Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Larne Lifeboats Called Out to Swimmer in Difficulty Outside Portmuck Harbour

4th October 2023
File image of Larne RNLI’s inshore and all-weather lifeboats in the water
File image of Larne RNLI’s inshore and all-weather lifeboats Credit: RNLI/Larne

Larne RNLI came to the aid of a swimmer who got into difficulty half a mile from Portmuck Harbour on Wednesday afternoon (4 October).

The station’s volunteers were requested by Belfast Coastguard to launch both their all-weather and inshore lifeboats before 12.30pm.

It followed a 999 call from a member of the public who raised the alarm after they observed two swimmers who they thought were not making any progress against a strong offshore wind on Northern Ireland’s East Antrim coast.

There was a Force 4-5 south-westerly wind blowing at the time that the all-weather lifeboat, under coxswain Barry Kirkpatrick, and the inshore lifeboat, helmed by Chris Dorman, were launched.

Arriving on scene first, the all-weather lifeboat crew quickly located a casualty around half a mile from the harbour and brought him onboard the lifeboat. He was cold but otherwise safe and well and in good spirits.

The second swimmer had managed to make his way safely back to shore unaided. The inshore lifeboat crew checked he too was safe and well before taking the first swimmer onboard and bringing both ashore and into the care of the Portmuck Coastguard team.

Speaking following the call-out, Phil Ford-Hutchinson, Larne RNLI’s deputy launching authority said: “We would like to commend the member of the public who raised the alarm today when they spotted what they thought was two swimmers in difficulty; that is always the right thing to do. We would also like to commend the swimmers who had swim floats with them.

“We would remind anyone planning an activity at sea to always go prepared. Check weather and tide times before venturing out, let someone on the shore know where you are going and when you are due back, carry a means of communication such as a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch and should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112, and ask for the coastguard.” 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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