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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

Members of the public are being invited to suggest names for the new Salmon Weir Bridge in Galway city, as the Connacht Tribune reports.

Built over the course of a year, the cycling and pedestrian bridge across the River Corrib was opened last summer and is the first such span of the waterway in over three decades.

The application form is available from the Galway City Council website and submissions will be open until 6pm on Sunday 11 February.

Published in Galway Harbour

A community-based initiative hosted on County Galway’s offshore communities has been named winner at the National Age Friendly Awards 2023 held last evening (Thursday) in Clayton Whites Hotel, Co. Wexford.

The ‘Healthy Islands’ project picked up the Age Friendly Active & Healthy Ageing Award in recognition of its efforts to promote health and well-being, to improve communication and enhance knowledge of available services amongst residents of The Aran Islands (Inis Meáin, Inis Mór and Inis Oírr) and Inisbofin.

The project featured free activities and resources for more than 200 participating residents to promote health and wellbeing across all the islands, including pulse and blood pressure checks, healthy cooking demonstrations workshops, a community fun-run, yoga, relationship and sexual health education, citizen information advice, and exercise and fitness tips.

The initiative, which was rolled out in April, was coordinated by Healthy Galway County under Galway Rural Development’s Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP) and supported by statutory, community and voluntary organisations, including Galway Rural Development, Galway Sports Partnership, Comharchumann Forbartha Arann Teo Inis Mór, Comhlacht Forbartha Inis Meáin, Inishbofin Development Company CL and Comhar Caomhán Teoranta Inis Oírr.

Commenting on the award win, Councillor Liam Carroll, Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council said, “This wonderful initiative is worthy of the national recognition it has received. It successfully broke through the barriers to services and information that islanders can face due to their remote location. The collaborative approach to delivering the project is a template for future similar projects that seek to ensure everyone can enjoy good physical and mental health, and where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society.”

Liam Conneally, Chief Executive of Galway County Council praised the various community and economic development groups on the islands for playing a vital role in the success of the project which, he said, presented a suitable template for similar initiatives in the future.

“Galway County Council is delighted to have supported Healthy islands and congratulates everyone involved in achieving this award success,” he added.

Alan Farrell, Director of Services, Galway County Council, commented, “The local buy-in and commitment of multiple agencies to bringing this project to fruition resulted in island dwellers across the life span being able to access a range of supports, information and services locally and build a better understanding of health and wellbeing initiatives that could be drawn on as needed. Another key benefit was that a range of organisations were able to improve their understanding of older islanders’ needs.”

Dr. Anne Cassidy, Senior Manager of Galway Rural Development’s SICAP team said, “This award win is testament to the high levels of participation amongst residents and the many community, voluntary and statutory organisations across the islands and the wider county. Healthy Islands has had a meaningful impact on the lives of older people and the wider community of the four islands. We look forward to seeing a further building on the relationships established through this project and increasing local access to services in the months and years ahead.”

Mary Cronin of Galway County Older People's Council praised the project’s community-centred focus, adding “Healthy Islands was predominantly aimed at the older population, but it also proved beneficial to other age groups, particularly those looking after a parent or relation, as it has helped them to better cater for the people they are linking in with and sharing the services and information.”

Andrew McBride, Healthy County Galway Coordinator said the project will have positive long-term consequences for islanders and service organisations.

“Due to their small population and geographical isolation, most organisations do not visit the islands resulting in low levels of awareness of services and interaction between providers and islanders,” he explained. “By travelling there, organisations now have a better understanding of these contexts, the needs and how these might be met. Likewise, islanders who face journeys of up to two hours to Galway City to avail of some key services were able to engage with service providers. The new relationships that have been formed will lead to future projects being identified to address the health and wellbeing needs of each individual island as all four islands have different needs and wants.”

Organisations that participated in Healthy Islands included Galway County Council, Croí, Healthy Ireland at Galway Library, Galway Sports Partnership, the Galway Public Participation Network (PPN), Age Friendly Homes, Sexual Health West, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Mental Health Ireland, Chime, Alone, the Irish Wheelchair Association, the HSE Health Promotion and Improvement unit, Jigsaw, Parkrun Ireland, West Be Well, Domestic Violence Response Galway, and the local Public Health Nurse and Gardaí.

