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Crews from the Aran Islands and Galway RNLI stations took part in a joint training exercise on inner Galway Bay this past Saturday (27 January).

The training was an opportunity for the crews from the two flanking stations to work together on a number of boat-handling and seamanship exercises to prepare for future joint search and rescue missions.

Brian Niland, helm with Galway RNLI who led the exercise for the Galway crew said: “We were delighted to welcome the Aran Islands RNLI crewm onboard the all-weather Severn class lifeboat David Kirkaldy, to Galway for a training exercise off Salthill.

“It was impressive to see the larger Aran Islands lifeboat and see how the two lifeboats can work side by side.

“The training was a great learning experience for both crews and will help us when we are requested to launch together, to help those in danger in the water. Our volunteer lifeboat crews spend many hours training so we can meet the dangers and challenges we face at sea.”

Galway RNLI crew on board the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Binny leaving Galway Port with the Aran Islands RNLI crew on board the all-weather Severn lifeboat David Kirkaldy | Credit: RNLI/Aoife MorrissyGalway RNLI crew on board the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Binny leaving Galway Port with the Aran Islands RNLI crew on board the all-weather Severn lifeboat David Kirkaldy | Credit: RNLI/Aoife Morrissy

Aran Islands RNLI coxswain Aonghus Ó hIarnáin said: “Saturday’s training exercise was a good chance to meet the Galway crew and show what the lifeboat from each station is capable of.

“The type of lifeboat a station has depends on geographical features, the kind of rescues the station is involved in and the cover provided by neighbouring lifeboat stations.

“Our Severn class lifeboat is designed for the offshore long jobs we face in the toughest weather, while the Galway Atlantic class lifeboat is one of the fastest in the fleet and is ideal for rescues close to shore, near cliffs and rocks which may be inaccessible to our all-weather lifeboat. Working together we are able to carry out search and rescue throughout Galway Bay.

“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, RNLI lifeboat crews are ready to answer the call to rescue. If you see someone in trouble at the coast call 112 or 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The legendary “Craggy Island” will once again be recreated on the Aran island of Inis Mór when it hosts the annual TedFest in March.

The festival, inspired by the television series Father Ted with the late Dermot Morgan, has become a significant bookmark for the island’s tourist season with a weekend of “high-jinx” and harmless fun.

Set to run from Thursday, March 7th to Sunday, March 10th this year, it promises “copious cups of tea and sandwiches, a lot of red tank-tops, nuns on the run, priests on the pull, map-cap costumes, and of course a bishop getting a kick up the arse”.

Highlights will include the annual Lovely Girls Competition, Blind Date with Eoin McLove (Patrick McDonnell), Mrs Doyle Lip Sync Showdown, The Craggy Cup, Ted's Got Talent, Matchmaking with Nellie, The Priests Dance Off, TedMaster, The Hobby Horse Show, The Craggy Comedy Craic Den, The Reverse Wheel of Death and the Father Ted Prizeless Quiz.

Tedfest 2024 - (from left to right) Martin Boyle from Glasgow, Michael Mee from Yorkshire, Joanne Gorman from Finglas  pictured at TedFest on the island of Inis Mór being chased by Dinosaurs Photo: Gareth ChaneyTedfest 2024 - (from left to right) Martin Boyle from Glasgow, Michael Mee from Yorkshire, Joanne Gorman from Finglas  pictured at TedFest on the island of Inis Mór being chased by Dinosaurs Photo: Gareth Chaney

This year the music line-up includes a 15-piece band called the Circus Ponies. All activity will take place at the Aran Islands Hotel on Inis Mór, which has the space to accommodate the Music Stages, the Craggy Craic Den and a full extended line-up.

Preliminary events in Galway include the annual TedFest Table Quiz in Massimo's on Tuesday, 5th March and the TedFest Toilet Duck Awards in the Róisín Dubh on Wednesday, 6th March.

The organisers say that all accommodation on the island with “rooves, heating and running water” is now fully booked by TedFest revellers. However, there are currently spaces at the Aran island glamping village near Cill Rónain.

Organisers advise on the website "please do not buy a ticket unless you have privately sourced accommodation, or permission from another ticket holder to sleep with them.

Details on glamping are here

Published in Island News
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As the RNLI launches its annual Christmas fundraising appeal, with a focus on the generations of families who have volunteered their time and commitment to ensure the charity’s lifesaving service has continued for nearly 200 years, there will be a new coxswain this Christmas on the Aran Islands.

