Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Kilkeel Lifeboat Aids Fishing Boat On Fire

27th February 2016
Kilkeel RNLI crew member Alexander McCauley boards the stricken vessel Kilkeel RNLI crew member Alexander McCauley boards the stricken vessel Credit: RNLI/Kilkeel

#RNLI - Kilkeel RNLI went to the aid of the fishing boat which reported a fire in its engine room on Wednesday evening (24 February).

The 14m fishing vessel, with two men on board, was 11 miles south-east of Kilkeel when the incident was reported at 5.20pm.

Arriving on the scene, the lifeboat crew found that the fire had been extinguished but there was a problem with the steering.

Kilkeel RNLI volunteer crew member Alexander McCauley boarded the stricken vessel to assess the damage and address the steering issues.

Once repaired, the fishing vessel headed for Kilkeel but after about two miles under her own steam the steering broke down again, with the rudder locked to port.

The vessel was then taken under tow by the Kilkeel lifeboat for the remaining five miles to Kilkeel Harbour.

Another local fishing boat, Oceanus with skipper Neil McKee, followed the vessels to Kilkeel, while the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 was also in attendance till the vessel was safely under tow.

The Clogherhead RNLI lifeboat was also dispatched to the scene but was released from duty once the team's Kilkeel colleagues had the situation under control.

Weather conditions during the callout were described as good.

"Putting a crew member aboard another vessel and towing the vessel is something that we practice regularly and everything went smoothly," said Kilkeel RNLI helm Gerry Smyth. "With the conditions being good the rescue went exactly as planned.’

John Fisher, Kilkeel RNLI lifeboat operations manager, added that the successful rescue demonstrated the excellent working relationships that have been developed between the coastguard, Clogherhead RNLI, Rescue 116 and the Kilkeel lifeboat crew.

Kilkeel RNLI's crew for the callout comprised helm Gerry Smyth and crew members William Charleton, Alexander McCauley and Sam Graham.

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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