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Lough Derg RNLI Volunteer Steve Smyth Becomes Inshore Lifeboat Helm

31st May 2022
Steve Smyth, helm at Lough Derg RNLI (left) with Mark Mitchell, RNLI Assessor
Steve Smyth, helm at Lough Derg RNLI (left) with Mark Mitchell, RNLI Assessor

A volunteer crew member at Lough Derg RNLI has successfully passed out as a helm on the station’s inshore lifeboat.

Following an assessment in theory onshore and an extensive assessment on the water, Steve Smyth was recently passed out as helm with Lough Derg RNLI by Assessor Mark Mitchell. The achievement follows two years of hard work and dedication by Steve.

Steve became a volunteer with Lough Derg RNLI in 2018. He was inspired to join the crew by his own rescue in 2010 by the RNLI which made him want to give something back to the charity. Having friends who were already volunteers with the RNLI including his brother-in-law Owen, a senior helm at Lough Derg RNLI, he had good insight into what was required to train as a crew with the lifeboat.

Steve’s helm training programme began in 2020, just as safeguarding restrictions and lockdowns were being imposed as a consequence of the pandemic. Undaunted, Steve persisted with his programme through the online classes provided by the RNLI, and, in the periods out of lockdown, by training on the water with crew and with Helena Duggan, the station’s Assessor Trainer, something which was a testament to Steve’s commitment and dedication.

An experienced diver, Steve joined the Lough Derg Sub Aqua Club as a trainee diver in 2006 and in 2014 became a Diver Instructor. In 2016 he qualified as a Diver Examiner. Steve also had responsibility as the Regional Dive Officer for the southwest region from 2016 to 2018. He dives mostly in the west and south coasts of Ireland but has also dived with teams in Spain, Malta, France, Mauritius and Florida.

When asked about becoming a RNLI lifeboat helm, Steve said: ‘I do believe it’s not just me who has achieved this but the entire station at Lough Derg RNLI, from the helms, crew, fundraisers, operations team, medical, training, health and safety and mechanic.

It is a team effort. We can’t go afloat without the support, time and effort of each other. We are all one crew. I also want to thank our Assessor Trainer Helena Duggan for all her advice and guidance, Mark Mitchell who carried out the pass out, to Eleanor and Chris, my excellent crew on the day and Cathy, the on-duty Deputy Launching Authority’.

Steve says he will now endeavour to maintain the high standards and professionalism shown by the helms and crew at the station: ‘When the call comes to help, I have faith that my training and experience will enable me to make the correct decisions day or night.

‘As all RNLI volunteers are aware, it is the understanding from our families that enables us to fulfil our roles, and I want to say a huge thanks for the support and encouragement from my wife Clodagh and my two boys Cathal and Darragh.’

Steve has worked hard and consistently to achieve this goal, and all of his fellow volunteers send their heartiest congratulations.

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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