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Galway Paddleboarder Issues Water Safety Appeal & Pays Tribute to Those Involved in Sea Rescue

23rd August 2020
Sara Feeney speaks to Lorna Siggins on the RTE podcast Sara Feeney speaks to Lorna Siggins on the RTE podcast

Sara Feeney, the Galway woman who survived 15 hours at sea on paddleboards with her cousin Ellen Glynn, has paid a further tribute to those involved in rescue at sea.

In an interview with RTE Radio 1 Countrywide, she has also appealed to water users to wear a buoyancy aid, to always have a means of communication and to carry a light.

“We owe it to these people to do everything we can to keep ourselves safe,” she said, describing all those involved in rescue on water as “heroes”.

“Lifejackets are a must, there’s no question about it..and even things like a light,” she said. “It is very easy to have a waterproof pouch with you where you can have these things,” she said.

Vessels & a helicopter close by

Ms Feeney described her overnight ordeal in heavy rain, thunder and lightning with her cousin, and how there were times when it felt as if there were vessels and a helicopter close by.

She also described her own concern when they hadn’t been found after being carried by north-easterly winds across the bay from Furbo to south of the Aran island of Inis Oírr – a distance of 17 nautical miles.

Floats attached to crab gear

The floats attached to crab gear owned by fisherman Bertie Donohue off Inis Oírr had probably “saved them” from being swept out into the Atlantic, but she said she also had a sense that perhaps the search pattern had changed to a shore search.

 “It was terrifying to have those thoughts...,” she said, explaining how she feared their those searching for them had “assumed a certain outcome at this point”.

Speaking about their ability to stay calm, she said that being together was crucial.

“I don’t know if Ellen’s age I would have had or had seen so many horror stories about water...Ellen probably was and had total understanding of what was going on, but neither of us really communicated that to each other... we didn’t really say that out loud at the time,” she said.

 “If we had started talking like that, it was just another level of hopelessness we didn’t need,” she said. 

“I wouldn’t have been able to hold it together if she [Ellen] had been in a state of panic,” she said, describing their unspoken joint decision to keep calm.

A “huge thing on her mind” during the night, particularly  after each vessel and helicopter flight which didn’t see them, was that “nobody gets out of this situation...”

“Lots of people don’t get the ending that we did in that situation..so that’s definitely on your mind the whole time,” she said.

Patrick and Morgan Oliver

Patrick and Morgan Oliver of the Claddagh seafaring family, who rescued them in their seven-metre catamaran Johnny Ó, were “wonderful”, she said.

“When you are out there you are thinking that all of these people are out there looking, and you have it in your head that if they do find you ...you are going to be in some sort of trouble...the stress and everything that you cause people...but they were just so kind, the instant we were on the boat just feeling so safe,” she said.

“The fact that there was such a happy ending to this is something we can take from it,” Ms Feeney said.

 “These people who go out and take time out of their own lives without hesitating and put their own safety at risk to look for people that they don’t know...are heroes.”

“Everyone we met along the way was so kind and helpful...it was lovely,” she said.

Hear the extended RTE Radio Countrywide interview here

Published in Galway Harbour
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Galway Port & Harbour

Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south. Galway city and port is located on the northeast side of the bay. The bay is about 50 kilometres (31 miles) long and from 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) to 30 kilometres (19 miles) in breadth.

The Aran Islands are to the west across the entrance and there are numerous small islands within the bay.

Galway Port FAQs

Galway was founded in the 13th century by the de Burgo family, and became an important seaport with sailing ships bearing wine imports and exports of fish, hides and wool.

Not as old as previously thought. Galway bay was once a series of lagoons, known as Loch Lurgan, plied by people in log canoes. Ancient tree stumps exposed by storms in 2010 have been dated back about 7,500 years.

It is about 660,000 tonnes as it is a tidal port.

Capt Brian Sheridan, who succeeded his late father, Capt Frank Sheridan

The dock gates open approximately two hours before high water and close at high water subject to ship movements on each tide.

The typical ship sizes are in the region of 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes

Turbines for about 14 wind projects have been imported in recent years, but the tonnage of these cargoes is light. A European industry report calculates that each turbine generates €10 million in locally generated revenue during construction and logistics/transport.

Yes, Iceland has selected Galway as European landing location for international telecommunications cables. Farice, a company wholly owned by the Icelandic Government, currently owns and operates two submarine cables linking Iceland to Northern Europe.

It is "very much a live project", Harbourmaster Capt Sheridan says, and the Port of Galway board is "awaiting the outcome of a Bord Pleanála determination", he says.

90% of the scrap steel is exported to Spain with the balance being shipped to Portugal. Since the pandemic, scrap steel is shipped to the Liverpool where it is either transhipped to larger ships bound for China.

It might look like silage, but in fact, its bales domestic and municipal waste, exported to Denmark where the waste is incinerated, and the heat is used in district heating of homes and schools. It is called RDF or Refuse Derived Fuel and has been exported out of Galway since 2013.

The new ferry is arriving at Galway Bay onboard the cargo ship SVENJA. The vessel is currently on passage to Belem, Brazil before making her way across the Atlantic to Galway.

Two Volvo round world races have selected Galway for the prestigious yacht race route. Some 10,000 people welcomed the boats in during its first stopover in 2009, when a festival was marked by stunning weather. It was also selected for the race finish in 2012. The Volvo has changed its name and is now known as the "Ocean Race". Capt Sheridan says that once port expansion and the re-urbanisation of the docklands is complete, the port will welcome the "ocean race, Clipper race, Tall Ships race, Small Ships Regatta and maybe the America's Cup right into the city centre...".

The pandemic was the reason why Seafest did not go ahead in Cork in 2020. Galway will welcome Seafest back after it calls to Waterford and Limerick, thus having been to all the Port cities.

© Afloat 2020

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