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Howth RNLI Father & Daughter Lifeboat Team Help Launch Christmas Appeal

13th December 2021
RNLI Father and daughter: Jen Harris and her father Stephen
RNLI Father and daughter: Jen Harris and her father Stephen

A father and daughter who volunteer to save lives at sea with Howth RNLI and who will be on call over Christmas have asked the public to support the charity’s Christmas appeal. Stephen Harris has been a Deputy Launching Authority at the station since 2014 while his daughter Jen joined a month before the first lockdown. The busy lifeboat station has remained on call throughout the pandemic and the lifeboat crew will be ready to launch the lifeboats, as always, if they are needed.

With over 1,500 lifeboat volunteers around Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save everyone from drowning – the charity’s mission since 1824. This Christmas many will leave loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned.

Having returned from 6 months studying abroad in New Zealand Jen Harris joined the lifeboat crew in February 2020 only to see her training halted as the country went into lockdown. However, she stayed involved doing what training she could on land while the experienced lifeboat crew continued to respond to emergencies. When training restarted, she continued with her training plan and is now well on the way to being a fully-fledged lifeboat volunteer. No stranger to the water, Jen was a sailing and powerboat instructor when she was younger. On her return home to Ireland, she approached her dad about volunteering with the RNLI and had a chat to the lifeboat crew. She is currently trainee crew on Howth inshore lifeboat and is looking to be lifeboat crew on the All-Weather Lifeboat too. She is proudly following in her father Stephen’s footsteps as he was lifeboat crew in Dun Laoghaire from 1985 to 1987.

An archive photo from Dun Laoghaire RNLI featuring Stephen as volunteer lifeboat crew at the stationAn archive photo from Dun Laoghaire RNLI featuring Stephen as volunteer lifeboat crew at the station

Talking about her reason for volunteering with the RNLI Jen said, ‘I had been thinking about joining the lifeboat crew for a while. I’ve grown up around boats and I know how important the service the RNLI provides is to the community. The training I am undergoing is intense and it should be. It’s a massive commitment and one I’m happy to give and of course dad loves that I’m involved. The kit that we have and the level of training we receive is so impressive and it’s funded by generous donations. People can see where the money they give goes. There is a big orange boat sitting in the harbour and that’s our office. Everything we have is thanks to people supporting the charity.’

Dad Stephen is rightly proud of his daughter but it’s not surprising as they are two of a total of eight family members involved in the RNLI, with cousins at Dunmore East in County Waterford and Kilkeel in County Down. Stephen was lifeboat crew at Dun Laoghaire RNLI for three years before he moved away to Clontarf. Now living in Howth he was approached to join the station by the former Lifeboat Operations Manager Rupert Jeffares and joined as a Deputy Launching Authority.

Commenting on the Christmas appeal Stephen said, ‘The rescues we do would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. This year my daughter is on the crew and will be out on rescues soon. Since I was a lifeboat volunteer, I’ve seen the RNLI’s equipment and lifeboat technology advance and evolve, keeping the lifesavers safe and helping them reach the casualties quickly. I’m proud to be involved and now a proud father of a lifesaver too.’

To donate to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Afloat.ie Team

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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.

FAQs

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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