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Displaying items by tag: Portaferry

Portaferry on the east shore of the Strangford Narrows at the mouth of Strangford Lough is preparing for a four-day Festival of Sailing, Water activities and Competitions from 5th till 8th July.

The Narrows Series is one of the biggest events in the sailing calendar and draws boats of all classes in the Lough as well as from North Down, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It is supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council and will centre on the Shore Front, where the focus will be on celebrating the village’s maritime heritage. As well as a centre for shipbuilding dating back to the 1800s, it is more recently known for the celebrated Ruffian class yachts, notably the Ruffian 23, designed and built in Portaferry by local brothers Billy and Dickie Brown.

Ruffian 23s on moorings at Portaferry Photo: Karen BrownRuffian 23s on moorings at Portaferry Photo: Karen Brown

The Narrows Series starts on Friday, July 5th, with the Barbuoy Race, which takes the fleet out of the Lough. It is expected that 150 boats will take part.

The festival highlight is a unique opportunity for the public to engage on the water and to cruise the Lough, and fans have an opportunity to sail past the original filming ground of Game of Thrones Winterfell in the National Trust’s Castleward in Strangford town across the Narrows opposite Portaferry. In addition, there will be guided walking tours, boat rafting, live music, sea shanties performance and kids entertainment, as well as local food outlets promoting local produce.

The Portaferry and Strangford Trust Museum is sure to be popular, as is the family-friendly treasure map trial, the National Trust’s Nugent’s Wood trail.

The festival programme can be found on www.strangfordloughregattas.co.uk, on www.facebook.com/Portaferrysailingclub and on X.

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Portaferry RNLI joined the Strangford ferry service and Portaferry Coastguard on Sunday morning (9 June) for a planned man-overboard exercise on Strangford Lough.

The exercise focused on an alert that one, then two people had fallen overboard. There was a Force 4-5 light westerly breeze at the time and a slightly choppy sea.

The ferry crew nominated spotters to track the location of the casualties in the water while their Strangford II rescue boat was launched with three crew onboard.

The importance of loud and precise instruction was demonstrated, and the first casualty was brought out of the water by the ferry’s rescue boat within minutes.

Portaferry RNLI’s volunteer crew launched promptly when contacted by the coastguard and were able to locate the second casualty quickly.

Once they were lifted out of the water, the volunteer lifeboat crew assessed their condition before both were brought to shore and handed over to Portaferry Coastguard, who continued casualty care alongside RNLI volunteers.

Portaferry RNLI and HM Coastguard Portaferry continued with casualty care once ashore | Credit: RNLI/Heather KennedyPortaferry RNLI and HM Coastguard Portaferry continued with casualty care once ashore | Credit: RNLI/Heather Kennedy

The exercise was observed by representatives from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and both the senior and principal engineers from the Strangford ferry service.

After a detailed debrief of the exercise, everyone involved enjoyed breakfast in Portaferry lifeboat station.

Captain Robert Anderson of the Strangford ferry service said: “The exercise went well and highlighted the difficulty of retrieving a casualty from the water.

“It was a valuable hour, and good to have cooperation from both the RNLI and HM Coastguard providing a more realistic scenario rather than our usual drills. The ferry crew responded quickly, worked as a team and gained experience.”

Heather Kennedy, Portaferry RNLI lifeboat operations manager added: “It’s important that anyone visiting open water understands the risks of the environment.

“As we approach the summer holidays, we want everyone to enjoy being around the water, but also want to make sure people stay safe and know what to do in an emergency.

“Check weather and tide times before venturing out, always wear a lifejacket or suitable flotation device for your activity and always carry a means of communication. Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The 200th anniversary of the RNLI was celebrated in Portaferry on Sunday (26 May) with a cross-community service of thanksgiving held in St Patrick’s Community Centre.

The service hosted by Portaferry RNLI was greatly supported by both the local community and those who had travelled from further afield, and included contributions from religious representatives from Portaferry and the surrounding areas of Northern Ireland’s Ards Peninsula.

