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The RNLI has declined to accept proceeds from a foxhunting event which was due to take place today (Dec 31) in Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

As first reported by The Waterford News and Star and then The Daily Telegraph, the event hosted by Dungarvan Foxhounds is due to take place in An Rinn.

The Association of Hunt Saboteurs (AHS) claimed that Helvick and Dungarvan RNLI was to receive donations from the event.

However, the RNLI told the newspaper that it was “aware of an independent third-party local fundraising event planned for News Year’s Eve that would see the proceeds of a foxhound’s hunt meet go to the RNLI”.

“This is not an RNLI event. As such no donation for this event has been received by the charity and members of the fundraising branch will not be holding a bucket collection at the event,”it said.

“The RNLI reserves the right to decline donations that are not in keeping with the purpose and the values of the institution. We will not be accepting any donations from this activity or related activities, now or in the future,”it said.

“We are grateful for the continued support we receive from the communities that surround and depend on our lifeboat service. The RNLI’s purpose is to save lives at sea and on inland waters,” the RNLI statement said.

The newspaper also contacted the Dungarvan Foxhounds, which declined to comment.

Read The Waterford News and Star here

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Skerries RNLI were tasked on Saturday morning (30 December) following a call to Dublin Coast Guard reporting that a kitesurfer was in difficulty off Portrane beach.

The Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson was launched by s shortly after 11.30am. After rounding the headland of Red Island, the crew entered a course to steer for Portrane in their onboard navigation system.

Conditions at the time had a westerly wind, Force 3 to 4, with a slight sea swell and good visibility.

As the lifeboat arrived on scene, the volunteers were provided with up-to-date information which was being relayed from a member of the coastguard on shore, and were guided to the kitesurfer’s location.

Following a conversation with the kitesurfer, it was quickly determined that he was not in need of any assistance. He did however accept the offer of a lift closer to the shore, to allay any fears of those that had raised the alarm.

The lifeboat assisted the man on board and dropped him close to the shore, before returning to Skerries to recover the boat and make it ready for the next service.

Speaking about the call-out, volunteer lifeboat press officer Gerry Canning said: “The gentleman was actually very well equipped and within his comfort zone. However, he was using a wing foil and it’s easy to see how it was mistaken for a kite in the water.

“A false alarm with good intent is still a good outcome and our volunteers were glad to discover the man was not in any distress. We will always encourage you to dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard if you think you see someone in trouble on the water.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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On Saturday 30 December, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI to launch to investigate whether anyone was in trouble aboard a 20ft cruiser reported aground west of Garrykennedy Harbour.

At 3.30pm the inshore lifeboat Jean Spier launched with helm Eleanor Hooker, crew Chris Parker and Joe O’Donoghue on board. The wind was southerly Force 5, gusting Force 7, with fair visibility but heavy squalls.

Eleven minutes later, the lifeboat located the casualty vessel midway between Garrykennedy Harbour and Parker’s Point.

The lifeboat navigated a safe passage to the vessel, which was grounded on rocks close to the shore. An RNLI volunteer went aboard the vessel to determine whether there was anyone on board and in need of assistance, but found the vessel was empty. The RNLI crew located the boat’s registration so that Valentia Coast Guard could make contact with the owner.

Given the location and the deteriorating weather conditions, the helm made the decision to make the vessel safe, deploy its anchor, secure its canopy and leave it at the location. The lifeboat helm informed Valentia Coast Guard of this decision.

Lifeboat helm Eleanor Hooker advises boat users “to check the mooring lines on your vessel to ensure they are secure, particularly in anticipation of poor weather conditions”.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The volunteer lifeboat crew of Howth RNLI launched their All-Weather Lifeboat yesterday (Friday, 29 December) to reports of a yacht with two people on board that was being blown offshore and unable to make its way back to safety.

Shortly after midday, the Coast Guard received a call from the yacht which gave its position as south of Lambay Island, the largest island off the east coast of Ireland. The sea conditions were challenging and the crew of the yacht were unable to make progress towards their intended destination, and were unable to make their way back to the safety of a harbour.

The volunteer lifeboat crew were paged at 12:11 pm to launch the All-Weather Lifeboat, the Roy Barker III. The crew made their way to the lifeboat station, and launched the lifeboat within ten minutes. Visibility was good, however the winds and sea state were challenging with winds blowing force 5 to 6, and gusting force 7.

