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Volunteers from Irish lifeboat stations including Dun Laoghaire, Arklow and Union Hall were among the 2,500 guests at a special garden party at Buckingham Palace last Thursday (23 May) to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

HRH The Princess Royal, accompanied by Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, and RNLI President HRH The Duke of Kent hosted the event that was attended by lifeboat crew, lifeguards, water safety volunteers and fundraisers from across Great Britain and Ireland, including recent recipients of meritorious service awards and The King’s Birthday and New Year Honours.

Representing Dun Laoghaire RNLI were helm Nathan Burke, station mechanic and coxswain Kieran ‘Colley’ O’Connell and helm Gary Hayes.

Representing Union Hall RNLI at Buckingham Palace last Thursday were volunteers Mary Rose Deasy and Mary Jacinta Casey, flanked by Martin Deasy and Sean Thompson | Credit: Mary Rose DeasyRepresenting Union Hall RNLI at Buckingham Palace last Thursday were volunteers Mary Rose Deasy and Mary Jacinta Casey, flanked by Martin Deasy and Sean Thompson | Credit: Mary Rose Deasy

Fundraising volunteers Mary Rose Deasy and Mary Jacinta Casey attended on behalf of Union Hall RNLI in West Cork, while Arklow RNLI was represented by John and Liz Bermingham, Jimmy and Majella Myler, Austin Gaffney and Helena Dennehy; and Trevor and Kelly Ann Conroy.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was a presentation by The Princess Royal of a Silver Medal for Gallantry to Penlee RNLI coxswain Patrick ‘Patch’ Harvey for his pivotal role in saving eight French sailors during a hurricane on 31 October 2022.

Head of volunteering at the RNLI, Donna McReath said: “I would like to thank each and every one of our incredible volunteers.

Among those attending the garden party from Ireland were John and Liz Bermingham, Jimmy and Majella Myler, Austin Gaffney and Helena Dennehy, and Trevor and Kelly Ann Conroy from Arklow RNLIAmong those attending the garden party from Ireland were John and Liz Bermingham, Jimmy and Majella Myler, Austin Gaffney and Helena Dennehy, and Trevor and Kelly Ann Conroy from Arklow RNLI

“We couldn’t do what we do without their vital support and the time and effort they generously dedicate in a wide variety of roles, from lifesaving crew to fundraisers and those who volunteer in our shops, museums or by sharing our water safety messaging.

“They are all lifesavers, and this special garden party is a wonderful opportunity to recognise and celebrate the joy and impact of volunteering for the RNLI. We are always looking for new volunteers to join our charity to help us continue saving lives at sea.”

Since the RNLI was founded on 4 March 1824, following an appeal to the nation from Sir William Hillary, the charity has saved more than 146,277 lives — this equates to an average of two lives saved every day for 200 years.

Today, the RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations around Ireland and the UK, and has seasonal lifeguards on around 240 lifeguarded beaches around the UK.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Arklow RNLI in Co Wicklow were requested to launch early on Tuesday morning (2 April) following reports of a large yacht with four crew onboard in difficulty near the Arklow Bank.

Shortly after 6.30am, Arklow volunteers launched the station’s all-weather lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr and the crew made best speed to the yacht’s reported position, some 18 miles south-east of Arklow.

Once on scene, it was established that the 16-metre vessel had developed engine failure. The lifeboat crew assessed the situation and, due to the vessel not being able to make safe progress, it was decided to take the vessel under tow back to the nearest safe port at Arklow.

Both boats arrived back into Arklow at around 10.30am, and the casualty vessel was secured on the pontoons in the inner dock.

Speaking following the rescue, Jimmy Myler, Arklow RNLI launch authority said: “Huge thanks once again to our volunteer crew both onshore and on the lifeboat who at a moments notice go to sea to assist others, whether day or night.