The audience was entertained by local sea shanty group the Selkies as well as a solo by Father Martin O’Hagan who was accompanied by Zara Quinn.

Speakers and dignitaries on the stage at St Patrick’s Community Centre to celebrate 200 years of the RNLI | Credit: RNLI/Lissa McCullySpeakers and dignitaries on the stage at St Patrick’s Community Centre to celebrate 200 years of the RNLI | Credit: RNLI/Lissa McCully

Among the attendees were the Lord Lieutenant of County Down, Gawn Rowan Hamilton; Mayor Jennifer Gilmour; Jim Shannon MP; Portaferry RNLI operations president John Murray; president of Portaferry RNLI’s fundraising branch Eveleigh Brownlow MBE; and Ards Peninsula Council members.

All at Portaferry RNLI said they wish to express their sincere gratitude to everyone who contributed to or joined them to mark such a important milestone in their charity’s history.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

HM Coastguard requested the launch of Portaferry RNLI’s inshore lifeboat on Friday evening (24 May) to assist a 35ft yacht which was making slow progress after having suffered engine failure eight miles to the north-east of Strangford Bar in Northern Ireland.

As friends and family arrived at Portaferry Lifeboat Station shortly after 6pm to dedicate a bench to the memory of former crew member Billy Ellison, the lifeboat launched with helm Chris Adair and volunteer crew members Scott Blackwood, Oliver Rogers and Gary Meehan onboard.

Conditions at the time had a Force 3-4 southerly light breeze, slightly choppy wave conditions and good visibility.

Once on scene, both members of the stricken yacht’s crew and their dog were observed to be safe and well.

After an assessment of the situation, the yacht crew were happy and able to hoist their mainsail and make their own way to the safety of Ardglass Marina.

Portaferry’s lifeboat returned to station at 7.30pm and after washing and refuelling the boat, the crew enjoyed refreshments with the Ellison family and past Portaferry RNLI lifeboat crew members. Comments were made that perhaps Billy Ellison was watching on.

An hour later, the coastguard contacted Portaferry lifeboat operations manager, Heather Kennedy to report that the yacht was now 1.5 miles out of Ardglass but needed assistance to negotiate the entrance to the marina.

With no other vessel available to assist, the lifeboat crew readied themselves and launched immediately.

Once on scene, a tow was established ensuring the yacht could safely enter the marina where it was met by Newcastle Coastguard.

Kennedy said: “We commend the crew onboard the yacht for raising the alarm when their engine failed. This is always the correct thing to do and a situation can quickly change and greater risks may arise.”

The RNLI reminds all boat owners to check their vessel's engine to ensure they are ready for summer. Always check the weather and tides before venturing out. Always wear a lifejacket or suitable personal flotation device for your activity and always carry a means of calling for help. Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Portaferry RNLI inshore lifeboat was launched on Monday evening to assist a 6-meter fishing vessel which had suffered engine failure close to the Bar Buoy at the entrance into Strangford Lough.

Belfast Coastguard requested the launch of the lifeboat at 6.11 pm, and the lifeboat, with helm Russel McGovern and volunteer crew members Scott Blackwood, Ros Watret, and George Toma onboard, launched at 6.15 pm and immediately made its way to the scene.

According to the volunteer crew, the weather conditions at the time were cloudy but fair, choppy, with a force 4 light breeze from the north. Once on scene, the crew observed the single member of crew to be safe and well.

An assessment of the situation showed that the vessel was unable to continue under its power, so a decision was made to establish a tow. The lifeboat towed the fishing vessel back to the safety of Cook Street Quay.

The lifeboat departed the scene at 7:25 p.m. and was back in the station at 7:30 p.m. Russell McGovern, Portaferry RNLI volunteer lifeboat helm, said, "We would commend the crew onboard the fishing vessel for having a means of calling for help and for raising the alarm when the engine failed."

"We would remind all boat owners to check their vessel's engine to ensure they are ready for summer. Always check the weather and tides before venturing out. Always wear a lifejacket or suitable personal flotation device for your activity and always carry a means of calling for help. Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard," he added.