Published in Island News
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James Corballis and Aaron O’Reilly, two trainee crew members with Galway RNLI, have completed their training programme and passed their final assessments which means that they can progress to fully fledged crew.

Lifeboat training covers a range of skill sets such as seamanship and boat handling, navigation and search and rescue. Trainee crew must complete 15 training modules and 49 different assessments of activities in the lifeboat station and on the water to ensure that the lifeboat and crew aboard are ready to handle a wide range of situations when saving lives at sea.

James Corballis is originally from Kilkenny and has been living in Galway for the past 15 years. “The RNLI has been a big part of my family growing up and from where I live in Galway I could see the lifeboat launching at all hours day and night. It was something that I always I hoped I would do and in 2020 I was able to join the RNLI,” he said.

“I’m delighted to have now completed my trainee plan, completed and passed the final assessments which means I can now move on to be ‘substantive’ crew and take on more responsibilities when we head out to sea when the pager goes off.“”

Aaron O’Reilly grew up on the water and has always been involved in sailing and powerboating. He said: “I’ve been involved in water-based sports all my life and I know how important it is to have assistance if you need it, if there is an accident or medical emergency out on Galway Bay.

“I joined the RNLI so I could give back to the community and now that I have passed all my assessments, I’ll be able to play a greater part in providing a 24-hour rescue service for the people who need our assistance.”

Frankie Leonard, lifeboat training coordinator with Galway RNLI said: “James and Aaron started volunteering with the RNLI in late 2020 and once they completed their training as shore crew, moved on to the training plan that would enable them to become crew on the lifeboat.

“It is a real credit to both of them that they were able to complete the training modules, put the skills learned into practice on shore and on the boat and prepare for and pass their assessments while also dealing with the challenges we all faced during the pandemic.

“We are delighted to have two crew with their expertise and enthusiasm on board. Crew training is a continuous process and the learning never stops.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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In recognition of their dedication and commitment of time, energy and skills, seven members of the Galway RNLI crew were presented with long-service awards for achieving 50, 100, 150 and 200 services.

Each time the crew members respond to their pagers and head out to sea on a rescue counts as a service. The seven crew had amassed a total of 900 services between them, including 200 services by David Oliver — who has been with the Galway RNLI crew since the station opened in 1995.

Mike Swan, lifeboat operations manager with Galway RNLI said: “Every year we recognise the dedication of our volunteer crew by presenting long-service awards. This year we have a number of crew who achieved significant milestones including Lisa McDonagh with 50 services; Shane Folan and Olivia Byrne with 100 services; Declan Killilea, Brian Niland and David Badger with 150 services; [and] David Oliver with a record 200 services.

“Our lifeboat volunteers have all kinds of backgrounds and jobs. At a moment’s notice, they readily exchange work, comfort or sleep for cold, wet and fatigue. They spend many hours of their own time training together so they can meet the dangers and challenges they face on search and rescue missions at sea.

“The awards are not just to celebrate the achievements of the crew who are willing to drop everything at the sound of their pager, but also their families and friends who play a key role in supporting our crew to spend time saving lives at sea and being there for them when they get home after what may sometimes be a very challenging day or night on the water.”

Swan continued: “Our volunteer lifeboat crew is on call 24/7, 365 days a year. The average time from the call from the coastguard requesting the lifeboat and crew to launch, to the boat and crew being on the water is approximately 10 minutes, day or night.

“The area covered by the Galway RNLI Lifeboat and crew is the section of Galway Bay east of a line between Black Head in Co Clare and Spiddal, Co Galway and includes Barna, Salthill, Galway city and the mouth of the River Corrib, Oranmore, Kinvara, Newquay and Ballyvaughan.

“Last year our crew and lifeboat launched 33 times and came to the aid of 31 people. This is only possible due to the dedication of our crew who go to sea and the wider group of volunteers who provide shore support and fundraising support which in turn relies on the generosity of our community in Galway further afield.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The impact of the current marine heatwave on Ireland’s coastline is being recorded by international researchers who are taking a “snapshot” of the European coast where land and sea meet.

