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It was a busy weekend for Oban RNLI in Western Scotland, with its lifeboat Mora Edith MacDonald responding to two separate incidents, covering over 120 miles.

The first call came Saturday afternoon (7 December) as the lifeboat launched in gale force winds and high seas, alongside the Islay RNLI lifeboat, to assist a 28m vessel that had lost steering in the Sound of Jura, just north of the MacCormaig Islands.

Islay were first to arrive on scene and it was established that the casualty vessel was able to make way using its emergency steering. Oban lifeboat was requested to rendezvous with the Islay volunteers and the casualty vessel to take over the escort.

Having battled high seas and poor visibility, the Oban crew arrived on scene shortly after 6pm.

While the casualty vessel was able to make way under its own power, the decision was made to continue escorting it to the safety of Craobh Haven Marina.

Given the weather conditions, with wind speeds of up to 50mph and the size of the vessel, it was decided that the Islay lifeboat should also remain on scene. The vessel made a steady speed north towards Craobh accompanied by both lifeboats.

On arrival at 8.15pm, the Oban lifeboat used its searchlights to illuminate the entrance in driving rain, giving the casualty vessel enough visibility to manoeuvre into the marina.

After several attempts at berthing in extremely challenging conditions, the vessel made it alongside with assistance from the Oban crew and, with the help of Craobh Haven Marina’s staff, the vessel was safely tied alongside by 9pm.

The second call came yesterday afternoon (Sunday 8 December) when the volunteer crew launched at 3pm to a report of a yacht adrift off Corpach.

The lifeboat made best speed in the conditions, arriving on scene by 4.30pm. Two crew members were put on board the yacht to determine whether anyone was on board.

With nothing found, it was decided a line would be put ashore to a nearby pier to ensure it didn’t drift further. The Fort William Coastguard Team were also on scene to take lines ashore and secure the vessel.

Published in Scottish Waters
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All In A Row 2019 came to the capital’s River Liffey last Saturday, 30th November, and challenged teams rowing 40 skiffs, kayaks, canoes and currachs to exceed a 1,000km target in eight hours in aid of the RNLI.

As Afloat reported earlier, Dragon Boats from the Plurabelle Paddlers and the Dublin Viking Dragon boats created a great spectacle with their drummers beating out the stroke rate. Phoenix Rowing Club from the western side of the Liffey joined with rowers from St. Patrick’s, Stella Maris and East Wall Water Sports Rowing Clubs on the east side, together with teams from Cork, Belfast, Rush, Skerries, Arklow, Carlow, Greystones, Drogheda and Dalkey to raise funds for RNLI Lifeboats and the Irish Underwater Search and Recovery Unit.

The Skipper of the Lagan Currach, at 10 metres/ 33ft long and weighting 1 Ton, was heard to say “ It was a bit of a tight squeeze. Apparently O'Connell Bridge is as wide as it is long. The tunnel under it seemed to go on forever, or maybe it's just the claustrophobia speaking!“

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Swords Sailing & Boating Club Vice Commodore Patrick Wodhams handed over a club burgee and a cheque for €710 to Howth RNLI on behalf of funds raised by club members today to the RNLI in Howth in County Dublin.

The funds were raised by Swords club members over 2019, starting with a New Years days sail event followed by the annual club quiz and the club open day.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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RTÉ’s Fergal Keane will be at Baltimore Sailing Club next Saturday 7 December for the launch of a new book celebrating 100 years of the West Cork village’s RNLI lifeboat service.

Baltimore Lifeboat: A Community Story by Éamon Lankford is now available, priced €16, with all proceeds going to Baltimore RNLI.

Seascapes presenter Keane will be in attendance to host the official launch from 8pm next Saturday, and all are welcome to attend — while the author will be signing copies earlier that afternoon from 3pm to 4pm at Hickey’s newsagents in Skibbereen.