The incident highlights the importance of being prepared while venturing into the sea, and the tireless work of the RNLI volunteers who are always ready to assist those in need.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Portaferry RNLI came to the aid of four people on St Patrick’s Day (Sunday 17 March) after their ocean-going rowing boat sustained a broken rudder and developed steering problems.

Belfast Coastguard requested the launch of Portaferry RNLI’s inshore lifeboat at 6.01pm to assist the crew of a rowing boat who had reported steering problems north of the South Rock Buoy off the Co Down coast in Northern Ireland.

The lifeboat, Blue Peter V, helmed by Chris Adair and with volunteer crew members Paul Mageean, Patrick Lowry and Molly Crowe onboard, launched shortly after and immediately made its way to the scene. Weather conditions at the time were overcast and choppy with a west-south-westerly Force 4 breeze.

Once on scene, the volunteer crew observed that all were safe and well before assessing the situation.

Given the fact that the crew were unable to make safe progress without their rudder, a decision was made to establish a tow.

The rowing boat was towed to the nearest safe port at Portavogie Harbour and the lifeboat departed at 7.30pm, returning to the station by 8.15pm.

Speaking following the call-out, Heather Kennedy, Portaferry RNLI lifeboat operations manager said: “We would like to commend the crew of the rowing boat for raising the alarm when they got into difficulty; that is always the right thing to do. We were glad to be of assistance and wish the crew well.

“We would remind boat owners ahead of the Easter period to check their vessel and engine to ensure they are ready for the season ahead. Always check the weather before venturing out. Always wear a lifejacket or suitable personal flotation device for your activity and always carry a means of calling for help.

“Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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A former lifeboat crew member who joined the volunteer team at Portaferry RNLI on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland in 1980 when she was just 17 has recently returned to her hometown, where she has now taken up the reins as Lifeboat Operations Manager, a position her father held when she first joined.

Heather Kennedy officially took up the Lifeboat Operations Manager position on 12 October but says it was far from her mind when she moved back to Portaferry last November. She succeeds outgoing Lifeboat Operations Manager Philip Johnston, who led the team for almost five years, having also served for many years as a Deputy Launching Authority and a crew member.

Heather is also involved with the Ruffian 23 sailing class that celebrated its 50th anniversary in Portaferry this summer.

‘The lifeboat was only here a year when I became a crew member at 17 in 1980,’ Heather explains. ‘My dad Billy Brown was the Honorary Secretary as it was known then, and he was the main reason I got involved. I was mad keen to join the crew and the D class lifeboat which eventually moved to the Atlantic 21 class. I trained and passed out as a helm in Cowes but also qualified as a nurse during the same period so after 12 years on the crew, I moved to England for work.’

While sailing always featured in Heather’s life, it wasn’t until she moved home to Portaferry a year ago, that she got involved with the RNLI again: ‘I thought I could quietly come back and volunteer as shore crew which I did for the first few months, but then other people had other ideas for me when the vacancy for Lifeboat Operations Manager came up.’

As for following in her father’s footsteps in becoming the Lifeboat Operations Manager, Heather says taking on the role is an honour: ‘It is a real privilege to be the Lifeboat Operations Manager for a station and I know that when I think of all the Lifeboat Operations Managers that have gone before me and the respect that I have for them. I know I have big boots to fill and that there are expectations when our safe and reliable lifeboat is requested to launch when the time arises.’

Heather has seen significant changes since her time as a crew member and has a variety of new responsibilities.

‘So much has changed since I was a crew member here in the eighties. We now have an Atlantic 85 class lifeboat, all the crew have their individual personal protective equipment (PPE) and there have been so many advancements in technology and equipment, all changes in the good and right way.

‘There has been a lot to get my head around, including everything relating to the crew’s training and the technical and digital side of things, but what I have found so far is that everybody is falling over themselves to help me. I have also had great support from people in the sailing club, the community, and my family. Everyone at the station, including our 25-strong team of lifeboat and shore crew, have been very welcoming, friendly, and supportive, and I have got great help and advice from my fellow launching authorities, including John Murray who was a crew member at the same time as me.’

