren received a special guard of honour from Portrush RNLI after their wedding last week (Photo: Mairéad McDaid/Remain In Light Photography)Jason Chambers and his wife Lauren received a special guard of honour from Portrush RNLI after their wedding last week | Photo: Mairéad McDaid/Remain In Light Photography

For Portrush RNLI relief mechanic Jason Chambers and his wife Lauren (McGee), who is a professional wedding photographer, 2020 has been a year like no other.

The couple who have two children, Tyler (9) and Isla (5), were originally due to get married on 18 April but when Covid-19 restrictions came in shortly after they returned from their hen and stag parties, they were forced to postpone and rethink their plans.

A stressful few months later and amid restrictions changing regularly, the couple eventually got their big day last week.

And much to Jason’s surprise and delight, four fully kitted-out lifeboat crew members representing the station were waiting outside the Arcadia in Portrush following the ceremony to provide a socially distant guard of honour to wish the couple well.

Lauren is also well used to family events being interrupted by the pager. And this Christmas will be no different for the Chambers.

“From the moment I met Jason, the RNLI pager became a part of my life, too. The lifeboat has always been in Jason’s blood and he comes from a long family line who have been involved in helping to save lives at sea for generations.

“It can be difficult seeing Jason leave when the pager goes, and he heads for the lifeboat. I worry about what he might go through when he is out on a shout. Even at Christmas, we know that he might have to drop everything like the other volunteers in Portrush, Red Bay or Larne and run out the door to go and save someone’s life.”

The same goes for Sue and Peter Irwin, longtime volunteers with Donaghadee RNLI, whose son Jack is a volunteer on Bangor RNLI’s inshore lifeboat.

“However, I also know how important the crew member’s role is and how rewarding it is for Jack to make his contribution just as it was for Peter and is for me as a fundraiser,” Sue says.

“The RNLI depends on the goodwill of others to support the work our volunteer crews do and that is why as a family, we would urge people if they can, to give to the Christmas appeal.”

Meanwhile, for one teenager who has helped out where he can at Kilkeel RNLI since he was a child, this year Christmas will be extra special as he will finally be eligible to join the crew on his 17th birthday on Christmas Eve.

Andrew Young’s father Gary has been a RNLI volunteer for the last 32 years. Watching his father work as station mechanic and helm, Andrew was inspired to become a crew member at a young age and is now looking forward to making his own contribution.

“I have been coming to the station with Dad for years and I always loved watching the crew prepare and train between call outs,” Andrew said. “I have helped out where I can but I am really excited now to start my own training to become a crew member and I will look forward to the day that I, too, can help bring someone in difficulty to safety.”

All families share pride in their loved ones’ lifesaving efforts, but they also worry when the pager beeps and they’re called out to save others who are in trouble.

The sense of relief when they help to bring those in difficulty back to safety, but also when they return home safety themselves, is one that they all feel.

And they’re united in declaring that the best Christmas gift they can wish for is any kind of donation, no matter how small, to the RNLI Christmas appeal.

Funds raised will provide the lifesaving kit volunteers so need to continue to help saving lives at sea. For more visit RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A World War II mine found in “remarkable” condition off western Scotland earlier this week contained 350kg of explosives, according to the Royal Navy.

The unexploded ordnance was discovered by a Marine Scotland survey vessel in the Firth of Clyde on Tuesday afternoon (1 December).

Belfast Coastguard tasked Troon RNLI to the scene, north-east the Isle of Arran, to retrieve non-essential personnel from the 68m survey vessel and bring them to safety on the lifeboat.

As BBC News reports, the survey vessel was then sailed to Ettrick Bay on the Isle of Bute, where bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion of the mine.

“From the initial pictures, we were able to easily identify the mine type and importantly determine that the explosive fill was intact and therefore presented a significant hazard,” said Lieutenant Commander Mark Shaw of the Royal Navy.

BBC News has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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Staff at the Marine Institute are attempting to walk, run, row, cycle and swim the 4,068km distance from their headquarters in Galway to the North Pole in aid of the RNLI.

And they’re inviting everyone to join in and support their virtual festive fundraising challenge, which runs until Friday 18 December.

“Many of our colleagues and those that we work with spend much of their time at sea,” says Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly. “Knowing that the emergency services are there should we need them is a huge comfort for all who use the ocean whether for work or for pleasure.

“This year has been difficult for many and especially hard also for charities such as RNLI Lifeboats Ireland. For these reasons, as an organisation the Marine Institute decided that together we could do our bit to support the RNLI and have a bit of festive fun while we are at it.”

It costs the RNLI €1,650 to train a volunteer lifeboat crew member for a year, and €1,764 to kit them out in their lifesaving gear — so every euro raised counts.

