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Displaying items by tag: Galway Bay

The two Galway fishermen who rescued two paddleboarders in August have been honoured at a mayoral reception.

Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard described Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan as “Claddagh royalty” when he presented them with a framed presentation scroll and a bronze model of a traditional Irish currach.

The presentation at a tightly controlled event in Salthill’s Leisureland was in honour of their achievements in saving the lives of Galway cousins Sara Feeney and Ellen Glynn in August.

Mr Cubbard said that "the rescue highlights the fantastic community spirit which exists in Galway as hundreds of people across the city and county offered their help with the search operation".

The cousins who were also recognised for their bravery survived 15 hours at sea after they were swept some 17 nautical miles across the bay and towards the Atlantic in mid August.

The fishermen have already been awarded the Afloat.ie National Seamanship Trophy for their efforts.

The Olivers recorded another rescue when they pulled a man from the river Corrib last month.

Published in Galway Harbour

The Irish Coast Guard has said it is reviewing the rescue of two young women who survived 15 hours at sea on paddleboards after they were swept across Galway Bay.

As The Irish Independent reports today, Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly has called for the findings of a review to be made public, with recommendations for future rescues.

Cousins Sara Feeney (23) and Ellen Glynn (17) were clinging to crab gear floats south of the Aran islands when they were found by Galway fishermen Patrick and Morgan Oliver on August 13th.

A major air-sea search had been tasked by Valentia Marine Rescue Sub-Centre after they failed to return from a short paddle on the air-filled boards off Furbo beach, some 12km west of Galway on the evening of August 12th.

The Olivers joined the search on Thursday morning, and headed straight for the Aran islands at the mouth of the bay, guessing that this was the most likely location in a north-easterly wind.

The two women, who had lashed their boards together and were wearing buoyancy aids but no wetsuits, had been carried 17 nautical miles from their original location at this point.

The Irish Coast Guard has confirmed that a review into the incident is “ongoing”, and is “in common with all Coast Guard search and rescue interventions”.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has said it is not conducting an inquiry.

However, Ms Connolly (Ind) has said while such a review by the Irish Coast Guard is “welcome as a first step”, it should be conducted “reasonably quickly”.

“I also believe that findings and recommendations should be made public so that lessons can be learned,” Ms Connolly said.

She paid tribute to the Oliver family, originally from the Claddagh, for their response, and to all those who had participated in the extensive search on sea, in the air and on both sides of Galway Bay.

Read The Irish Independent report here

Published in Galway Harbour
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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
Tagged under

Galway RNLI lifeboat has rescued a kite surfer who got into difficulty in inner Galway Bay on Saturday evening.

The man, who is in his early thirties, had set off from Ballyloughane beach near Renmore at about 4.50 pm as the tide was going out. A north-westerly breeze of force three to four was blowing at the time, and the man came off his board a number of times.

He was very fatigued when he was blown onto Rabbit Island, and the alarm was raised by a member of the public at 5 pm.

The Irish Coastguard tasked the Galway RNLI inshore lifeboat, and the man was rescued at about 5.20 pm. He was wearing a wetsuit, but not a lifejacket, according to Galway RNLI.

RNLI Galway deputy launch authority, Mike Cummins, said that a key factor when taking to the water for any water sports activities is a “knowledge of the local tides and wind direction”.

The RNLI Galway volunteer crew on the callout were helmsman Declan Killilea, crew Brian Niland, Joanne Casserly and David McGrath, and shore crew Sean King and David Oliver.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Aran island fisherman Bertie Donohue says he is “amazed” at the resilience of the two young Galway women who survived a 15-hour ordeal after their paddleboards were swept across Galway bay last week.

“They are two very tough, very brave girls – and I don’t know how they managed to hold on to my fishing gear in that location,” the crab fisherman from Cill Éinne on Inis Mór says.

When he heard that Sara Feeney (23) and Ellen Glynn (17) had secured themselves to floats off the Aran island of Inis Oírr, after being carried across the bay last Wednesday night, he knew immediately this was his crab gear.

Aran fisherman Bertie Donohue and the sling that Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney secured boards toAran fisherman Bertie Donohue and the sling that Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney secured boards to

The fisherman, who processes brown crab on Inis Mór, said he had planned to move the gear early last week, but said: “something stopped him”.

Bertie's boat named VentureBertie's boat named Venture

“That was one of three sets of pots I laid off “The Finish”, some two-miles south-west of Inis Oírr, but it was the outer set of gear,” he said.

“If they had missed it, they would be out in the Atlantic,” he said.

The chart areaThe chart area

Mr Donohue said that “what had happened to those two girls could happen to any of us”.

