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Stanley Tomkins, treasurer for the Kilkeel RNLI volunteer crew, is to retire after 25 years’ service at the Co Down lifeboat station.

Tomkins, a retired bank manager, was recently awarded the British Empire Medal for his charitable work in the local community.

Over the past 25 years he been the treasurer for Kilkeel RNLI, and he has now decided to step down to devote more time to his other interests.

John Fisher, Kilkeel RNLI lifeboat operations manager, said: “We thank Stanley for his dedication and his energy over the past 25 years. We shall miss his steady hand on the financial rudder and wish him well for the future.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Lifeboats - Youghal RNLI were honoured to receive two generous donations from members of the community in one day recently.

On Saturday 16 February, the East Cork lifeboat station welcomed sisters Aisling and Leanne Hehir who recently celebrated their birthdays, with Aisling turning 18 and Leanne 21.

Instead of gifts, they asked their family and friends to make a donation to Youghal RNLI. In total they raised €590.

Patsy O’Mahoney, helm at Youghal RNLI, said: “We are all very touched by such a generous and thoughtful donation, we would like to sincerely thank Aisling and Leanne and everyone who helped them to celebrate their birthdays.”

The station also received a donation of €1,358 from Youghal Rotary Club, who in conjunction with the Regal Cinema, organised a fantastic fundraising night at the movies.

Filmgoers were treated to delicious canapes, a glass of wine and a screening of award-winning documentary The Camino Voyage.

Derry Walsh, Youghal RNLI’s lifeboat operation manager, said: “We would like to express our deep gratitude to Youghal Rotary Club, the Regal Cinema and to all who came along on the night.

“This donation will enable our volunteers to continue saving lives at sea.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Lifeboats - It was a different kind of ‘surf and turf’ when three teenagers and a horse were rescued in two separate callouts by Kinsale's RNLI volunteers yesterday (Sunday 17 February).

Late in the afternoon the lifeboat launched following reports that a swimmer had sustained a knee injury after entering the water near cliffs off Sancycove Island, a popular site with open-water swimmers.

When the lifeboat arrived on the scene, the crew lifted the casualty and two other swimmers into the lifeboat where they were assessed.

They were brought back to the station where a further medical assessment was conducted by trained RNLI personnel and nurse Emer Scannell, who was at the station visiting a crew member.

The casualty was later taken by ambulance to hospital.

Earlier in the day, the Kinsale lifeboat crew races to the rescue of a horse named Paddy that got into difficulties in the Bandon River.

The horse’s hoof was trapped in the framework of an oyster bed, requiring a member of the volunteer crew to dive under the water and release the panicked animal.

After several attempts, Paddy was safely returned to the shore, much to the relief of his owners.

Kevin Gould, lifeboat operations manager at Kinsale RNLI, said: “We urge everyone to exercise extreme caution on or near the water, particularly at this time of year.

“On days like today our RNLI training proves invaluable and we are all relieved that both call-outs ended well.

“Today’s rescues give a new meaning to the expression ‘surf and turf’.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Thirty years ago, on February 13th 1989, the volunteer crew of Portrush RNLI Lifeboat launched in dreadful conditions to reports of two Spanish trawlers in difficulty. This was when the famous Portrush picture was taken by photographer Ian Watson. Crew member Mark Mitchell tells the story:

On a February afternoon in 1989, when I was 21, we were asked to go to the aid of two Spanish trawlers floundering off Donegal. Nothing unusual - except for the weather. The wind speed indicator at the top of the mast was screaming at 113.5mph northerly, straight on shore. I had done several call-outs but this was the most dangerous to date.

We sat at the harbour entrance for what seemed like a lifetime as we strapped in and prepared. We were all well-experienced seafarers, but we knew this one was going to be bad.

As one mountainous wave after another surged past the harbour mouth, the Coxswain saw his chance - he was looking for a trough we could get ourselves into - and slammed the throttles forward. Almost a thousand horsepower launched us into the maelstrom. I was terrified. But we weren't allowed to say so because we were men in a man's world. In those days we couldn't show our fear.

Seconds later, the seventh wave caught us and we were now suddenly on our side, surfing down a wall of white water towards the trough.