“We are asking the public to consider adding their kilometres to our fundraiser and making their steps or swims count. Together we can make this an easy downhill and raise much needed funds for RNLI lifeboats,” Dr Connolly adds.

If you want to take part, commit some kilometres to the 4,000km total or choose to donate. And don’t forget to post your challenge photos on social media, tagging the Marine Institute on Twitter or Facebook and using the hashtag #NorthPoleChallenge

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Skerries RNLI’s volunteer crew were tasked on Saturday afternoon (28 November) after a call to emergency services reported concerns over a group of sea swimmers off Donabate.

The Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson was launched shortly before 3pm to investigate the group’s reported position, drifting north from Donabte Beach.

Also tasked were Skerries Coast Guard and the Irish Coast Guard’s Dublin-based helicopter Rescue 116, whose crew made contact with the swimmers and determined they were not in any difficulty. All rescue crews were then stood down.

Speaking later, Skerries RNLI press officer Gerry Canning said: “There has been a marked increase in the number of people taking up sea swimming this year, and as a result there have been increased demands on all the search and rescue organisations.

“Thankfully in this case it was a false alarm, but it’s a good opportunity to remind people to be aware of the additional challenges that apply to sea swimming at this time of the year.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Union Hall RNLI volunteer Brian Crowley has received an Excellence in Volunteering Award from the RNLI for his hard work, dedication to and promotion of the charity that saves lives at sea.

Unfortunately due to pandemic restrictions, the lifeboat station could not present him with his award in person but hopes to mark this achievement next year.

“This is such an achievement as Brian is volunteering with the RNLI for ‘only’ 66 years so far,” said Pamela Deasey, Union Hall RNLI’s press officer.

“He was asked then to join by Mrs Bridges in Glandore, and he said ‘Yes’ straight away. As a young man growing up in Union Hall, he was aware of the dangers of the sea, and he wanted to raise awareness and help raise vital funds for the service.”

Brian was well-known throughout West Cork at the time as he used to co-own the ever popular Crowley’s Hall in Union Hall, where many a West Cork couple met — his first undertaking as fundraiser was a dance which was a tremendous success.

He became secretary of Leap, Glandore and Union Hall branch in 1976 as well as filling in a lot of other roles, until the current branch set up in 1997.

“Words like dependable, trustworthy, selfless and courageous are the ethos of the RNLI and Brian has proved to be a great ambassador having these qualities in abundance,” Pamela added.

“This is not Brian’s first award, as he also received his silver badge for fundraising in 1985 and a gold badge in 2003. He has many a story to tell about all his years service and all the tremendous characters he has met along his way.”

Speaking following news of the award, Mick McKenna, chair of fundraising at Union Hall RNLI, said: “Everyone at Union Hall RNLI would like to firstly congratulate Brian for this much deserved award, and secondly thank him for all his time, efforts and dedication throughout all these years, in helping to raise vital funds for the RNLI. We are all extremely proud of his achievements.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Sligo Bay RNLI’s volunteers were called to the rescue of four swimmers in difficulty off Rosses Point yesterday afternoon, Sunday 22 November.

The four women, who were all seasoned swimmers, were caught in a swell when trying to get back ashore.

A number of onlookers on the beach called for the emergency services and both Sligo Bay RNLI’s lifeboat and the Irish Coast Guard’s Sligo-based helicopter Rescue 118 were dispatched to the scene.

One of the four swimmers managed to get ashore unaided in the meantime, while one other was rescued by the volunteer lifeboat crew who administered casualty care en route to the lifeboat station where she was passed into the care of an ambulance crew.

The other two casualties were airlifted to safety by the crew of Rescue 118. All four swimmers were taken to Sligo General Hospital for assessment, as Sligo Bay RNLI reports.

Aisling Gillen, Sligo Bay RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat press officer, said: “We received a lovely message from one of the swimmers last night to thank us for saving their lives which was very kind and we would like to wish them all well.

“Seasoned open water swimmers have a great deal of experience and do observe proper safety precautions. However, the dangers this time of the year far outweigh the challenges that apply in summer. Cold water and currents can tire a swimmer quickly and make it harder to return to shore.”

One hour after this incident, the Sligo Bay lifeboat crew received a second call — this time to a surfer in difficulty at Strandhill, but who was able to make his own way ashore as the lifeboat stood by.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The RNLI says its volunteer crews faced an “unprecedented” summer as statistics reveal a big increase in callouts to people in distress compared to the same time last year.

Based on provisional incident reports from lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, the RNLI says there was a 64% jump in the number of recreational water users its crews aided.

RNLI lifeguards around the UK also reported an increase in the number of visitors to beaches around the coast as coronavirus lockdown measures eased between June and August.