For details on how to get a copy of the book, contact [email protected]

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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As Christmas approaches, the RNLI is issuing its own call for help as new figures show that the charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews are more than 600% busier over the festive period compared with 40 years ago. The charity is facing a ‘Perfect Storm’ with more people than ever needing its help, meaning support from the public is more vital than ever.

During the festive period* last year, RNLI volunteers launched to the rescue 155 times compared with just 21 call outs in 1979. During the festive periods dating back to 1979, RNLI volunteers have rescued 1,453 people and saved 299 lives.

To ensure the RNLI can continue its lifesaving work this Christmas and into the future, the charity is running a major fundraising appeal, The Perfect Storm, with the aim of raising £1.8M and recruiting 12,000 new supporters.

While many people will be thinking about presents, turkey and time with the family, dedicated RNLI volunteers from 238 lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland will be ensuring their yellow wellies and lifejackets are ready for when the call comes and will be ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice to save lives at sea.

In many cases, generations of the same family could be forced to abandon their turkey dinner and head to their local lifeboat station when the call for help comes in.

Long-serving RNLI volunteer Phil Eaglen joined Wells Lifeboat Station in 1967 and has dedicated an incredible 50 years of his life to saving others with the RNLI. This Christmas, joining him around the dinner table with their pagers close at hand will be his son and granddaughter, who like Phil, will be ready to respond if the call comes in.

Phil, who joined Wells RNLI as a shore crew volunteer at the age of 17, says:

‘Christmas is no different to any other time of year, we’ll still be on call ready to save lives and delay our own Christmas celebrations. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the public. The RNLI has experienced a shortfall in funds, but we are rescuing more people than ever before. We are facing the Perfect Storm and are calling on people to make a donation this Christmas to ensure we can continue saving lives at sea.’

The causes of callouts over the festive period have changed over the years. In the early 80s the most common reason for callouts was to commercial fishing vessels and powered craft. One notable rescue arose on Boxing Day in 1985 when a 65ft trawler found itself in difficulty in storm force conditions which saw the Ramsgate lifeboat launch. The trawler had run aground and the lifeboat launched into horrendous weather conditions to attach a tow and saved those onboard. The bravery shown by the lifeboat crew resulted in the coxswain being awarded a silver gallantry medal.

Since 2000, many of those needing help are often just visiting the coast and not out on vessels or watercraft. As well as slips, trips and falls, tidal cut offs are also a contributing factor to RNLI call outs.

Some families will be cherishing Christmas together thanks to the RNLI. Ben and Natalia Taylor are heading to Hoylake to pay their respects to the crews of Hoylake and New Brighton after the lives of their twin daughters, Evie and Lola, 12, were dramatically saved earlier this year.

The family were holidaying in Kent when the twins, who were playing in the sea on an inflatable unicorn, were swept along by the wind and rapidly started heading out to sea.

Ben swam out to what he described were just ‘two dots’ in the distance heading further out to sea. Margate RNLI lifeboat was launched and Ramsgate RNLI lifeboat and RNLI lifeguards joined the search. They picked up frantic dad Ben and thankfully discovered the girls had clung to a buoy and were safe and well after being picked up by a pleasure boat.

Ben says: ‘I cannot put into words the terror we experienced that day, it really put into perspective how precious life and family is. We’re already planning our Christmas this year and that really is thanks to the RNLI acting so quickly. It was the advice given just a couple of days before on the beach which helped Lola and Evie about what to do if they got into trouble and helped to save their lives.

‘I can’t bear to think what kind of Christmas this year could have been for me and my family, but thankfully and luckily we’re still here and have lots of fantastic celebrations planned. I’m in total admiration of all the volunteers who came to help us that day.

‘To think they do this voluntarily is just incomprehensible. Please donate whatever you can to support the Perfect Storm appeal and help the RNLI crews to continue saving lives.’