Aonghus Ó hIarnáin started volunteering with the RNLI at 17 and always had a desire to move up in the organisation and become a coxswain.

“When my fiancée Treasa and I had moved home from Australia and then had our daughter, I had to start working away on ferries and research vessels as an engineer again,“ he says. “This wasn’t ideal as I was spending a lot of time away.

“When the coxswain job came, I committed myself to training and preparing for the job. I was fortunate to be offered the job then which I gladly accepted. It suits us as we want to stay on the island to raise the family and stay close to both our parents and this job allows us to do so.”

As coxswain, Aonghus is in charge of the lifeboat and her crew at sea and as such, he is all too aware of the importance of training.

Aran Islands RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Aran IslandsAran Islands RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Aran Islands

“Regular training for everyone on the crew is important,” he says. “Everyone needs to get familiar with the person they are onboard with so that when a call out comes, you know that the person next to you is going to do their part correctly and safely.

“It is rare that the same crew do two call-outs after each other, so knowing that no matter who shows up, they have the same standard of training is important for the search and rescue capability of the station. It allows the coxswain on the day to have full confidence in the crew and allows the crew to have full confidence in whichever coxswain is in command on the day.

“Allowing the crew to get as much time on the lifeboat as possible is important. Practice makes perfect and when you see a trained person in an emergency, its shows by the level of calmness they have at that critical time.”

The role of full-time coxswain can be busy, says Aonghus: “The job is demanding time-wise, and it is difficult for the family more so. There have been several times where we plan on going for dinner, for example, only for the pager to go off and then you are gone for a few hours.

“There is a need to know where somebody is at all times. For example, on a weekend if Treasa goes for a walk or to the shop and I have our baby on my own, if the pager goes off then we need a plan for where Treasa is gone so that I can collect her with our baby and then they come to the station with me and take my car or that I bring the baby to the station and get Treasa’s parents, who are living close the station, to collect her. This is the side that people don’t see when you are full-time on call.

“Credit goes to Treasa for adapting to this and having patience with me as the demands of the job take me at uncertain times day or night. Without her support, it wouldn’t have been possible to take this job and make it work. She understands how vital the RNLI is to the island and the west coast and that we signed up to help keep it going.”

‘For the time you give at the RNLI, you will receive good training, good memories, and a great sense of achievement after every call as you know you are making a difference’

As for what he finds most rewarding, Aonghus says it’s a combination of the people you meet, the training and skills you gain and the opportunity to make a difference.

“You also have the chance to work alongside members of the community ranging in ages and experiences and backgrounds that you would normally never get the chance to work with,” he says. “Along with this, you are keeping a vital lifesaving service going on an island which needs it.

“For the time you give at the RNLI, you will receive good training, good memories, and a great sense of achievement after every call as you know you are making a difference. I started my journey in the RNLI 13 years ago and I have never looked back and it has served me well.”

Whatever weather winter throws at them, RNLI crew members like those on the Aran Islands are ready to battle the elements to save lives at sea. Their rescues are only made possible by the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews.

As he prepares for his first Christmas on call as coxswain, Aonghus says: “There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families — especially at Christmas. But as crew we couldn’t launch our lifeboat without kind donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely to our own families.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, and enable the charity to continue its lifesaving work, visit RNLI.org/WinterAppeal.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Ireland’s national seabed mapping programme, INFOMAR completes its Bluescale Map Series with the release of its stunning map of the Aran Islands.

Now all 18 maps in the series are available for free to the public, in English and now as Gaeilge.

Staring on 11 August this year, INFOMAR released a new instalment each week in its series of bespoke, high-resolution bathymetric maps of Irish coastal waters.

Developed by a dedicated team of hydrographers, data processors and cartographers, the maps highlight the topography of the coast in remarkable detail.

Thomas Furey, INFOMAR joint programme manager at the Marine Institute, emphasised the dual significance of this release.

“The Bluescale Map Series is a testament on our commitment to both data quality and improving public accessibility of data,” he said. “The release of all maps as Gaeilge also represents our efforts in promoting linguistic inclusivity and connecting with Gaeltacht communities nationwide.”

The full map of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay in the Irish language, released along with all 17 other maps as Gaeilge | Credit: INFOMARThe full map of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay in the Irish language, released along with all 17 other maps as Gaeilge | Credit: INFOMAR

The series’ final map of the Aran Islands showcases some of Ireland’s most unique and dynamic coastal landscapes.