As The Irish Independent reports, the Traversing European Coastlines (TREC) involves both land and sea-based researchers undertaking simultaneous sampling.

The 36-metre schooner Tara is currently in Galway, working with a mobile laboratory for land work.

The 36-metre schooner Tara in Galway PortThe 36-metre schooner Tara in Galway Port

Scientists can analyse samples even as they voyage across 46 different European regions extending from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia.

The baseline information on coastal ecology gathered will serve as an invaluable reference point to measure coastal climate change impacts.

Over 150 research teams from over 70 institutions in 29 European countries are involved, and the TREC project is being co-ordinated by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory( EMBL), working with local partners such as the Marine Institute in Galway.

The schooner, which is based in Lorient, France, is ice-strengthened to work in polar regions.

It is financed through a mixture of private and public funds with French designer Agnes B one of the main sponsors.

It has an “excellent chef”, but also everyone on board “gets to clean the toilets”, chief scientist Emmanuel Boss told the newspaper.

Chief scientist Emmanuel Boss(left) and captain Martin Hertau on board the French research schooner Tara in Galway docksChief scientist Emmanuel Boss(left) and captain Martin Hertau on board the French research schooner Tara in Galway Docks

“It doesn’t matter if you are chief scientist or captain of the boat – everyone has to do their chores as part of a roster,” he said.

“This makes for “far better relations” and no hierarchy, Boss said – “the relationship between crew and scientists is tighter than on any other boat I have been on,”he said.

The Marine Institute’s director of marine environment and food safety Joe Silke said the research being conducted “addresses crucial issues such as pollution, biodiversity loss, and invasive species, expanding on, and directly relevant to the Marine Institute’s work in Ireland's coastal habitats”.

The schooner, Tara, is open to the public today (Sunday, September 10th) in Galway docks from 10am to 6pm.

There is also a travelling exhibition, a reality game-based workshop and public workshops in the Galway City Museum and other venues next week.

Read The Irish Independent here

Published in Marine Science
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In recognition of the long career of RNLI coxswain John O’Donnell and the close relationship with the Aran Islands RNLI, last week the Galway RNLI crew presented a framed picture of the lifeboats from both stations to O’Donnell to mark his retirement.

Mike Swan, Galway RNLI lifeboat operations manager who made the presentation said: “The ties between the Galway and Aran Islands lifeboat stations go right back to the late ’90s when the Galway station was first operational.

“At that time some of the Aran RNLI crew were studying in Galway and living in the city during the week and as it wasn’t always possible for them to get back to Aran for their training exercises, they joined our crew for training.

“I’ve known John since before he joined the RNLI in 2003 and then when he became the coxswain for the Aran Islands lifeboat and I took up the role of lifeboat operations manager for Galway, our roles meant that over the years we were at meetings together with the coastguard and other emergency services, along with events and training at the RNLI bases in Dublin and Poole, England.”

Swan added: “The crews at both lifeboat stations have been on many joint rescues over the years. Although there is an imaginary line from Spiddal in Galway to Black Head in Co Clare that divides the area of Galway Bay that each station is responsible for, in reality — when there is a long rescue that requires all available resources or a search for a missing boat that has no last known location — the boundary becomes irrelevant and we work together as one crew.

“There have been many difficult nights on the water and challenging situations but when we look back on the 21 years that John was involved in the Aran Islands lifeboat, it is the friendships and camaraderie that we will remember.

“I was delighted to present a photo of our two lifeboats to John on behalf of the entire crew in Galway. In the photo you can see the Aran Islands all-weather lifeboat David Kirkaldy out on the bay with the Galway inshore lifeboat, Binny in the foreground.

“We wish John every happiness on his retirement from the RNLI and even though he will be as busy as ever, he won’t have to think about the pager going off at all hours any more.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A group of young kayakers in Galway were treated to a scarce sight at the weekend when an angelshark surprised them for a brief swim-around.