"Seconds later, the seventh wave caught us and we were now suddenly on our side, surfing down a wall of white water towards the trough"

In a lesser boat we would have been dead, but the legendary stability of the **Richard Evans Arun Class Lifeboat pulled us back to something resembling an even keel and we turned to face the next one.

It was obvious, however, that the Deputy 2nd Coxswain, Terry Murdoch's ribs were broken. Despite the injury, he went on doing his job at the radar. At the end of the day, there are only seven of us on that boat doing the job - so we go on if we can.

The next wave we climbed, climbed, climbed before it was plucked away from below us. Now 28 tonnes of boat and men were falling, falling, falling, our propellers beating in clear air. Surely no boat could take the inevitable impact! As we hit the wave's trough, the sea exploded around us. We were now completely submerged.

portrush mapThe scene of the action on Ireland’s north coast. The Portrush lifeboat eventually found a safe berth at Greencastle in Donegal on the entrance to Lough Foyle, three miles along the coast from Moville.

The constantly moving window wipers, designed to quickly clear heavy spray, were now stopped by the force of the sea, their powerful motors screaming in protest. Every rivet and bolt shuddered as the Richard Evans fought her way back to the surface.

But then there we were - on the next crest. The next few waves were a groundhog day but, as mariners will know, a boat needs her sea room - her room to manoeuvre - and as we broke out of the bay and into the open sea the waves, though giant, became more predictable and we could now 'read' them and brace ourselves for each impact.

Just then the radio message came through. The two Spanish Trawlers which had been in difficulty were now in the shelter of Lough Swilly and no longer in any danger. The message said we could return home - but we couldn't. No boat could turn in these conditions without inevitable capsize. We had no choice but to go on, on towards the shelter of Lough Foyle and the haven of Greencastle, relatively sheltered from winds of this direction.

Normally a 45-minute passage, we battled on for three hours as the coxswain played the throttle and wheel to keep us upright. At last, the welcome shelter of Inishowen Head was sometimes visible above the giant waves - but the sea wasn't going to give up that easily. As the might of the Foyle pushed against the sea, the waves seemed as big as the Himalayas.

We were to almost suffer a 'pitchpole' - where the boat is tossed stern over bow like a child would casually discard a stick. Not a survivable prospect. Once again, the legendary Arun fought off the advance and we were within the safety of the mighty Lough. I unstrapped and with my colleagues went forward to prepare the fenders and ropes for mooring up.

The force of the wind was like an unseen hand. I needed the last of my waning strength to fight my way forward. Then we were there - alongside
Mechanic Anthony Chambers pushed the buttons that would bring the faithful Caterpillar diesels to a well-earned rest. And there it was. Silence. For the first time that night there was an almost painful silence. And there we were, alive and alone with our own thoughts.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Lifeboats - As noted by Tom MacSweeney in his latest podcast, Wicklow is the last RNLI station with a Tyne class lifeboat in service.

Before the current Tyne lifeboat Annie Blaker is officially taken off service later this year, it will be replaced by a relief Shannon class lifeboat — the fastest and most technologically advanced class in the fleet.

The Shannon class Jock and Annie Slater is due to arrive in Wicklow on Sunday 24 February at 2:30pm.

Annie Blaker has been the busiest all-weather lifeboat in the history of the station, being involved in over 340 services, rescuing over 400 people.

It will be a bittersweet time for the crew, station management and fundraisers with the arrival of the new lifeboat and the departure of Annie.

The relief lifeboat, which will eventually be replaced by a permanent Shannon for Wicklow in a few years’ time, will have a temporary berth at the South Quay.

Each lifeboat class has a unique slip to launch from and as the Shannon is very different to the Tyne class, this temporary mooring near the station will support it until Wicklow receives its permanent Shannon lifeboat.

Work will need to be undertaken to support the changes at Wicklow and this will be undertaken in full consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Commenting on the changes, Wicklow RNLI lifeboat operations manager Des Davitt said: “The confidence displayed by the RNLI Council and trustees, who have given the go-ahead for this major investment, is a testament to the service of all crew, committees and fundraising teams, past and present.