The Aran Islands are a group of three islands at the mouth of Galway Bay, off the West Coast of Ireland, with a total area around 46 sq km (18 sq mi). From west to east, the islands are Inis Mór (Árainn), which is the largest; Inis Meáin, the second-largest; and Inis Oírr, the smallest. There are also several islets.

The islands’ geology is mainly karst limestone, related to the Burren in Co Clare to the east, not the granites of Connemara to the north. Solutional processes have widened and deepened the grykes of the limestone pavement.

Pre-existing lines of weakness in the rock (vertical joints) contribute to the formation of extensive fissures separated by clints (flat, pavement-like slabs). The rock karstification facilitates the formation of subterranean drainage.

Speaking about the addition of maps as Gaeilge, Seán Cullen, INFOMAR joint programme manager at the Geological Survey Ireland said: “These maps aim to offer Irish Speakers an opportunity to engage with marine science in their native tongue and provide a means of communicating complex scientific data to the broader public.”

Michael Gillooly, interim CEO of the Marine Institute added: “The Gaeltacht constitutes 25% of the overall Irish coastline so I am delighted to see this new series of unique maps now available as Gaeilge.”

Published in Environment

The Aran islands have linked up with a new energy agency which has been established for west Galway.

Gníomhaireacht Fuinnimh an Iarthar (GFI), as it is called, is one of three local energy agencies established to support homeowners, communities and small businesses.

It was formally launched at an event in An Cheathrú Rua yesterday (Thurs).

The aim is to encourage homes and businesses to implement retrofit energy upgrades in the region as part of the LEAP (Local Energy Agencies in Peripheral Regions) project.

As previously reported by Afloat, the three Aran islands have a very active energy co-operative, Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árann Teo (CFOAT).

It has been instrumental in setting up the new energy agency for the Galway islands and West Galway, as in the Connemara Gaeltacht.

Published in Island News
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Aran Islands RNLI carried out a medical evacuation from Inis Meáin on Monday afternoon (6 November).

Volunteers’ pagers went off at 3.14pm following a request from the Irish Coast Guard to go to the aid of a patient on the island neighbouring Inis Mór who was in need of further medical attention.

The lifeboat launched from the pontoon at Kilronan Harbour with a full crew and headed straight for Inis Meáin.

Weather conditions at the time of launching were fair, with a westerly Force 5 wind blowing, a two-metre sea swell, squally showers and good visibility.

At the pier in Inis Meáin, the patient was transferred safely aboard the lifeboat under the supervision of the volunteer crew and the lifeboat headed straight for Rossaveal Harbour and the waiting ambulance.

On the way back to Kilronan Harbour, the lifeboat undertook a training exercise with the coastguard’s Rescue 118 helicopter from Sligo in Galway Bay.

Speaking after the call-out, coxswain Declan Brannigan said: “There was a quick response time from the volunteer crew and we would like to wish the patient well.

“No matter the time, day or night, our volunteers will work to ensure we get to the patient as fast as possible and transfer them into the care of our colleagues in he ambulance service.

“We also thank our colleagues from Rescue 118 for the training exercise that followed after. Such training is essential in preparing us for joint operational activity as and when the time arises.”

The crew on this call-out with Brannigan were mechanic Tommy Dirrane, Joe Gill, Micheál Ó Culáin, Caelan Cullen Quinn and Billy Gillan.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Aran Islands RNLI’s volunteer crew responded to two medical evacuation requests on Wednesday night (18 October).

Pagers were first activated at 7.10pm following a report that a patient on Inis Mór was in need of further medical attention. The all-weather lifeboat launched under coxwain Aonghus Ó hIarnáin and a full crew of volunteers.

Conditions at the time of launching were choppy, with an easterly Force 4 wind blowing and a two-metre sea swell.

The patient was transferred safely aboard the lifeboat under the supervision of the volunteer crew at the pontoon at Kilronan Harbour.

Upon transferring the patient over to the waiting ambulance at Rossaveal Harbour, the volunteers made their way home where upon arrival they were requested to launch the lifeboat again, with another patient on Inis Mór in need of further medical attention.

Weather conditions for the second medevac had a Force 5-6 easterly wind blowing with slight seas and reasonable visibility.

This second patient was transferred safely aboard the lifeboat and the crew headed straight for Rossaveal and a awaiting ambulance.

Speaking after the double call-out, Ó hIarnáin said: “We would like to wish both patients a speedy recovery. As always our crew never hesitate to answer the call and were delighted to be able to help.”