“As we continue to enjoy the Easter break, we would remind everyone planning a trip to sea or near the coast to respect the water. Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Arklow RNLI’s volunteers on this call-out were coxswain Ned Dillon, station mechanic James Russell, Craig O’Reilly, John Tyrrell, David Molloy, Cillian Kavanagh and Josh McAnaspie.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The European Ombudsman may be asked to examine the case of the Mary Kate, the fishing vessel which developed serious stability issues after it was bought by an Arklow family.

An Oireachtas committee has also agreed to appoint an expert to examine information surrounding the case.

Representatives of the departments of transport and agriculture, food and marine may then be invited before the committee after the expert report is completed.

The Joint Committee on Public Petitions and the Ombudsmen has proposed to take these actions after an initial hearing on the case in late February.

Arklow fisherman CJ Gaffney was invited to outline his experience, where he was left with debts of 1 million euro.

The committee had also invited Mary Bertelsen, campaigner and concerned citizen on people’s rights; Jakob Pinkster, Dutch stability and ship building expert; and Justin Delaney, stability expert.

Gaffney had tried unsuccessfully to take legal action in both the Netherlands and Germany after he discovered the stability issues with the vessel.

He told the committee members how he took out a loan to cover fixing the vessel and then had to surrender it to the bank in 2012.

He sought EU funds in compensation, but the EU said it was up to the national state as it was under 24 metres in length.

The vessel was broken up in New Ross, Co Wexford last year under the government’s decommissioning scheme.

Gaffney maintains that questions need to be asked at both national level and EU level as to how the beam trawler was issued with a stamped stability book from a renowned international classification society.

The committee members heard that 11 sister vessels were built, and three of them are similar to the Mary Kate – as in four “incorrect vessels” which were much heavier in the water.

Delaney said this had serious maritime safety implications, and said he had tried to raise the issue with the relevant German and Dutch authorities.

He expressed his shock that an EU investigation had not as yet been initiated, and said that the Gaffneys also deserved compensation for their ordeal.

Published in Fishing
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Arklow RNLI launched on Sunday (8 October) at around 11am following a pager alert by the Irish Coast Guard reporting swimmers in difficulty at the Co Wicklow town’s South Beach.

The volunteer crew made their way to the lifeboat station and within minutes of the request were aboard the all-weather lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr and en route to the reported location just outside Arklow Piers.

Once on scene, the lifeboat crew were made aware that there were two open-water swimmers in the area, with another person on a paddleboard.

Thankfully, it was established that they were not in difficulty and the lifeboat stood by the swimmers as they completed their swim and returned to shore.

Initial reports had said there were swimmers in difficulty and shouting for help but it was established they were communicating within the group and the shouts for help were misheard.

Following the call-out, Mark Corcoran, volunteer lifeboat press officer at Arklow RNLI said: “In this case, it turned out there was no one in difficulty. However, we would always encourage anyone who suspects they have heard any kind of call for help to phone 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Two men and a boy were rescued by the Courtown RNLI on August 9th after their cabin cruiser experienced engine failure off the coast of Cahore.

The Arklow RNLI initially responded to the distress call and had the vessel under tow when the Courtown crew arrived on the scene. Courtown's inshore lifeboat took over the tow and safely brought the cruiser into Courtown Harbour.

The rescued individuals were all wearing lifejackets and had a means of communication to call for help. Jim Murphy, Deputy Launching Authority of Courtown RNLI, emphasised the importance of following safety recommendations and contacting the Coast Guard in an emergency.

Courtown and Arklow RNLI attend to the broken down cruiserCourtown and Arklow RNLI attend to the broken down cruiser

The successful joint operation between the two RNLI stations highlights their crucial role in ensuring the safety of those at sea.

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Following a pager alert at 5.37 pm on Wednesday, 7 June, the volunteer lifeboat crew made their way to the station and, within minutes of the request, were aboard RNLB Ger Tigchlearr and en route to the reported location some six miles southeast of Arklow Harbour.

In a north-easterly wind with a 1.5-metre wave height, the all-weather Trent class lifeboat made its way to the reported position.