Wishing her well in the role, Phillip Johnston, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘Heather is helping the RNLI to save lives at sea by carrying out the day-to-day management of the lifeboat station at Portaferry. I want to thank and commend her for the work she has done in her short time in the role to date to authorise the launch of the lifeboat, to provide leadership to the operations team and to ensure that all operational activities are carried out to maintain the lifeboat and all associated equipment. It is a busy volunteer role that I hope she continues to enjoy and finds rewarding as she supports the team around her.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Portaferry RNLI came to the aid of two people on Saturday evening (21 October) after they got cut off by the tide at Rough Island at the northern end of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat at 5.25pm at the request of Belfast Coastguard.

Helmed by Dave Fisher and with crew members Molly Crowe, Rosslyn Watret and George Toma onboard, the lifeboat launched immediately and made its way to the scene at Rough Island, which has a causeway that covers a period of 2-3 hours before high tide.

Weather conditions at the time were good with a Force 3-4 wind and a slight sea state.

Once on scene, the crew observed that the man and woman were both safe and well before taking them onboard the lifeboat and bringing them safely back to shore.

Speaking following the call-out, Heather Kennedy, Portaferry RNLI lifeboat operations manager said: “We were delighted to be able to assist both people safely back to shore.

“We would remind anyone planning a walk to always check weather and tide time signage before venturing out as it can be easy to get caught out by the incoming tide at high water.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The volunteer crew from Portaferry RNLI were requested to launch by Belfast Coastguard shortly before 5pm on Friday (18 August) to assist a sailing yacht in difficulty.

The 28ft yacht with two adults and a child on board had run into trouble off Ardglass on the coast of Co Down in Northern Ireland.

The occupants had found it difficult to make way against the rough weather conditions as Storm Betty approached, and with their engine running low on fuel they radioed the coastguard for assistance.

Under the command of coxswain Gerry McConkey, the all-weather lifeboat The Leonard Kent from Newcastle RNLI launched at 5.40pm to assist Portaferry RNLI’s inshore lifeboat, if required.

Conditions were difficult with an easterly to south-easterly wind and rough waves between two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half metres.

Having first ensured that the three people on board were not in need of any immediate assistance themselves, the lifeboat helm assessed the situation and made the decision that taking the vessel under tow was the safety way to assist the casualties.

The yacht was taken under tow to the nearest safe and suitable port, which was Ardglass Marina, by the Portaferry lifeboat.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Portaferry RNLI came to the aid of kayakers who got into difficulty near Kilard Point late yesterday afternoon (Monday, 7 November).

Portaferry RNLI’s volunteer crew launched their inshore Atlantic 85 class lifeboat promptly at 2.20 pm and made their way to Kilard Point in Strangford Lough. The crew launched in cloudy weather conditions with good visibility, a Force Six south-westerly wind direction and a moderate sea state.

When on scene at 2.30 pm the crew searched the Kilcief shoreline for two kayakers reported to be in one inflatable kayak. After an update from HM Coastguard, the lifeboat crew commenced a search one mile east of St. Patrick’s Rock, Strangford Lough, where they faced weather conditions of a Force 8-10. Whilst completing the search, the crew spotted the two kayakers located 50 yards off the fairway buoy.

The two men who were safe and well were taken onboard the lifeboat and the inflatable kayak was left on scene due to the adverse conditions. The lifeboat crew then took the kayakers to Strangford pontoon where they were transferred into the care of the NI Ambulance service.

Commenting on the call out, Portaferry RNLI Helm Dave Fisher said: ‘Despite the adverse weather conditions on scene, the quick actions by the lifeboat crew resulted in a favourable outcome. Thankfully the two kayakers were returned to shore with no injuries. Their ability to raise the alarm to the Coastguard via a mobile device was the right choice to make’.

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