Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Lough Derg Lifeboat Assists Family of Four on Cruiser Reported on Fire

6th May 2024
Lough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spier as seen from the bow of the 28ft cruiser it took under tow on Sunday 5 May
Lough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spier as seen from the bow of the 28ft cruiser it took under tow on Sunday 5 May Credit: Eleanor Hooker/RNLI

Lough Derg RNLI launched on Sunday afternoon (5 May) to assist a family of four on board a 28ft cruiser reported to be on fire.

Following the request by Valentia Coast Guard just before noon, the inshore lifeboat Jean Spier was under way by 12.16pm with helm Eleanor Hooke and crew Doireann Kennedy, Joe O’Donoghue and Tom Hayes on board. The wind was westerly Force 2 and visibility was very good.

As the lifeboat was launching, the coastguard informed the volunteers that the family — two adults and two infants — had been taken off the casualty vessel and that Killaloe Coast Guard had also launched to assist.

At 12.26am the lifeboat crew could see the casualty vessel just south of Lough Derg Navigation Mark E. The family had transferred onto a 18ft fishing boat which was standing off close by.

A few minutes later the lifeboat came alongside the fishing vessel and found the casualties to be safe, unharmed and wearing their lifejackets.

The skipper of the casualty vessel informed the lifeboat crew that when he noticed smoke and an acrid smell coming from the engine housing, he immediately shut down the engine and with that, the smoke ceased. They were unable to deploy their anchor as it required the engine to be running to operate.

Once satisfied that sufficient time had elapsed and the engine had cooled, the RNLI helm permitted the skipper and an RNLI volunteer to board the casualty vessel.

The skipper found that a piece of cloth was in contact with the engine’s exhaust system, and identified it as the source of the smoke and smell. The cloth was removed and the casualty vessel’s engine started immediately when tried.

The lifeboat informed the coastguard of their findings and of the decision to take one adult and the children onto the lifeboat from the fishing vessel, and to accompany the casualty vessel to Dromineer Harbour with the skipper and an RNLI volunteer on board.

However, at 12.45pm the engine on the casualty vessel failed. As Killaloe Coast Guard were now on scene, the RNLI helm requested that the mother and two infants be transferred to the coastguard lifeboat and be taken ahead to Dromineer.

Given the remote location and the inability to secure the cruiser, the helm made the decision to take the casualty vessel under tow to the closest safe harbour in Dromineer, where it was safely tied alongside at 1.44pm.

Christine O’Malley, lifeboat operations Manager at Lough Derg RNLI, advises boat users: “As we are now heading into the summer season, remember to have your vessel fully serviced before embarking on your journey. If you find yourself in difficulty, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats Team

About The Author Team

Email The Author is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven't put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full-time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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.

© Afloat 2020