And the lifesaving charity is calling for the public to think ahead and never underestimate the strength and power of the sea and inland waters as it today releases its 2014 lifeboat launch and rescue statistics, based on detailed returns of service, from each of its 45 lifeboat stations in Ireland.
The figures show more people are getting into difficulty on leisure craft, and the RNLI advises that proper safety advice and maintenance is vital to ensure people stay safe on the water.
The busiest lifeboat station on the island of Ireland last year was Lough Ree RNLI in Athlone. The charity’s lifeboat crew there launched 69 times and brought 142 people to safety.
This was followed by Howth RNLI, which had 62 launches and brought 107 people to safety, making it their busiest year ever.
Dun Laoghaire RNLI in south Dublin launched 56 times and brought 55 people to safety, while lifeboat crews on the Aran Islands off Galway and Arranmore Island off Donegal launched 78 times, helping 80 people.
Enniskillen RNLI on Lough Erne, which operates two separate lifeboat stations on the upper and lower lough, also had a busy year with 59 calls for assistance and 57 people brought ashore.
Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Bangor RNLI in Co Down was the busiest single site station, launching 49 times and helping 51 people. Portrush RNLI on the Antrim coast launched their lifeboats 31 times and brought 28 people to safety.
In all, RNLI lifeboats in Northern Ireland launched 261 times in 2014, bringing 281 people to safety, while the charity’s lifeguards helped 284 people on 10 beaches during the season.
Compared to the previous year, when they launched 255 times, NI lifeboat launches show a slight increase. A total of 36 more people were brought to safety by RNLI lifeboats in 2014.
While lifeboat launch figures throughout the island of Ireland remain largely the same as last year, there has been a 10% increase in the amount of people brought to safety by lifeboats.
The types of callouts that the RNLI responded to last year included aid to leisure craft users (536), assistance to fishing vessels (140), help to people who got into difficulty along the shoreline (119) and to people in the water (185).
"These figures are based on every lifeboat station in the RNLI returning a detailed service report and are a valuable insight into what our volunteer lifeboat crews are facing when they launch and what conditions they face," said RNLI operations manager Owen Medland.
"Overall 35% of our lifeboat callouts were carried out in the hours of darkness. Almost half of the callouts last year were to leisure vessels and of these callouts many were to groundings and engine problems.
"Breaking down at sea or on a lough can be a frightening experience. Weather and darkness can turn a bad situation very serious in a matter of minutes. Nobody who sets out thinks anything bad will happen but calling for help early is always the right choice."
Medland continued: "Our volunteer lifeboat and shore crews have shown the commitment and courage we have come to rely on them for, but we must also thank our supporters and fundraisers, who work tirelessly to ensure the charity, which is dependent on donations from the public continues.
"There are also hundreds of employers around the country who let our lifeboat crews drop what they are doing and respond to a callout. We would not be able to run this service without them and we are extremely grateful to them for that."
Last year also saw the introduction of the RNLI’s 45th lifeboat station in Ireland, when Union Hall RNLI in south west Cork went on trial for a 24-month period in November.
And in the coming months, Lough Swilly RNLI in Buncrana, Co Donegal will become the first station in Ireland to receive the new Shannon-class lifeboat.
The €2.4 million lifeboat, which is due to arrive later this year, is the first class of lifeboat to be named after an Irish river, recognition by the charity of the role of Irish lifeboat crews and volunteers throughout the history of the RNLI.
In 2014 the charity marked 190 years of lifesaving and the RNLI is aiming to reduce coastal drowning significantly by 2024.
To do this, it will be expanding its preventative work and will launch Respect the Water, engaging with water users on how to stay safe and maintain their equipment. Water safety advice is available on rnli.org/safety.