As Afloat reported earlier, once on scene, the vessel, which had been part of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race fleet, reported it had suffered rudder failure but had managed to rig an emergency steering system and could now proceed slowly back to Arklow under its own power.

The lifeboat was requested to stand by and then escorted the vessel back to port at Arklow.

Arklow RNLI crew on the call out were Coxswain Ned Dillon, Brendan Dillon, James Russell, Craig O’Reilly and James McAnaspie.

Following the call out, Mark Corcoran, volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer at Arklow RNLI said: 'Thanks to our crew for being there when needed, and to the crew of the yacht whose experience gave them the ability to come to port under their own power.'

Published in Dun Laoghaire Dingle

The volunteer lifeboat crew with Arklow RNLI launched in the early hours of Thursday morning (8 June) to reports of a vessel in difficulty some 10 miles south-east of the Co Wicklow town.

In a northeasterly wind with a 1.2-metre wave height, the all- weather Trent class lifeboat Ger Tigchlear made its way to the reported position and once on scene, the lifeboat crew confirmed that the sailboat had suffered engine failure.

It was decided to put a lifeboat crew member onboard the vessel to assist the lone sailor with rigging and running the towline.

Once this was done, the lifeboat took the casualty vessel under tow and returned to the nearest port of Arklow, arriving at 9am.

The Arklow lifeboat crew on this callout were coxswain Ned Dillon and crew members Craig O’Reilly, John Tyrrell, Dave Molloy, Ken O’Toole, Josh McAnaspie and James Russell.

Following the callout, volunteer lifeboat press officer Mark Corcoran said: “It’s been a busy couple of days at Arklow. It is great to see the training that we do paying off, in the assistance we are providing.

“Given the recent good weather, we are reminding everyone to stay safe and respect the water.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Seven members of Arklow RNLI have been honoured for their roles in a challenging and exhausting service, almost seven hours in duration, which saw a crew of three people, onboard a nine-metre yacht rescued. For his exceptional display of seamanship in the service, a Signed Letter of Thanks from the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to Arklow RNLI Coxswain Brendan Dillon. For their teamwork in challenging sea conditions and their part in completing a highly effective service, individual Chief Executive Commendations were awarded to 2nd Mechanic Eddie McElheron and volunteer crewmembers Austin Gaffney, Geoffrey Kearns, Trevor Conroy, Craig O’Reilly, Daniel Downey.

As Afloat reported, the rescue was carried out on 4 August 2020, 24 nautical miles east-southeast of Arklow. The 9-metre yacht, Infinite Jest was on passage from Newlyn, in England to Largs, in Scotland, and was experiencing very poor weather and rough sea conditions, with the crew of three people, suffering from exhaustion and seasickness. It was a demanding service, also involving a tow from the lifeboat, which lasted over three hours, in winds up to Force 8, with upwards of 5-metre swells, at night. The service itself lasted nearly seven hours.

On launching in Force 7 conditions, at 6.58 pm that evening, the Coxswain of Arklow lifeboat, Brendan Dillon, headed towards the last reported position of the yacht, Infinite Jest, immediately feeling the effect of the conditions as they left the shelter afforded by land. On receiving an updated position from the Coast Guard, he adjusted his course to cross the Arklow Bank, to intercept the yacht. In doing this, while operating in such challenging sea conditions, he enabled the lifeboat to significantly reduce their time to reach the casualty vessel.

On successfully crossing Arklow Bank, the lifeboat’s primary navigation system was non-operational, with only the secondary GPS fully functional. The Coxswain requested the Navigator, Trevor Conroy, to calculate their position using speed and direction. In Force eight winds and a five-metre swell, the Arklow lifeboat Ger Tigchelaar arrived on scene at 8.20pm, having successfully located the casualty vessel.

The yacht, which was sailing with only her jib set, was instructed to take up a course behind the lifeboat, to be escorted to Wicklow Harbour, as the nearest safe port. After an hour on this course the yacht’s skipper informed the lifeboat, by VHF Radio, that it was proving difficult to maintain their course under sail and they were making poor headway. The Coxswain then asked the skipper if they could take in their sail and use their engine to maintain their course, behind the lifeboat, until they were closer to land.