He said their own ability to keep calm had been key to their survival – along with their rescue by fishermen Patrick and Morgan Oliver of Galway RNLI.

When the two exhausted women fully realised their location after fog lifted last Thursday morning, the Cliffs of Moher were just south of them and the wide Atlantic just west.

The 20 knot north-easterly had carried them diagonally across Galway Bay towards Black Head, during a night of heavy rain and lightning.

Wearing only buoyancy aids over their swim togs, they tried to paddle up to Inis Oirr with the wind still against them.

It was at that point that they spotted the floats and grabbed hold of the gear, securing the sling through the webbing on the boards.

They had already wisely lashed the two boards together when they were carried south-west of Furbo beach by the offshore wind.

“I don’t know how they survived that night as there was awful weather, and that north-easterly is cold and makes a very bad chop in the sea when you are away from shore,” Mr Donohue said.

“That is a very exposed location, and I only set the gear there to help another fisherman, who lost 200 pots last October when his boat sank in Inis Oírr,” he explained.

“And his boat sank in a north-easterly, the same wind those girls had, which just shows you how tough that weather is,”Mr Donohue said.

Mr Donohue lifted the pots at the weekend, and there was a good catch of crab.

The two women and their families, from Knocknacarra, Galway, have paid tribute to all those who participated in the search and the rescue, and have said they cannot thank the Olivers enough.

Three Irish Coast Guard helicopters, RNLI Aran and Galway lifeboats, Doolin and Costello Bay, Garda, the Civil Defence, local fishing and leisure craft, along with Galway Flying Club, Aer Arann and many volunteers had participated, and it was co-ordinated by Valentia Marine Rescue Sub-Centre.

Former Irish Coast Guard search and rescue pilot Dave Courtney, author of the memoir Nine Lives, says that questions need to be asked as to why the rescue took so long.

The Irish Coast Guard has said the search for the two women covered a 200 square mile sea area.

It said it was using SARMAP - the US software used effectively by Valentia Coast Guard in 2011 to track the probable location of the crew of the yacht Rambler which capsized in the Fastnet yacht race off West Cork.

“ The search was just moving into the south-west of the Inis Oirr sector ...with both aviation and surface assets when the fishing vessel Johnny Ó came upon them. It is highly likely they would have been detected within the following one to two hours as it was daylight,”it says.

Published in Galway Harbour
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Taylor Swift songs and shooting stars sustained cousins Ellen Glynn (17) and Sara Feeney (23) during their 15-hour overnight ordeal on paddleboards in Galway Bay.

“I think I know every line of Taylor Swift – we sang them all,” Ellen told The Irish Examiner, speaking from her ward in University Hospital Galway yesterday.

“What I would really like to do is to thank the hundreds of people who came out on boats, planes, in helicopters, on foot, and said prayers and lit candles and raised the alarm on social media,” she said.

Describing how she and her cousin kept their cool during the long hours of darkness, she recalled how she sang every Taylor Swift song she knew.

They saw a meteor shower of shooting stars, they kept memorising the lights of Furbo and Spiddal on the exposed northerly shore for as long as they could see them, and “we would each talk about what we’d do when we get home”.

Ellen said that both a helicopter and a vessel were close enough to light up the sea around them, at one point.

There was lightning and heavy rain, and waves became bigger and they were “shivering uncontrollably”, she said.

When sun rose, visibility was poor – but as the fog lifted, they realised just how far they had been swept, with the Cliffs of Mother just south of them, the Aran island of Inis Oirr to the north, and the Atlantic to the west.

“I had thought we were being carried into Galway, but we were being swept in the opposite direction,” she said.

When Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan located them on their seven-metre Johnny O at around midday on Thursday, some two to three nautical miles south-west of Inis Oírr, Ellen says they told the two men they thought “no one was looking for them”.

“And they said ‘do you know how many people are out looking for you’”, she laughed.

More in The Irish Examiner here

Published in Galway Harbour
Tagged under

It says everything about the announcement that Patrick Oliver of The Claddagh in Galway and his son Morgan are to receive the Afloat.ie National Seamanship Trophy with immediate effect, when we realise that everyone in the country will know exactly what it's for without any further explanation.

Their brilliant rescue on Thursday of two paddle-boarders, who had been blown right across Galway Bay overnight in strong to gale force nor'easters, such that they were 17 sea miles from their start-point in Connemara at Furbo Beach, and south of the Aran Islands, involved genius-level detailed navigational and sea and wind calculations.

