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Portrush Lifeboat Rescues Kayakers Capsized By 'Freak Wave'

7th July 2014
Portrush Lifeboat Rescues Kayakers Capsized By 'Freak Wave'

#Lifeboats - Portrush RNLI's all-weather lifeboat was launched on Saturday 5 July to reports of kayakers in difficulty at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

Although the sun was shining and it seemed like a good day for kayaking, the weather conditions at sea were choppy with a southwesterly wind that picked up what described as a 'freak wave' that capsized the group.

Two of the kayakers ended up on the rocks at Carrick-a-Rede and the coastguard rescue team were deployed to pick them up while the Portrush lifeboat stood by to offer safety assistance.

Two of the kayaking party who tried to make it back to base were found struggling as the tide changed, and were picked up by the Portrush all-weather crew along with their kayaks.

The party and their kayaks were then transported safely back to Portrush Harbour, where the kayakers disembarked. The whole operation took approximately three hours.

Portrush RNLI had a visiting coxswain on board, Anthony Barclay from Moelfre Lifeboat Station in Anglesey, North Wales.

One of Portrush’s previous lifeboats, Richard Evans, was named after one of the RNLI’s greatest heroes, a holder of two RNLI gold medals for bravery who also hailed from Moelfre.

Barclay said: "It was a privilege to cox the Portrush lifeboat today, and myself and the crew were pleased to have brought the kayakers safely back to Portrush Harbour."

In other news from Portrush, lifeboat chair James Heaney and operations manager Robin Cardwell were presented with a lovely gift from Dorma Healey and her son Steven recently.

On behalf of the station, they accepted a silver medal belonging to Dorma's father Sam Cunningham, ex-coxswain of the Portrush Lifeboat.

The medal was awarded to Cunningham for his outstanding seamanship in the rescue of a number of Greek seamen on the ship Argo Delos, which had run aground just off Malin Head on 2 October 1960.

The rescue was long and difficult in very rough weather, and the lifeboat was on service for over 14 hours.

In all 14 lives were saved thanks to the dedicated volunteer crew of the lifeboat. Each crew member received a ‘Thanks on Vellum’ from the RNLI and special tribute, with each of the crew also receiving an engraved silver tankard in recognition from the Royal Navy's HMS Leopard, which had also helped in the rescue.

Dorma Healy was delighted to present her father's medal to the station. This medal is unique in that it comes with an identical miniature silver medal, which was presented to Cunningham’s wife Dorothy.

For this rescue, the second coxswain at that time, Robert McMullan, also received a bronze medal for his courage displayed during the rescue.

This bronze medal is also displayed in the lifeboat station and was presented by his son Robert, also coxswain of the Portrush lifeboat.

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.

© Afloat 2020

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