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Four Calls In 24 Hours For Portaferry Lifeboat

31st May 2014
Four Calls In 24 Hours For Portaferry Lifeboat

#RNLI - The volunteer lifeboat crew at Portaferry RNLI responded to four separate calls in the space of 24 hours between Thursday 29 and Friday 30 May.

The first call was received at 6.07pm on Thursday to help four people on board a small powerboat with engine problems near Church Point in the Strangford Narrows area of Strangford Lough.

Weather at the time was cloudy with good visibility, a calm sea and Force 2 easterly winds. The volunteer crew launched at 6.13pm and were on scene with the two adults and two children onboard the powerboat within three minutes.

By this stage the people onboard the powerboat had managed to re-start their engine and made their way to the pontoons at Strangford. The RNLI crew made sure that everyone onboard the vessel was safely on shore before the volunteer lifeboat crew returned to station at Portaferry.

Not long after, a second call was received at 8.40pm from HM Coastguard requesting the RNLI to investigate a 10-metre yacht that appeared to have slipped its moorings and beached near the old Katherine Quay in Strangford, Co Down.

Once again, the weather was cloudy with good visibility, a calm sea and Force 1 easterly wind. The volunteer crew launched at 8.45pm and were on scene two minutes later, where they found two men on board and helped fix a line to secure the yacht so that it would not drift when the tide rose.

Once the yacht was secured, the lifeboat crew confirmed that the two men were happy to remain onboard while the lifeboat crew returned to station in Portaferry.

The third and final call of the evening was received 9.57pm from two men onboard another 10-metre yacht with engine problems some 10 miles south-east of the Strangford Bar at the mouth of Strangford Lough.

The two men had set out earlier that evening from Portaferry to travel to Peel Harbour in the Isle of Man. The volunteer crew launched at 10.02pm and reached the stricken yacht at 10.35pm.

Once the vessel was located, they put a lifeboat crew member on board and started to tow the vessel and its crew towards Peel Harbour in the Isle of Man, letting the larger all-weather lifeboat from Peel RNLI take over as they approached. The Portaferry crew departed the scene at 11.20pm.

The fourth call was received at 4.50pm on Friday, requesting the volunteer crew to go to the aid of six people, five in canoes and one in a small motorboat, who had got into difficulty just off Church Point.

The RNLI volunteers launched the lifeboat at 4.50pm and arrived at the scene five minutes later. Weather conditions were similar to Thursday, cloudy with good visibility, a calm sea and a Force 1 northerly wind.

On scene, the lifeboat crew discovered that the small motorboat had gone to help five adults in two canoes who were entering the Narrows area of Strangford Lough.

Having secured the two canoes, the motorboat itself started to experience engine problems, resulting in all three craft starting to drift towards the SeaGen tidal power turbine in the Narrows.

The volunteer lifeboat crew intercepted the six people at the Scotsman Rocks South, just south of Strangford, taking all on board the lifeboat, securing the small motorboat and two canoes and bringing all safely into Strangford Marina where they were put ashore.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.


While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset


While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

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