The RNLI’s Perfect Storm appeal has been launched in response to some major challenges the charity is facing. In 2018, the RNLI’s financial resources dropped by £28.6M, while its crews are busier than ever.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Portaferry RNLI came to the aid of three people stranded on Trasnagh Island near Whiterock at Killinchy on the western shore of Strangford Lough this afternoon, as the weather deteriorated.

Portaferry’s volunteer crew launched promptly at 1.26 pm and made their way to the island and arrived on scene at 1.45 pm, in fair but rainy weather conditions and easterly winds. The sea state was moderate.

When on scene, the volunteer crew transferred the three workmen off the island, where they had been working since the early hours of the morning. As the weather had got worse, the small boat that they had used to get out to the island was not suitable to complete the return journey to shore. The lifeboat crew took the three workmen to shore, where they were met by the local coastguard team.

Commenting on today’s call out, Graham Edgar, Portaferry RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said: ‘While not in any immediate danger, the men certainly took the right course of action today calling for help once they realised that they could not get back to shore. We were delighted to help and would urge anyone considering going to sea to take all necessary precautions and respect the water.’

Published in Island News
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Volunteers at Oban and Tobermory’s RNLI lifeboat stations in eastern Scotland have been recognised for their invaluable service in this year’s Excellence in Volunteering Awards.

Oban’s four deputy coxswains — Mark Scott, Finlo Cottier, David Isaac and James Hardie — have all been recognised by the RNLI for their dedication to the station.

The certificates awarded by the RNLI’s chairman and council recorded their “sincere thanks” for “giving time to help provide full time coxswain cover at the station” and for their “commitment and leadership”.

In addition, the Argyll station’s press officers Iain Fulton and Leonie Mead also received awards for their “invaluable support to Oban Lifeboat Station”.

Meanwhile, Tobermory Lifeboat Station — nearby, on the Isle of Mull — received an Excellence in Volunteering Award earlier in the autumn following an operational evaluation carried out by an independent RNLI team of assessors.

The award recognised the crew’s “invaluable service to the institution” and that “with a committed management team and crew fully engaged in all aspects of the station, your focused team efforts, camaraderie and professionalism are greatly appreciated”.

Tobermory lifeboat operations manager Dr Sam Jones also received an award in recognition of her “invaluable service” to the station, of her “outstanding contribution” and for “making a positive impact at the station, engaging the crew and providing safe and effective leadership”.

Full-time coxswain David McHaffie and mechanic Paul Gunn have also received staff awards in recognition of their leadership and dedication at the station.

The RNLI’s prestigious Excellence in Volunteering Awards recognise both staff and volunteers who have gone above and beyond what is expected of them.

Members of both stations attended a celebratory dinner at the Playfair Library in Edinburgh on Saturday 16 November, hosted by the RNLI’s chairman Stuart Popham and Scottish chairman Roger Lockwood.

Tobermory crew and partners with RNLI chairman Stuart Popham | Photo: RNLI/TobermoryTobermory crew and partners with RNLI chairman Stuart Popham. From left: Annette Stirling, Mick Stirling, Eug Thomasson, Simon Thomasson, Will Thorne, RNLI chairman Stuart Popham, Kirsty Blackhall, Iain Malcolm, Mhairi McAdam and Ian McAdam | Photo: RNLI/Tobermory

The dinner rounded off a busy week for Tobermory RNLI. Members of the crew represented the station at the previous weekend’s Remembrance events in Tobermory, including the community commemoration, ‘Mull Remembers’, on Saturday 9 November and Sunday’s service at Tobermory Parish Church and wreath-laying at the war memorial.

Tobermory’s RNLI shop and fundraising branc,h along with some members of the crew, also hosted a mince pie and coffee morning at the Aros Hall on Saturday 16 November. This well-attended annual event took over £600 in shop sales and an incredible £508 from a raffle and donations.

McHaffie said: “The awards to the station recognise the hard work of everyone involved, particularly our volunteers who give up so much of their free time, not only for training and carrying out rescues, but also for helping to make the station run effectively and efficiently.

