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Portrush Lifeboat Launches to Fishing Vessel Adrift With Engine Trouble

9th March 2022
Portrush RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat returns to base after a successful tow in difficult conditions
Portrush RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat returns to base after a successful tow in difficult conditions Credit: RNLI/Debs Smyth

It was a busy afternoon on International Women’s Day for one of Portrush RNLI’s three women crew volunteers as the lifeboat was launched on Tuesday 8 March to reports of a fishing vessel in difficulty.

The 26ft vessel with two men on board had reported engine problems and was drifting towards land on Northern Ireland’s North Coast.

In response, the all-weather lifeboat launched at 12.46pm. Weather conditions were overcast with a choppy sea and bitterly cold southerly winds with gusts of around 50mph (80kmh).

The lifeboat arrived on scene at 1.34pm and the crew carried out a dynamic risk assessment to decide on the most appropriate course of action for the fishermen and their vessel.

The fishermen had been dragging their anchor but were forced to deploy the extra weight of their trawling gear to anchor the boat until Portrush RNLI arrived on scene.

It was agreed that the best plan was to attach a tow line and tow the vessel to safety and to the nearest harbour which was Greencastle.

The anchor and the trawl gear were left in situ with a floating buoy for recovery later.

Following a successful tow, the volunteer crew — which included Debs Smyth, one of Portrush’s three female crew members — returned to station at 4.49pm.

Beni McAllister Lifeboat Operations Manager said: “Once the crew arrived on scene, as always, an assessment was carried out along with the crew of the stricken vessel to agree the best course of action. This is a procedure that our crew carry out and train for on a regular basis.

“We are glad we were able to get the vessel and her crew to safety.”

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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.

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