Aran Islands RNLI crew on Wednesday night alongside Ó hIarnáin included mechanic Mairtín Eoin Coyne, Joe Gill, Daniel O’Connell, Caelan Cullen Quinn, Billy Gillan and Michael Faherty.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Aran Islands RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat responded to a medical evacuation request from Inis Mór on Tuesday (5 September).

The patient was transferred safely aboard the lifeboat under the supervision of the volunteer crew at the pontoon at Kilronan Harbour and the lifeboat headed straight for Rossaveal Harbour.

Conditions at the time of launching were fair with a Force 4 north-easterly wind blowing and slight seas.

The crew on Tuesday’s call-out were coxswain Aonghus Ó hIarnáin, mechanic Mairtín Eoin Coyne and crew Áine Ní Fhlaithearta, Alan O'Flynn and Caelan Cullen Quinn.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Aran Islands RNLI has come to the aid of eight people in two separate incidents over the weekend after two yachts got into difficulty.

The volunteer crew spent six hours at sea on Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday morning (23 July) after responding to a request to launch their all-weather lifeboat by the Irish Coast Guard at 10.58 pm on Saturday.

An 11.2m yacht with seven onboard was in difficulty two nautical miles northeast of Kilmurvey Bay.

The lifeboat launched under Coxswain Declan Brannigan and a full crew onboard and headed straight for the yacht.

Conditions at the time of launching were tough, with poor visibility, squally showers, a west to south-west force five wind blowing and a 3m sea swell.

Arriving on scene, the crew assessed the situation and were happy the crew aboard the yacht were in good health and in no immediate danger. The yacht was drifting as the steering had stopped working completely.

A decision was made to establish a tow line, but it was difficult to maintain due to the conditions.

A discussion between the lifeboat crew and the Coast Guard resulted in Casla Coast Guard being tasked to the scene, 1.5 nautical miles south of Cannon Rock light. A tow line was established between Casla Coast Guard and the yacht. The lifeboat proceeded to escort the vessels into Casla Bay where in calmer waters, the Casla Coast Guard was able to get the yacht alongside them and guide her safely into Rossaveal Harbour.

The Aran Islands lifeboat returned to Kilronan at 5.20 am.

Meanwhile, the volunteer crew were also requested to launch the lifeboat by the Irish Coast Guard at 6.26 pm last Friday (21 July).

A 15m yacht was in difficulty in Casheen Bay, north of the Aran Islands.

The lifeboat launched under Coxswain Declan Brannigan and a full crew and headed straight for the yacht.

Conditions at the time of launching were challenging with moderate visibility, a 2-3m sea swell and a south-west force 6 wind blowing.

Arriving on scene, the crew assessed the situation, and established the yacht with one person onboard was in no immediate danger.

A tow line was established and once clear of a nearby fish farm, the sailor was able to start his engine and the tow line was dropped.

The lifeboat guided the yacht out past Ceann Golam and towards Cannon Rock and the entrance to the channel for Rossaveal harbour. The yacht proceeded safely towards the harbour unaided.

Speaking after the call outs, Aran Islands RNLI Coxswain Declan Brannigan said: 'Saturday was a long night for the volunteer crew but the benefits of regular training paid off. Experience is earned from showing up. I am extremely proud of how they conducted themselves. There was a great response time from the crew for both call outs and in the first call out on Friday, we were able to get to the yacht quickly, and tow the sailor out safely. Saturday’s call out proved more challenging with the conditions and the hours of darkness but again, we were delighted to bring all seven to safety. Calling the Coast Guard for assistance in both cases was correct.

‘Even in the summer conditions can change quickly and push even the most experienced sailors out of their comfort zones. We would encourage everyone to be fully trained in the usage of all their equipment onboard ahead of their planned trip at sea.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Aran Islands RNLI carried out a medical evacuation on Wednesday afternoon (19 July) after a visitor had a biking accident.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their all-weather lifeboat at 3.31pm and proceed to the pontoon at Kilronan on the island of Inis Mór, where the patient was transferred safety aboard before the lifeboat headed straight for Rossaveal Harbour and the awaiting ambulance.

Conditions at the time of launching were good, with calm seas and a light breeze.

Speaking after the call-out, coxswain Aonghus Ó hIarnáin said: “This was another fast response time from the volunteer crew. We wish the patient a speedy recovery.“”

Joining Ó hIarnáin on the call-out were mechanic Mairtín Eoin Coyne and crew members Mairtín Dé Bhailis, Daniel O’Connell and Ciarán O’Donnell.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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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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