A Howth RNLI Lifeboat crew member ready to transfer across to the yacht in difficulty off Lambay IslandA Howth RNLI Lifeboat crew member ready to transfer across to the yacht in difficulty off Lambay Island Photo: Howth RNLI

The lifeboat was on scene in fifteen minutes. The coxswain decided to put a lifeboat crew member on board the yacht to assess the two people on board. The coxswain manoeuvred the lifeboat alongside the yacht and transferred the crew member across. The crew member established that the two people on board were wet and cold but otherwise unharmed. The coxswain decided to take the yacht under tow and to bring it to the safety of Howth harbour.

The crew set up the tow line and once ready, the coxswain again brought the lifeboat alongside the yacht to allow the crew transfer the tow line across. The tow line was secured and the yacht was towed back to Howth. The lifeboat returned to the lifeboat station at 13:40 and was made ready for its next service.

Speaking following the incident, Howth RNLI Second Coxswain Ian Sheridan said: "The RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews are on call 24/7 365 days of the year. As the weather conditions were deteriorating, the crew of the yacht did the right thing in calling for help before it was too late. Our volunteer crew responded to the pager quickly and we were able to launch and locate the yacht within twenty five minutes of their call for help". 

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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“On the application of the local residents, the RNLI committee decided to open a lifeboat establishment on Arranmore Island. The site for the boathouse and slipway was kindly granted by the landed proprietor Lieutenant F Charley, and the expense of the boat and equipment was defrayed from a legacy bequeathed to the Institution by Richard Vandeleur of Dublin.” — RNLI Archives, 1883

On 1 September 1883, the first lifeboat — aptly named Vandeleur — came to Arranmore and was crewed entirely by volunteers. Today, 140 years later, the ethos of volunteering is still strong among islanders and the volunteer crew of Arranmore RNLI are still ready at a moment’s notice to drop everything and answer the call.

Recalling the most notable rescue by Co Donegal island’s lifeboat station, former crew member and deputy coxswain from 2000-2011, Jerry Early said: “My father Andrew always remembered watching the lifeboat go out and thinking that the crew and lifeboat would never return such were the horrendous conditions of the sea and storm-force winds.”

On 6 December 1940, the Dutch merchant ship Stolwijk had lost power and went on the rocks off Tory Island in Donegal. Ten of the crew were lost, with 18 survivors clinging on to the stern as huge waves washed over them. It took the lifeboat four hours to reach the stricken ship and a further four hours to rescue the remaining 18 sailors. A breeches buoy line was utilised in the rescue and unfortunately it broke several times.

With the survivors on board, the lifeboat made its way to Burtonport, again another four-hour journey to drop off the rescued sailors and refuel.

The lifeboat had to stay at Burtonport harbour overnight as the crew were exhausted and the weather conditions were still too dangerous to return to Arranmore. In all, the lifeboat and crew spent 22 hours rescuing the crew of the Stolwijk. The lifeboat crew were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals from the RNLI and similar awards from Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands for the rescue of her compatriots.

These events are recalled in a tribute by Jerry Early, who shared: “Listening to my father talking about the men who went out on that call inspired me to write the song ‘I’ll Go’ with my cousin, John Gallagher.”

A painting of the Arranmore lifeboat’s rescue of survivors from the Stolwijk features on the cover of Jerry Early’s single “I’ll Go”A painting of the Arranmore lifeboat’s rescue of survivors from the Stolwijk features on the cover of Jerry Early’s single “I’ll Go”

The lyrics of this song honour the brave lifeboat men who risked their lives to save fellow sailors. The hopeful tone of the chorus — “I’ll go and do the best I can / I’ll do what must be done / I’ll go cause I’m a lifeboat man / I am my father’s son” — evocatively sums up the dedication of lifeboat crews throughout the service.

Families are an integral part of the RNLI crew and in Arranmore the involvement and support of families can be traced through the generations from the first crew of the Vandeleur to the present day.

Brian Byrne can trace his family’s service on the lifeboat back to 1883 when his great-great-grandfather, Brian O’Donnell, was appointed the first coxswain on the Vandeleur. His grandfather, father, uncle and brother John, all served on subsequent lifeboats. Brian’s father Neily Byrne and uncle Phil Byrne were awarded bronze medals for their part in the rescue of the Stolwijk crew.