Kayaking instructors Ronan Breathnach and Colm O’Loan from Galway Bay Sailing Club had the presence of mind to dip their camera into the water and capture footage of this rarely encountered fish in the waters off Rinville on Sunday (28 May).

“What a great day out for the group of 12 budding marine scientists of the future,” said the Marine Institute, who confirmed the sighting of one of the critically endangered marine wildlife species which is also one of the rarest sharks in Europe.

Angelsharks were once abundant over large areas of the Northeast Atlantic but pressure from commercial fishing—particularly bottom trawling—has been blamed for a significant decline in their numbers over the last century.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan was on hand in Galway on Friday (26 May) to officially open the new span adjacent to the Salmon Weir Bridge over the River Corrib.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the first sod was turned on the €3 million active travel project in April 2022.

The cycling and pedestrian bridge is the first new crossing of the Corrib in over 30 years and aims to take pressure off the existing narrow road bridge, which dates from 1818.

Galway Bay FM spoke to some of the first members of the public to use the new bridge and gauged their responses HERE.

Published in Galway Harbour

The Galway Bay RNLI volunteer crew carried out a training exercise with the University of Galway Clinical Simulation and Interprofessional Education Facility this week.

The exercise took place on a calm evening and involved the lifeboat crew being called to a cruiser where a member of the lifeboat crew played the part of the casualty with a traumatic leg fracture.

A busy evening on Galway Bay – RNLI Galway’s inshore lifeboat ‘Binny’ and crew taking part in a trauma simulation exercise involving a casualty on a cruiser, with a visiting cruise ship in the background.A busy evening on Galway Bay – RNLI Galway’s inshore lifeboat ‘Binny’ and crew taking part in a trauma simulation exercise involving a casualty on a cruiser, with a visiting cruise ship in the background

Departing the lifeboat station at Galway Port, the crew on board the inshore lifeboat ‘Binny’, travelled to the cruiser where they came aboard, assessed and stabilised the ‘patient’ using their casualty care check cards. The crew were observed by Professor Aidan Devitt, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Mr Mike Smith, Senior Technical Officer Skills and Simulation, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway. After returning to the lifeboat station, Mr Alan Hussey, Consultant Plastic Surgeon gave a briefing on managing burns and other traumatic injuries such as amputation or avulsion of limbs and digits.

767Transferring the ‘patient’ to the lifeboat by stretcher as part of a trauma simulation exercise with the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway. From left: RNLI crew Stefanie Carr; Mike Smith, Senior Technical Officer Skills and Simulation; RNLI crew Seán Óg Leydon, Frank Leonard, Helm Dave Badger and Olivia Byrne. Transferring the ‘patient’ to the lifeboat by stretcher as part of a trauma simulation exercise with the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway. From left: RNLI crew Stefanie Carr; Mike Smith, Senior Technical Officer Skills and Simulation; RNLI crew Seán Óg Leydon, Frank Leonard, Helm Dave Badger and Olivia Byrne.

The exercise also required the lifeboat crew to transfer the patient in a stretcher to the lifeboat. In a real-life situation, the lifeboat crew would have transported the casualty back to Galway Port for transfer to an ambulance.

Galway RNLI volunteer crew, from left: Frank Leonard, Stefanie Carr and Olivia Byrne assessing and stabilising a ‘patient’, Sean McLoughlin, who is also an RNLI crew member. The crew were observed by Professor Aidan Devitt, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Mr Mike Smith, Senior Technical Officer Skills and Simulation, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway as part of a trauma simulation exerciseGalway RNLI volunteer crew, from left: Frank Leonard, Stefanie Carr and Olivia Byrne assessing and stabilising a ‘patient’, Sean McLoughlin, who is also an RNLI crew member. The crew were observed by Professor Aidan Devitt, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Mr Mike Smith, Senior Technical Officer Skills and Simulation, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway as part of a trauma simulation exercise

The simulation exercise was part of ongoing engagement between the University’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and the RNLI crew and had been arranged by Prof Dara Byrne, Professor of Simulation Education, University of Galway who said: ‘We are delighted to continue our work with the RNLI team and support them in their valuable work. The management of trauma and burns in the very early stages can improve patient outcomes so it is important to get it right. The expertise provided by the two surgeons today during the simulation will make a difference to both the crew and their casualties. The Simulation Team and I are looking forward to our next educational session with the crew and to working with them in the state-of-the-art Simulation Facility at the University of Galway.’