“I’m pleased that some partners of the crew were also able to attend the celebratory dinner in Edinburgh as we couldn’t operate without the support of our families and friends.”

Published in Scottish Waters

Valentia RNLI volunteers, family and friends gathered last Saturday 23 November to honour two outstanding volunteers.

The Kerry lifeboat station team honoured and thanked Richard Foran for his 20 years of dedicated voluntary service to Valentia RNLI. Richard took up the role of Honorary Secretary in 1999 with the station, later becoming the what is now known as the Lifeboat Operations Manager.

It was a night of double celebrations as the station also honoured Timothy Lyne for his 37 years of service. Timothy took up the role of Deputy Launching Authority in 1982 and later taking up the role of Treasurer in 1999.

Both gentlemen surrounded by family and friends were presented with a personalised craved Valentia Slate plaque in appreciation of their service to the Valentia RNLI.

Leo Houlihan, Valentia RNLI Mechanic, said on the night: ‘On behalf of everyone in the station we would like to thank you both for the support and dedication you provided to the station as Lifeboat Operations Manager, Deputy Launching Authority and Treasurer. These two men will be greatly missed at the station.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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A volunteer crew member at Fethard RNLI lifeboat station has had a vital part of their crew training funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

Diarmaid Bird recently travelled to the RNLI College in Poole, Dorset, to complete the charity’s Crew Emergency Procedures course. With strong lifeboat links in his family and the community, Diarmaid was inspired to join up as a volunteer crew member for the charity approximately four years ago.

The course sees volunteer crew being trained in a variety of crucial subjects such as how to deal with fires aboard lifeboats, how to ‘abandon ship’ in the event of an emergency (with a 4m jump into water), team survival swimming, coping in a life-raft in simulated darkness, how to right a capsized inshore lifeboat, and the importance of lifejackets. It also includes sessions on the correct use of flares, fire extinguishers and throw bags.

Talking about the training, Diarmaid said: ‘It was a great course, really hands-on and practical.’

Diarmaid’s training took place in the Sea Survival Centre at the RNLI College, where he was joined by other RNLI volunteer crew members from around Ireland and the UK.

The training was funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation, a charitable foundation that helps to protect life and property by supporting engineering-related education, public engagement and the application of research. The Foundation has committed to funding the RNLI’s Crew Emergency Procedures course for a second five -year period until December 2020. This additional funding of €1,208,400 brings their total support for RNLI crew training to just over €2,804,400* since 2008. More than 3,000 RNLI volunteer crew members have now received the training thanks to Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s funding.

Alex Evans, Lifesaving Training Manager at the RNLI said, ‘We are so grateful to Lloyd’s Register Foundation for funding this vital part of our volunteer crews’ training.

‘Their support is very important to us and it’s fantastic how, so far, over 3,000 of our crew members have benefitted from Lloyd’s Register Foundation funding this part of their training. As only one in ten of our volunteer crew members comes from a professional maritime background, the Crew Emergency Procedures course is crucial in giving our volunteers the training they need and helping keep them as safe as possible while carrying out rescues. It gives volunteers the confidence to save lives even in the most challenging conditions.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Crosshaven RNLI volunteers were paged at 1.50 pm this afternoon to reports of a dismasted yacht with injuries off Fort Camden in Cork Harbour.

According to the RNLI, the 32’ yacht with five persons onboard was a participant in a race when they had a crash gybe which resulted in the yachts mast and sails 'collapsing' and one person sustaining a suspected neck injury.

The crew of James Fegan, Alan Venner Norman Jackson and Jonathan Birmingham made best speed to the casualty vessel.

On scene, Alan Venner gave casualty care to the injured person, before the lifeboat headed to Crosshaven with the casualty and handed her Into the care of the National Ambulance Service. Meanwhile, James Fegan stayed on board the casualty yacht and helped retrieve the sails and mast back onto the yacht before it was towed by a yacht club RIB back to the marina.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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