When the Olivers set off on their search, they went directly from Galway to Black Head in northwest Clare, and then southwest leaving Inish Oirr to starboard. Map by Irish Times

The last time we made a similar immediate award was jointly with Irish Sailing three years ago in August 2017, when Simon Hoffman of Australia, and Santiago Alegre of Spain, succeeded in a heroic rescue of Cork's Johnny Durcan when he had been completely trapped and was in danger of drowning under his capsized 29er during a major championship in California.

The Hoffman-Alegre award was for bravery, as both sailors had to dive under the 29er's sails and haul Johnny underwater through ropes and other clutter to save his life. But in this instance, as there's no sailing involved, Afloat.ie are going it alone. And as Patrick and Morgan were not themselves in personal danger, the award is for Seamanship.

But what Seamanship it is…..it cannot be said often enough that it has been an instance of completely brilliant seamanship up to the point of genius. The Oliver family are "Claddagh Fishing Royalty", with a flotilla of fishing boats – "too many", they quip - for various purposes. But as Patrick (40) and his son Morgan (18) absorbed the news of the lack of success in the increasingly grim search in Galway Bay on Wednesday night, they set to work ashore, analyzing the way the tides would have been running, and the effect the almost freakish winds – gale force at times – would have affected surface drift.

Then first thing Thursday morning, the pair of them set off in their "little speedboat", a 7 metre Cheetah Class catamaran powered with "two enormous outboards". This is an outfit which they acquired from Kilmore Quay in Wexford, a port where they also know a thing or two about fast lobster and crab fishing boats.

Thus while other craft were combing Galway Bay in an increasingly despairing search pattern, the Oliver team streaked straight down the Bay at 20 knots and then on out of the Bay, only beginning their searching – and in a focused southwesterly direction at that – once they'd got well past Black Head, the imposing northwest headland of County Clare.

Patrick and Morgan Oliver's 7 metre Cheetah ClassThe fastest lobster boat in the west? Patrick and Morgan Oliver's 7-metre Cheetah Class is well able to reach 20 knots. They sourced this special machine in Kilmore Quay in County Wexford. Photo: Pierce Purcell

With calculations now in overdrive, they were two miles south of Inish Oirr – the most easterly of the Aran Islands – with the unforgiving Cliffs of Moher the nearest bit of the mainland, when Morgan's eagle-eyes spotted the two women paddle-boarders – still with their boards - attached as best they could to a lobster pot marker.

Patrick and Morgan have nothing but praise for the calmness and resilience of Sara Feeney (23) and her cousin Ellen Glynn (17) in coming through their 15 hours-plus nightmare.

It had started with a freakishly warm and calm evening in Furbo, with the sea temperature at the beach - as we reported in Afloat.ie – at 19 degrees centigrade. It was so calm and quiet that the two paddleboarders could make their way gently along the shoreline, chatting with those on the sand.

But then the underlying new gradient wind from the nor'east started to make its catspaws on the water as dusk set in, and with the cooling effect of the evening, the land temperatures fell much more quickly than the warm sea, rapidly accelerating the now combined gradient wind and this growing wind off the land, which in turn gained further power from building thunderstorms.

Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued cousins Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney off Inis Oirr island, with some of Patrick’s RNLI colleagues on their arrival back at the Galway RNLI Lifeboat Station at Galway DocksPatrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued cousins Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney off Inis Oirr island, with some of Patrick’s RNLI colleagues on their arrival back at the Galway RNLI Lifeboat Station at Galway Docks. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

In an incredibly short time as night fell, the scene was transformed, and the two paddleboarders found themselves being blown out into the lightning-pierced darkness in a near gale. While they both had lifejackets, neither wore a wetsuit, so despite the warm sea, there was a growing risk of hypothermia.

But despair would have been their greatest enemy had they allowed it to take over, so they lashed their paddleboards together using the little painter lines, and kept each other's spirits up by singing and chat, while if one felt sleep coming on, the other let her have a nap while keeping a lookout and a watch on her cousin.

They were in the Atlantic by the time dawn came on, having passed almost exactly midway between Inish Oirr and Clare. But with the light of the new day, they spotted the pot-marker which was to be their saving, and though both painter ropes were already being used to keep the paddleboards together as a sort of life-saving raft, they were able to utilise the side-webbing on the boards to create an atttachment to the pot-marker line - they weren't "clinging on" as initial reports suggested.

And there they waited, in the middle of nowhere with the Atlantic swell for company, until the genius in reading the ways of the sea of Patrick and Morgan Oliver in their little 22ft "lobster speedster" arrived on almost a straight line from Black Head to scoop them up.

There'll have been some shrewd offshore racing campaigners who, when they heard just how accurately this remarkable father-and-son crew calculated precisely where the paddleboarders would be, might understandably have got to thinking that there's the making of an astonishing offshore racing tactical team here.