Arklow RNLI brings the distressed yacht alongside at Wicklow Harbour in August 2020 Photo: RNLI/Tommy DoverArklow RNLI brings the distressed yacht alongside at Wicklow Harbour in August 2020 Photo: RNLI/Tommy Dover

As darkness was falling, the lifeboat took the yacht under tow, as the crew were exhausted and suffering from seasickness. Three members of the Arklow Lifeboat crew, led by Austin Gaffney, passed a heaving line to the casualty vessel. In very challenging conditions, the tow was established with the lifeboat maintaining radio contact with the yacht every 15 minutes, providing technical guidance, encouraging the tired crew to hydrate, offering support and informing them of progress to safe harbour. Wicklow RNLI was also placed on standby to launch if required, with their shore crew ready to receive both vessels into Wicklow Harbour.

As the lifeboat neared the Harbour, the crew of the yacht informed them that due to crew exhaustion, they could not make the berth under their own power and would require further support. The Coxswain requested Eddie McElheron to board the yacht in full protective equipment to assist. The lifeboat arrived at Wicklow Harbour at 12.55 am with the Infinite Jest on an alongside tow.

In recognising Coxswain Brendan Dillon’s role in commanding the lifeboat during such a challenging rescue, RNLI Chair Stuart Popham said he ‘showed excellent leadership qualities and sound decision making under the pressure of knowing what a precarious situation the casualty was in, and the risks presented to his lifeboat and crew. Throughout, he led by example, extolling the core values of the RNLI in all his actions.’

In awarding the lifeboat crew for their actions on the service, Mr Popham added, ‘This was a demanding service. The sea conditions, towing at night and crew transfer all presented risk and challenges. The crew demonstrated courage and resilience throughout. The deck crew on the Lifeboat performed faultlessly, showing skill, teamwork and a high degree of professionalism.’

The presentations were made during Arklow RNLI’s sold-out fundraising event ‘Dan’s Hurry to the Curry, which was held at the Arklow Bay Hotel after an absence of a few years due to the pandemic. The awards were presented on the night by RNLI Trustee and Chair of the Irish Council, Mr John Killeen.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Following a two-year break, Arklow RNLI’s Hurry to the Curry fundraiser returns on Friday 27 January at the Arklow Bay Hotel from 8pm.

Also known as Dan’s Lifeboat Special, the event has gone from strength to strength and continues to be one of the most enjoyable and well supported nights out in the events calendar, the lifeboat station says.

Culinary masterpieces prepared by Anne and her team of volunteers range from hot curry dishes and a wonderful array of fresh sea food — prawns, lobster, crab, monkfish and salmon— to cold-meat platters, vegetarian dishes and salads of all kinds.

Advice is to come to the bash good and hungry: “It’s the best value meal you’ll have had since [the last] event and quite simply the best craic to be had on the east coast.”

There are spot prizes galore and some lovely raffle and auction items. Music will be provided by the Joe Dolan Experience followed by a DJ till late. There might even be some special guests.

Arklow RNLI’s crew are pulling out all the stops to ensure a magical night is had by all. Lifeboat press officer Mark Corcoran says: “Without volunteers like our fundraising team and our lifeboat crew who still to this day give of their own time, our lifeboat couldn’t function and continue to be rescue ready. We would love to see everybody at the Arklow Bay Hotel on Friday 27 January.”

Tickets are €20 and are available from the Arklow Bay Hotel and Arklow RNLI Fundraising committee members, or you can email [email protected].

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Arklow RNLI launched on Sunday evening (11 September) to assist two people on 39ft yacht which had lost propulsion and was adrift off the Co Wexford town.

The volunteer crew made their way to the lifeboat station around 7pm and within minutes of the request were aboard the all-weather lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr and en route to the reported location.

Once afloat, the lifeboat travelled the half mile to the vessel at Arklow’s South Beach.