Furthermore, Phil Byrne was awarded a silver medal for leading his lifeboat crew on a successful medical evacuation from Tory Island to the mainland in raging north-westerly gales to save the life of a seriously ill young boy.

Brian recalls being on the rescue mission to Tory with many members of his family: “I remember being on the lifeboat that night; my uncle, Phil, was the coxswain, my father Neil, my brother John and cousin Bernard O’Donnell were also onboard.”

For context, Bernard’s grandfather Paddy O’Donnell was one of the recipients of the bronze medals for the rescue of the Stolwyjk crew, as were his uncles Phil and Neily Byrne. His brother John also served as mechanic/coxswain on the lifeboat.

Brian continues: “Because of the bad weather we couldn’t land the lifeboat at the pier and the yawl bringing the boy to the lifeboat got into difficulty after getting the boy on board the lifeboat. We got the yawl safely back to the island and then took the sick boy to Burtonport. He was taken to Letterkenny Hospital then.”

Arranmore RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat with the slopes of Errigal in the distance | Credit: RNLI/ArranmoreArranmore RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat with the slopes of Errigal in the distance | Credit: RNLI/Arranmore

Describing his first shout, Brian says: “I think I was in my early teens when I went out on my first lifeboat call. It was to a yacht anchored off Arranmore with the anchor drifting and we had to stay out all night until the yacht set sail the following morning. As a young fellow I don’t think I was ever really thinking about how dangerous it was to go off out on a shout in stormy weather. I suppose it’s just part of your life when you live on an island, it’s what you do.”

Philip McCauley has been the Arranmore RNLI mechanic/coxswain since 1996. He was appointed after his cousin John O’Donnell retired from the position. It’s clear to be seen that the lifeboat runs in the blood since Philip’s great-great-great grandfather was Vandeleur first coxswain, Brian O’Donnell, and it was Philip’s grandfather Phil Byrne who was awarded silver and bronze medals for the Tory and Stolwijk rescues respectively.

When islander Mark Boyle returned from America, he promptly joined the lifeboat crew. Mark’s father Charlie had served as mechanic while his grandfather Jack, who had served as coxswain, was awarded gold medals for the Stolwijk rescue.

In the early years of Arranmore RNLI, it was local men with a knowledge of the sea who went on a call for the lifeboat. Prior to the first motor boat in 1902, boats were open to the elements, powered by oars and sail with speeds of up to 3-5 knots and the crew relied on long oilskin coats and sou’westers to protect them from the wind and rain.

Today’s lifeboats are state-of-the-art vessels, equipped with advanced technology, capable of speeds over 25 knots on the all-weather lifeboats and 35 knots on the inshore rigid inflatable boats. Crew members come from all walks of life and are trained in all aspects of boat handling, on-board equipment, technology, first aid and everything involved in saving lives at sea.

Arranmore’s crew are also getting a purpose-built boathouse, which will be operational in 2024 and will cater for on-site crew training, housing boarding boats, launching vehicles and adequate facilities for the crew.

So many things have changed over the last 140 years for the RNLI on Arranmore but the one constant theme is the volunteer ethos. One thing that never changes is the courage, dedication and selfless instincts of lifeboat volunteers who, without a thought for their own safety, go to help their fellow sailors.

So as you ring in the new year, spare a thought for the men and women who will say, ‘I’ll go’ — 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Dun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew gathered at noon on Christmas Eve, with around 200 people, at the end of the East Pier to lay wreaths at sea and remember 15 of their lifeboat colleagues who lost their lives while on a rescue mission in Gale force conditions in 1895.

As Afloat reported previously, the ceremony was also held to remember all those who lost their lives through drowning around the coast, on inland waters, and abroad.

As the RNLI prepares to mark its 200th year in operation in 2024, the station marked the anniversary by placing wreaths in the sea from the all-weather lifeboat.

The annual ceremony has become a Christmas Eve tradition for the Dublin lifeboat station. Both Dun Laoghaire RNLI’s inshore and all-weather lifeboat launched and the volunteer lifeboat crew laid the wreaths off the east pier in view of the public. 

Piper Ruairí Somers played a lament from the Lighthouse Battery, and musician William Byrne will perform the ‘Ballad of the Palme.’

On 24 December 1895, the 'Civil Service No. 1' Dun Laoghaire lifeboat was wrecked while proceeding to the assistance of the SS Palme of Finland. The entire crew, 15 in total, were drowned. The lifeboat capsized 600 yards from the distressed vessel, and although every effort was made to send help to the lifeboat and to the Palme, nothing could be done.