Olivia Byrne, volunteer RNLI crew, said: ‘On behalf of the entire crew, I’d like to thank Professor Byrne for arranging for the consultants from Galway University Hospitals to take part in this exercise this evening. In the event of a call-out that involves the rescue of a patient with a fracture, burn or other traumatic injury, the patient will be brought to hospital in Galway to be treated by these doctors and their teams. Getting their insights into how patients are treated for these injuries helps us to appreciate the relevance of our first aid training and the importance of doing training exercises to put our learning into practice.'

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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RORC Fastnet Race

This race is both a blue riband international yachting fixture and a biennial offshore pilgrimage that attracts crews from all walks of life:- from aspiring sailors to professional crews; all ages and all professions. Some are racing for charity, others for a personal challenge.

For the world's top professional sailors, it is a 'must-do' race. For some, it will be their first-ever race, and for others, something they have competed in for over 50 years! The race attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts, from beautiful classic yachts to some of the fastest racing machines on the planet – and everything in between.

The testing course passes eight famous landmarks along the route: The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, the Lizard, Land’s End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater (now Cherbourg for 2021 and 2023). After the start in Cowes, the fleet heads westward down The Solent, before exiting into the English Channel at Hurst Castle. The finish for 2021 is in Cherbourg via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland.

  • The leg across the Celtic Sea to (and from) the Fastnet Rock is known to be unpredictable and challenging. The competitors are exposed to fast-moving Atlantic weather systems and the fleet often encounter tough conditions
  • Flawless decision-making, determination and total commitment are the essential requirements. Crews have to manage and anticipate the changing tidal and meteorological conditions imposed by the complex course
  • The symbol of the race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point in the challenging race
  • Once sailors reach the Fastnet Rock, they are well over halfway to the finish in Cherbourg.

Fastnet Race - FAQs

The 49th edition of the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race will start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, UK on Sunday 8th August 2021.

The next two editions of the race in 2021 and 2023 will finish in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin at the head of the Normandy peninsula, France

Over 300. A record fleet is once again anticipated for the world's largest offshore yacht race.

The international fleet attracts both enthusiastic amateur, the seasoned offshore racer, as well as out-and-out professionals from all corners of the world.

Boats of all shapes, sizes and age take part in this historic race, from 9m-34m (30-110ft) – and everything in between.

The Fastnet Race multihull course record is: 1 day 4 hours 2 minutes and 26 seconds (2019, Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier)

The Fastnet Race monohull course record is: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing).

David and Peter Askew's American VO70 Wizard won the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, claiming the Fastnet Challenge Cup for 1st in IRC Overall.

Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001.

The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result.

The winner of the first Fastnet Race was the former pilot cutter Jolie Brise, a boat that is still sailing today.

Cork sailor Henry P F Donegan (1870-1940), who gave his total support for the Fastnet Race from its inception in 1925 and competed in the inaugural race in his 43ft cutter Gull from Cork.

Ireland has won the Fastnet Race twice. In 1987 the Dubois 40 Irish Independent won the Fastnet Race overall for the first time and then in 2007 – all of twenty years after Irish Independent’s win – Ireland secured the overall win again this time thanks to Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 Chieftain from the Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland in Kilrush.

©Afloat 2020

Fastnet Race 2023 Date

The 2023 50th Rolex Fastnet Race will start on Saturday, 22nd July 2023

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At A Glance – Fastnet Race

  • The world's largest offshore yacht race
  • The biennial race is 695 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Cherbourg
  • A fleet of over 400 yachts regularly will take part
  • The international fleet is made up of over 26 countries
  • Multihull course record: 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (2011, Banque Populaire V)
  • Monohull course record: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi)
  • Largest IRC Rated boat is the 100ft (30.48m) Scallywag 100 (HKG)
  • Some of the Smallest boats in the fleet are 30 footers
  • Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001
  • The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result.

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