Patrick (who has served with the Galway lifeboat) and Morgan Oliver return with their very efficient rescue vessel to Galway Port, accompanied by the Galway LifeboatJob done. Patrick (who has served with the Galway lifeboat) and Morgan Oliver return with their very efficient rescue vessel to Galway Port, accompanied by the Galway Lifeboat. Photo: Galway RNLI

But equally, there'll be HR managers in some high-powered organisations who will be impressed by the cool and calm and resilient way in which Sara and Ellen dealt with their appalling predicament. For sure, they'd made an awful mistake. But anyone who never made mistakes never made anything. It's how you handle the outcome that ultimately matters, so Sara and Ellen are two very special people.

And as for their rescuers, a simple award scarcely does justice to the achievement of Patrick and Morgan Oliver. But it's something we can do to mark the great joy they have brought to Ireland this weekend.

Published in News Update
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Salthill’s Blackrock Diving Tower reopened yesterday (Wednesday 12 August) with Galway city officials keeping a watchful eye after it was closed following reports of overcrowding, according the Connacht Tribune reports.

Access to the tower was barred on Tuesday amid social distancing fears as crowds made the most of the sunny weather to take a dip in the warming waters of Galway Bay — which may have also helped keep alive two paddle boarders rescued earlier today after 15 hours at sea.

A spokesperson said the council will continue to monitor crowds at the tower to ensure social distancing in the queue to the platform is maintained.

The Connacht Tribune has more on the story HERE.

Published in Galway Harbour

Following a major search and rescue operation on Galway Bay overnight and this morning (13 August 2020), two women have been found safe and well off Inis Oir after spending 15 hours out at sea.

Former Galway RNLI lifeboat crew member and current shore crew member and fisherman Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan joined the search early this morning and discovered the two women on their boards holding on to a lobster pot about two miles south west of Inis Oir.

Despite spending the night out on the water in extreme conditions, the women did not require medical attention. They had drifted almost 20 miles when discovered. They were taken onboard the fishing vessel, the Johnny O, and after disembarking, walked up the pier where they were medically assessed by Coast Guard personnel.

The 23-year-old woman and 17-year-old teenager who are cousins, had gone paddle boarding at about 9 o’clock last night from Furbo Beach when a sudden north wind blew them out to sea. A relative of the women raised the alarm and the Irish Coast Guard immediately launched a major search and rescue operation which continued throughout the night and today.

Galway RNLI launched its inshore lifeboat at 10pm (last night) and stayed out throughout the night changing crew three times. They were joined immediately by the Aran Island RNLI all-weather lifeboat and the Irish Coast Guard Rescue helicopter 115 from Shannon. Two further Coast Guard Rescue helicopters from Sligo and Waterford joined this morning, along with Coast Guard lifeboats from Oranmore/Maree, Cashla Bay and Doolin while the Civil Defence carried out a search along the north shore co-ordinated by the Gardai. Galway Flying Club and Aer Arann also joined the search.

There were scenes of jubilation and joy in both Galway and Aran Island RNLI Lifeboat stations when fisherman Patrick Oliver rang the Galway Lifeboat station with the good news.

Barry Heskin, Galway RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said the two women kept their heads and did the right thing: ‘We are absolutely delighted that it has all worked out well.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton has praised the coastguard, Garda and local volunteers for their quick response in the rescue of two missing paddle boarders in Galway Bay today, Thursday 13 August.

As reported earlier on Afloat.ie, the two young women were found clinging to a lobster pot marker off Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands after a major overnight search and rescue operation.

Naughton, the Fine Gael TD for Galway West, said: “I would like to offer my sincere gratitude and thanks to all members of the Irish Coast Guard, An Garda Síochána and local volunteers who worked tirelessly overnight and this morning in the search for the two missing paddle boarders since the alarm was raised last night.

“Their quick thinking and bravery have resulted in the safe return of two young ladies to their families today.

“The appreciation of the work of our emergency services can be heard in the shared sigh of relief not just across Galway, but indeed nationwide, as the good news reached us this afternoon.

“Thankfully this most recent event has had a happy ending; however, it is imperative for us all to be vigilant of the sea and the elements as we enjoy our coastline during the fine weather.

“Just last month I launched the newly updated Safety on the Water website in collaboration between the coastguard, RNLI, Water Safety Ireland, Irish Sailing and BIM. I would invite everyone to familiarise themselves with the guidance that has been provided by those who know our waters the best by visiting www.safetyonthewater.gov.ie

Published in Galway Harbour
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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