The second Dun Laoghaire lifeboat 'Hannah Pickard' also launched but it too capsized under sail, fortunately all crew returned safely. The Captain, his wife, his child and 17 crew were eventually rescued on the 26th of December by the SS Tearaght.

The short ceremony occurred under the lighthouse at the end of the East Pier. It includes an ecumenical blessing, a reading from a news article published at the time and music.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland and the RNLI have issued a joint appeal for the festive season, urging people to be mindful of the potential risks with their chosen activity and attend to their personal safety in planning and participating in any water based or coastal activities.

The increase in popularity of festive dips and open water swimming will see a lot of people taking to the water over the next few weeks. Many people will also avail of the opportunity to participate in coastal walks and hikes. The three maritime organisations are asking people to check that they have the right information to safely enjoy these activities and that they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

For those taking part in winter dips and swims the advice is:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Ensure that somebody ashore is monitoring your activity.
  • Acclimatise slowly.
  • Stay within your depth.
  • Always be seen.
  • Organisers of Christmas day or New year swims are advised to have suitably trained personnel in attendance and to appoint a Safety Officer.

Water-based activities at this or any time of year are not limited to swimming as the popularity of kayaking, canoeing, boating, and paddle-boarding remains high. The safety advice for these activities includes:

  • Always have a means for calling for help and make sure you can access it when you are out on the water.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.
  • Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
  • Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off.
  • If you're exploring somewhere new, seek knowledge from experienced practitioners in the area.

Water Safety Ireland’s Deputy CEO Roger Sweeney said “A full moon during Christmas week (Dec 27th) will heighten the risks for walkers and swimmers as the resulting higher high tides will make our coastline more precarious. Stay away from the water’s edge on family walks and swimmers should watch out for stronger rip currents. Stranding will also be a risk for many walkers as the lower low tides caused by the full moon will expose even greater areas of the coastline. Children are often tempted to explore these sandbanks but risk being surrounded by an incoming tide. Parents and guardians should provide constant undistracted adult supervision of their children at all times.”

RNLI Water Safety Lead Linda Gene Byrne added “This time of year sees a huge increase in people doing seasonal swims and dips, particularly for charity. We would urge people when they decide to take to the water, to make time to ensure they are doing it safely and with the correct knowledge and equipment. That time taken could save a life or another person’s life. If you need to call for help, everything that you have done to keep afloat could make all the difference.”

Coast Guard Operations manager Gerard O’Flynn commented “Please plan your activity, whether it be on the water or along the coast and only swim or walk in areas with which you are familiar. Be mindful that less busy walkways may have suffered erosion since the summertime. Always carry a means of communication, such as VHF radio or a personal locator beacon especially if going afloat. PLBs attached to a lifejacket are proven to be lifesavers”.

The Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland and RNLI would also like to thank all the volunteers and staff of the search and rescue organisations, who keep people safe on the water all year round and whose actions have saved many lives and wish them and their families a SAFE, happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 112 or 999 and ask for the Coast Guard

Published in Coastguard

Cork maritime journalist and Afloat.ie columnist Tom MacSweeney contributes this week to 200 Voices, the special podcast series marking 200 years of the RNLI.

Also featuring in the series this week is MacSweeney’s erstwhile colleague when he was marine correspondent at RTÉ: recently retired head of Radio 1, Tom McGuire.

MacSweeney presented more than 1,000 episodes of the maritime programme Seascapes on RTÉ Radio 1, and in his 200 Voices episode Voice of the Sea reflects on the unchanging mission of the charity and the generous spirit of RNLI volunteers.

In this episode, available from Thursday 21 December, he reflects particularly on the Lady Murphy tragedy in Rosslare Harbour on Christmas Eve 1977 in which Kilmore Quay RNLI volunteer Finton Sinnott was lost at sea.

In his reflection, MacSweeney notes how the mission of the RNLI “to save every one” has remained unchanged over two centuries. In particular, he pays tribute to the contribution of lifeboat people and their families for the contribution and sacrifices they make in saving lives.

Already available wherever you get your podcasts is Full Circle, in which Tom McGuire — who is lifeboat press officer at Lough Ree RNLI — talks about his media career and his return as a volunteer to the same community he served in a pastoral role in the 1980s.