“History is in the making as the newest, fastest, state-of-the-art lifeboat is about to arrive. Already our coxswains and mechanics have attended training in Poole and a crew from our station has been tasked with bringing the Shannon class lifeboat into Wicklow on Sunday 24 February where the rest of the crew will receive training from the fleet staff coxswains.

“Over the next three years major work will be carried out on the station and slip to accommodate the arrival of our own Shannon in early 2022. None of this would be possible without the magnificent support of the people, businesses and organisations of Wicklow and environs.

“It is an exciting time for all involved and indeed for the people of Wicklow.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

When Baltimore Lifeboat Station in West Cork was established the First World War was raging in Europe. That was back in 1915 when the original station was built, but due to the War no lifeboat arrived in Baltimore until 1919 …. and there was some feeling about her name…. She had been launched as the ‘Duke of Connacht,’ but because of sentiment in the wake of the Easter Rising of 1916, her name was changed to the ‘Shamrock’ before she arrived in Baltimore.

One of my particular maritime memories is being aboard the Baltimore Lifeboat when it used to be launched down the slipway from inside the old station. There was a steel girder across the roof and, if I remember correctly, it had a warning: “Mind Your Head” which flashed over the top of the lifeboat as it rapidly went down the slipway into the water.

This came to mind when I was given a look through the station’s recorded history, in conjunction with the planned celebration of its centenary this September.

There’s a fine, modern lifeboat station in Baltimore now, with both offshore all-weather and inshore boats. I remember being there the morning of Charlie Haughey’s rescue from the sinking of his yacht, ‘Celtic Mist’ at the Mizen in October of 1985.

"Back in 1979, Baltimore was the first lifeboat to launch to the rescue of sailors in the Fastnet Yacht Race disaster"

Back in 1979, Baltimore was the first lifeboat to launch to the rescue of sailors in the Fastnet Yacht Race disaster. That event got more attention than another unusual service the same year when the West Cork crew assisted in transferring an injured man to Bantry Hospital following a mutiny aboard a Greek container ship!

There will be a lot happening on the lifeboat scene this year, with the last operational Tyne Class all-weather lifeboat on service in Ireland leaving over the next few months from service in Wicklow and new Shannon Class boats going there and Clogherhead.

And in Cork Harbour, Crosshaven lifeboat station is looking for crew for its inshore boat. Like many village communities, they have a large number of crew working outside the village during the day and, therefore, not available for emergencies, which is putting a strain on their ability to respond in working hours. So they are looking for people over 17 who are at home in the village during the day.

Listen to the podcast where Niamh Stephenson of the RNLI describes the changes and when the new Clogherhead boat will be arriving…..

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The “All In A Row 2018” event on the capital’s River Liffey was supported by teams rowing 40 boats including skiffs, kayaks, canoes and currachs to exceed a 1,000km in eight hours, raising €12,000 for these charities.

Starting from St. Patrick’s Rowing Club at the Tom Clarke Bridge (formerly the East Link Bridge) and finishing at the Ha’penny Bridge, the Liffey was busy with lots of rowing crews, kayaks, canoes and currachs.

RNLI fundraising teamThe Howth RNLI Lifeboat Fund Raising Team with Lord Mayor Nial Ring

Lord Mayor Nial Ring joined a crew on one of the skiffs for the December event and completed his turn in style.

The challenge was undertaken with the aim of showcasing the River Liffey as one of Dublin’s best amenities while raising funds for the water-related charities, the RNLI and the Irish Underwater Search and Recovery Unit.

A wreath-laying ceremony by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Nial Ring, took place to commemorate all those who have lost their lives through drowning. Pat O’Connor, Trumpeter with the Communication Workers Union Brass Band played the Last Post on the Sean O’Casey Bridge.

The RNLI Howth Lifeboat Education Team delivered the RNLI Respect The Water message to 350 pupils from city schools, and the pupils visited the Atlantic 85 lifeboat which was berthed alongside the Jeanie Johnston replica famine ship. 

Liffey rowing boatsCompetitors row their boats on the River Liffey

Many Dublin rowing clubs have their home on the River Liffey and are a regular sight on the water. At the port end of the river is St. Patrick’s Rowing Club, Stella Maris Rowing Club, Dublin Currach Rowers Union, East Wall Water Sports Group and Poolbeg Yacht and Boat club. Ringsend Basin is home to the
Plurabelle Paddlers (dragon boats) and the Dublin Viking Dragon boats.