In wet conditions with light fading and southerly winds with wave heights of around two-and-a-half metres, the vessel had lost propulsion and tried to anchor as it drifted onto a lee shore some 50 yards from the beach.

Following an assessment by the lifeboat crew, it was decided to establish a tow to bring the vessel to safety.

A lifeboat volunteer boarded the casualty vessel to assist with rigging a tow. Once it was established, the casualty vessel was able to have its anchor hauled up and proceed with the tow back to the nearest safe port at Arklow.

Following the callout, volunteer lifeboat press officer Mark Corcoran said: “Our teams dedication and training for these scenarios really paid off this evening. Thankfully the crew on the sailing vessel had done all the right things which allowed us to get there and be able to assist.”

Arklow RNLI’s crew on this callout were coxswain Ned Dillon, John Bermingham, Eddie McElheron, Craig O’Reilly, Sinead Myler, Jimmy Myler and Dave Molloy.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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National Watersports Campus, Dun Laoghaire

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Stakeholders combined forces in 2019 to promote a project to improve the Harbour’s infrastructure resulting in improved access, job creation and greater tourism potential. 

A grant application to government made by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCoCo) assisted by stakeholders was successful with the announcement of a €400k feasibility study grant from the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF) in January 2020.

It meant plans for the €8m National Watersports Campus at Dun Laoghaire Harbour got the green light from Government and came a step closer to reality.

The project recognises deficits in the current set up in the harbour, proposing the construction of an all-tide publicly-accessible slipway (none currently in the Greater Dublin Area) as well as a marine services facility, providing a much-needed home for the supporting industry. 

The campus also seeks to provide a marketing framework to make boating more accessible to the general public.

The benefits of such an increase might be obvious for the Dun Laoghaire waterfront but there are other spin-offs for the harbour town in the creation of the sort of jobs that cannot be shipped abroad.

Centre for Community Watersports activity and public slipway

  • High-Performance coaching centre
  • Flexible Event Space for hosting national and international events
  • Multipurpose Building
  • Campus Marketing and Promotional Centre
  • Accommodation for Irish Sailing and Irish Underwater Council
  • Shared NGB Facility
  • Education Centre for schools, community groups and clubs
  • Proposed site – Carlisle Pier

Watersports Campus FAQs

Similar to the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, the watersports campus will provide quality, public, recreational and high-performance facilities for the many watersports participants. The Campus will considerably enhance the services currently provided by more than 30 clubs and activity centres to over 50,000 annual users of the harbour.

The passing of control of the harbour to DLRCC, the public appetite for a community benefitting project and the capital funding for sports infrastructure in the Project 2040 National Plan have aligned to create an opportunity to deliver this proposal.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) and the Irish Sailing Association (Irish Sailing) are the project leads, endorsed by the National Governing Bodies of other Irish watersports and clubs and activity providers.

The National Sports Policy, published in 2018, established the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF) to provide Exchequer support for sports facility projects. In some cases, these may be projects where the primary objective will be to increase active participation in sport. In other cases, these may be venues where the focus is more related to high-performance sport.

Government has allocated at least €100m over the term to 2027 to successful applicant projects.

The Watersports Campus was one of seven successful applicants for Stream 1 funding allowing planning to commence on the project design and feasibility. €442,000 has been granted in this phase.

NThe project will provide for a municipally-owned public access facility to include a small craft slipway that is accessible at all stages of the tide (currently none in public ownership in the greater Dublin area), storage and lock-up resources, watersports event management space, a high-performance centre and NGB accommodation.

The project aims to enhance the profile of Dun Laoghaire as a major international venue for maritime events, shows and conferences. Establish Dun Laoghaire as the 'go-to place' for anything marine – generating revenues Create employment in the county - attract businesses, visitors and events. Grow the market for watersports Promote the services of activity providers to the public. Complement the plan to develop Dun Laoghaire as a 'destination.'

As of January 1 2021, The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has approved the applicant project and DLRCC are expected to appoint a team to further advance the project.

©Afloat 2020