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Lough Derg Lifeboat Crew Assist Lone Sailor on a Yacht Aground at Bonaveen Point

12th October 2022
Lough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spier approaching the casualty vessel at Fowler Island, north of Bonaveen Point on the Co Clare shore
Lough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spier approaching the casualty vessel at Fowler Island, north of Bonaveen Point on the Co Clare shore Credit: RNLI/Eleanor Hooker

Lough Derg RNLI’s volunteers were called upon to assist a lone sailor on a 36ft yacht aground at Bonaveen Point on Tuesday afternoon (11 October).

At 4.45pm the inshore lifeboat Jean Spier was launched with helm Steve Smyth, Eleanor Hooker and Richard Nolan on board, headed for the reported location at the northwestern shore of Lough Derg above Cloondavaun Bay. Winds were southerly Force 4/5 and gusting, with good visibility.

The lifeboat arrived on scene 20 minutes later at Fowler Island, north of Bonaveen Point on the Co Clare shore.

Two local people, in their lake boat standing off in safe water, came alongside the lifeboat and informed the volunteers it was they who called for assistance after they were unable to assist the person on board the yacht.

They expressed their concern for the skipper on the yacht, who had been aground for the three hours and who they could not safely take off under the conditions due to the casualty’s limited mobility. They had attempted an approach but damaged their propeller on rocks that extend 30 metres from Fowler Island into the lake.

Valentia Coast Guard offered an airlift for the casualty but the RNLI volunteers felt that would prove difficult due to the location and the height of the mast on the yacht.

Studying their lake charts and using their local knowledge, the lifeboat volunteers planned a route to the yacht with the intention to evacuate the casualty.

The helm requested the crew to take up positions in the bow, port and starboard, to take soundings and to report sightings of hazards in the water. Then the helm lifted one engine and skilfully navigated a course around rocks to the casualty vessel.

At 5.41pm the lifeboat reached the stern of the casualty vessel. An RNLI volunteer boarded the yacht to assist the skipper and, with an RNLI volunteer in the bow of the lifeboat, they helped the casualty transfer to the lifeboat.

Once everyone was recovered to the lifeboat, the helm, with one crew member at the stern on the lookout for hazards, immediately began a route back to safe water, after which they assessed the casualty for any injury. The sailor was feeling cold but otherwise well.

Just before 6pm the lifeboat arrived at Cloondevaun Harbour and left the casualty in the care of their friend. The two people in their lake boat also arrived safely to shore, ahead of the lifeboat.

Catherine Gleeson, deputy launching authority at Lough Derg RNLI advises boat users to “carry a means of communication and let someone know your destination and your planned time of arrival”. 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.


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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