This unique podcast series has already heard from several people connected to the RNLI in Ireland and those whose lives have been touched by the lifesaving charity.

Available across all podcast platforms and the RNLI’s website, listeners can hear from survivors, supporters, volunteers, lifeguards, celebrity ambassadors, historians and many more from across Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland and beyond.

To find out more about the RNLI’s bicentenary, visit RNLI.org/200.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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At noon on Christmas Eve (Sunday, 24 December) Dun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew will gather at the end of the East Pier to lay wreaths at sea and remember 15 of their lifeboat colleagues who lost their lives while on a rescue mission in gale force conditions in 1895.

The ceremony, which the public is invited to attend, is also held to remember all those who lost their lives through drowning around the coast, on inland waters and abroad.

As the RNLI prepares to mark its 200th year in operation in 2024, the station will mark the anniversary by placing wreaths in the sea from the all-weather lifeboat to pay tribute to their colleagues who lost their lives while on a service. The annual ceremony has become a Christmas Eve tradition for the Dublin lifeboat station. Both Dun Laoghaire RNLI’s inshore and all-weather lifeboat will launch, and volunteer lifeboat crew will lay the wreaths off the east pier in view of the public. This year, Olympic sailing medallist Annalise Murphy will read an account of the disaster, published at the time of the tragedy.

Piper Ruairí Somers will play a lament from the Lighthouse Battery and musician, William Byrne, will perform the ‘Ballad of the Palme.’

On 24 December 1895, the 'Civil Service No. 1' Dun Laoghaire lifeboat was wrecked while proceeding to the assistance of the SS Palme of Finland. The entire crew, 15 in total, were drowned. The lifeboat capsized 600 yards from the distressed vessel and, although every effort was made to send help to the lifeboat and to the Palme, nothing could be done.

The second Dun Laoghaire lifeboat 'Hannah Pickard' also launched but it too capsized under sail, fortunately all crew returned safely. The Captain, his wife, child and 17 crew were eventually rescued on the 26th December by the SS Tearaght.

The short ceremony takes place under the lighthouse at the end of the East Pier. It includes an ecumenical blessing, a reading from a news article published at the time and music.

Commenting on the event Dun Laoghaire RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Ed Totterdell said, ‘The loss of fifteen lifeboat volunteers devastated the local community at the time but the lifeboat service kept going. This event has grown from honouring an incredible act of service, to remembering all those who have lost their lives through drowning. Our lifeboat crew, as well as so many other lifeboat volunteers, are on call this Christmas, and every day of the year.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Christmas is a time for family and, for many, a time for sharing stories of times and generations past. For the Chambers family from Portrush, on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast, these stories often involve saving lives at sea.

Jason Chambers and Karl O’Neill are cousins and are following a long line of their family who have served on Portrush RNLI lifeboats.

Karl and Jason’s great grandfather Karl D Chambers was mechanic at Portrush from 1924 to 1947. Karl had spent 17 years in the Royal Navy serving in destroyers on the North Sea. Gilbert Chambers, Karl’s son, had assisted his father in the engine room took over as mechanic in June 1947. Gilbert received two thanks on vellum and a BEM in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 1975. Gilbert was also second coxswain.

Gilbert’s son Derek was then appointed mechanic and coxswain, becoming one of the few full-time coxswain/mechanics in the RNLI. Derek’s brother Anthony succeeded him as mechanic and subsequently as coxswain/mechanic, serving Portrush RNLI for 40 years until his retirement in 2020. Anthony was awarded a bronze medal from the RNLI in recognition of his rescue of two boys who were trapped in a cave at Castlerock in 2010.

Jason Chambers, carrying on the family tradition, is a helm on the D boat and relief mechanic. Karl O’Neill is a deputy coxswain on the all-weather lifeboat and area supervisor for the RNLI Lifeguards in Northern Ireland.

Both Karl and Jason said: “There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families — especially at Christmas. But as volunteer lifeboat crew we couldn’t launch 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.

“We are proud to be carrying on the family tradition serving the community at Portrush RNLI — we like to think they would be very proud.”

On average, RNLI lifeboats launch over 100 times during the Christmas period every year. Whatever weather winter throws at them, RNLI crews are ready to battle the elements to save lives at sea.

These rescues, and others all year round, are only made possible by the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the RNLI is launching its annual Christmas fundraising appeal for 2023 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.

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
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