At the other end of the city beyond Heuston Station, there are many river rowing clubs and kayaking clubs, including Phoenix Rowing Club.

Commenting on the event, the All In a Row Crew said, ‘Everyone knows the River Liffey but most people don’t know how far it stretches and how many rowing groups use it regularly. There is a vibrant boating community on the River Liffey and these clubs regard it as the living artery of the city and one of Dublin’s
great and undervalued amenities.’

‘After the beautiful summer we’ve had, we know that people are drawn to the water, whether on the coast or inland to enjoy different water sports. The Liffey is an undervalued and underused resource that is right under people’s noses and we want to encourage them to use it and to use it safely. From school children
right up to seasoned rowers, this is a great opportunity to draw people down to the Liffey and learn about water safety and the fun activities they can do on the water all year round.’

Crew, supporters and sponsors raised through the GoFundMe page a fantastic €12,000 to be divided between RNLI Lifeboat Howth and the Irish Underwater Search and Recovery Unit.

Published in Rowing

#Lifeboats - RNLI volunteers at Lough Ree have launched their sixth Lap of Lough Ree charity cycle which will take place this year on Sunday 28 April.

The annual 85km cycle raising funds for the lifesaving service in Athlone will go anti-clockwise around Lough Ree starting and finishing at The Bounty at Buccaneers Rugby Club, with a pit-stop in Lanesborough at the north of Lough Ree.

Speaking at the launch, Sarah Bradbury, Lough Ree RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer, said: “We are delighted with the support that the cycle has received each year and that it’s becoming a favourite in the cycling calendar.

“This is a relatively relaxed route for cyclists to ease themselves back into the saddle while taking in the stunning views of Lough Ree.

“Those who participate in the cycle do so knowing they are raising vital funds for Lough Ree RNLI and we would like to thank them in advance for that.

“Funds raised will maintain and equip our inshore lifeboat and will allow our volunteer crew to continue to train and develop their lifesaving skills so when the need arises they can help those who get into difficulty on the lake.”

Registration for the event (entry fee €20) will start at 9am on 28 April in The Bounty. Further information on the cycle and updates can be found on Facebook.com/loughreernli or by emailing [email protected]

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Lifeboats - Bangor RNLI was delighted yesterday (Tuesday 29 January) Yesterday afternoon, Bangor RNLI was delighted to welcome a delegation led by Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Chairman of the RNLI Operations Committee.

Sir Tim and other top RNLI officials met volunteers who run the Bangor lifeboat station as part of the charity’s coastal review.

Together, they spent more than two hours discussing the running of the lifeboat station, the views of management, crew members and fund-raisers, as well as their hopes for the future.

Sir Tim, who is chairman of the RNLI’s operations committee, explained that he and his colleagues visit every lifeboat station in the country in a rolling series of visits to ensure the RNLI remains relevant to each station’s unique needs.

He thanked all the Bangor RNLI volunteers for their commitment to keeping the local waters and shores safe and said how impressed he was to see the high standards set by Bangor are being maintained.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The crew of Donaghadee RNLI lifeboat put to sea on Sunday (27 January ) morning for their fortnightly exercise and also to lay a floral tribute on behalf of the Sir Samuel Kelly Project.

The volunteer crew paid their respects to all those who lost their lives 66 years ago on the 31st January 1953 with the loss of the MV Princess Victoria in the North Channel.

It was poignant that weather conditions on Sunday 27 January would have been akin to that experienced by the crews of Donaghadee, Portpatrick, Cloughey & Newcastle RNLI lifeboats and all the other vessels on that day as they battled to render assistance to those in peril.

A commemorative wreath was put into the sea by the lifeboats Second Coxswain, John Ashwood who commented ‘It was an honour to put to sea today and lay a tribute on behalf of the Sir Samuel Kelly Project to remember the 133 souls that were lost. It was very fitting that the conditions were challenging and made it even more poignant to think of what our former crew members had to face on that occasion’.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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