The newly released figures cover people who got into difficulty while bodyboarding, using inflatables, kayaking, or canoeing, kitesurfing, paddle boarding, rowing, surfing, swimming, waterskiing, windsurfing and dinghy sailing.

This summer, 177 water users were aided while kayaking or canoeing, an increase of 84 people in comparison to 2019.

The number of people who needed help from RNLI lifeboat crews after getting into difficulties on inflatables more than doubled, the charity adds.

Stand-up paddle boarding, and increasingly popular sport, saw a 40% rise in lifeboat launches and the number of casualties assisted almost tripled.

Lifeboat crew callouts to swimmers were up by 14%. And launches to people who got into trouble while walking or running at the coast over the summer increased by 46%, with 175 more people aided in comparison to last year.

The RNLI’s head of water safety, Gareth Morrison, said: “Our volunteer crews have been on call throughout the pandemic. This year, they faced a summer like no other.

“When lockdown restrictions eased, we saw people flock to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad. But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer.

“If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

The RNLI has spent £1.2 million (€1.34 million) this year on PPE to keep its lifesavers and the public safe during the coronavirus crisis, including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and 4,700 litres of hand sanitiser.

Additionally, RNLI shops were closed, and fundraising events were cancelled, costing the charity that saves lives at sea potentially millions in lost income.

The RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives, and that support is needed now more than ever. To support its Christmas Appeal visit RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Kilkeel RNLI launched to the rescue a windsurfer who got into difficulty off Cranfield Point on Saturday (14 November).

The volunteer crew set out on their inshore lifeboat at 3.25pm on Saturday as part of a multi-agency tasking that also involved Kilkeel Coastguard, Greenore Coast Guard and the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 from Dublin.

Onshore, Kilkeel Coastguard had spotted the sail of the windsurfer just north of Carlingford Lough’s shipping channel and directed lifeboat helm Gerry Smyth towards the casualty, who had been one of a group of eight.

The other seven members of the group had made it safely to shore. In Force 5-6 winds and in a moderate sea, the casualty and his gear were taken onboard.

The exhausted casualty was checked by the lifeboat crew for injury, water inhalation and the effects of the cold conditions. He was then made comfortable and brought safely ashore. The lifeboat returned at 4.15pm where the grateful surfer was met by Kilkeel Coastguard.

Speaking following the callout, Kilkeel’s lifeboat operations manager John Fisher said: “The crew did everything in a thoroughly professional manner and we would like to wish the casualty well.

“Because of Covid-19, the crew have been restricted in their training exercises but this afternoon they demonstrated their skills with this rescue also highlighting how well multiple agencies work together.”

The crew readied to launch for a second time over the weekend at 2.15pm yesterday (Sunday 15 November) following a call that an EPIRB had been activated.

However, after an extensive local onshore search it was found that the EPIRB was faulty and was located in a boat owner’s garage.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A fishing boat has sunk after a collision with a cargo ship off England’s North Tyneside coast.

The incident occurred at 3.40pm on Sunday afternoon (9 November) just under a mile (1.6km) north of the Tyne piers.

The skipper of the 9.9m North Shields-based trawler made a distress call after the collision with a 17,000-tonne, 81m cargo ship that had recently sailed from Blyth.

The fishing vessel was badly damaged and started taking on water, leading to flooding in the engine room, as Tynemouth RNLI reports.

Tynemouth's all-weather lifeboat with a crew of six volunteers reached the scene just five minutes after launch and attempted to save the vessel with a salvage pump.

A number of other nearby vessels also responded to the distress call. The offshore support vessel Ocean Marlin launched a daughter boat in case the fishermen needed immediate evacuation.

As the water levels inside the boat dropped, the decision was made by the lifeboat coxswain to tow the trawler back to Royal Quays Marina in North Shields, where she could be quickly lifted out of the water.

Unfortunately, once under way at a very slow speed, it became clear the boat was so badly damaged that the movement increased the water ingress.

In a final attempt to save the fishing boat, Tynemouth RNLI's inshore lifeboat was launched with an extra salvage pump. But while it was en route the trawler started to lose stability it was quickly evacuated.

The all-weather lifeboat took the fishermen back to safety at North Shields while the crew of the inshore lifeboat stayed on scene where the fishing vessel sank soon after.

Later the all-weather lifeboat returned to recover the fishing vessel's life raft, which had automatically detached and inflated but was immersed in seawater and would have become a hazard to shipping if left afloat.

A search for any other floating debris was carried out but none was found.

“This was a potentially life-threatening situation and our volunteers responded as quickly as possible,” Tynemouth RNLI spokesperson Adrian Don told Chronicle Live.

“Thanks must also go to the other vessels in the area that responded to the situation.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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