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Final preparations are under way at the three Donegal-based RNLI lifeboat stations at Bundoran and Lough Swilly and Arranmore for the charity’s Mayday Mile challenge which will see six volunteer crew — two from each station — climb Donegal’s highest summit, Errigal, this Saturday 13 May in full RNLI crew kit.

Since the fundraiser was announced a few weeks ago, the six lifeboat crew members — Chris Fox and Brian Fowley (Bundoran), Stephen Quigley and Barry Nixon (Lough Swilly) and Aisling Cox and Brian Proctor (Arranmore) — have been psyching themselves up for the challenge. Gym sessions have been completed and many steps have been climbed in preparation for the event.

Killian O’Kelly, RNLI water safety education manager and organiser of the fundraiser has been encouraging the six crew as they ready for the challenge.

“We’ll be right there with them on the day — we know it’ll be a tough one for them,” he said. “I’d like to thank everyone who has donated so far and remind people who would like to contribute that the JustGiving page remains open and details can be found on each station’s Facebook page.

“A massive thanks also to the crew from each station who have volunteered to complete the challenge. It’s not what the crews are used to, they face challenging conditions at sea when they go and help those in trouble on the water, but this is very different for them. We also want to show people where their funds go and that we are grateful for every cent to give us.”

During the month of May the RNLI is encouraging members of the public to complete their own ‘Mayday Mile’ however they see fit. The money raised could help RNLI lifesavers have everything they need to keep families safe this summer. Warmer weather draws more people to the water and RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews will drop whatever they’re doing when a call for help comes in.

For updates on the Errigal climb on the day, keep an eye on the social media channels of Arranmore RNLI, Bundoran RNLI and Lough Swilly RNLI.

Donations to the Errigal challenge can be made via the JustGiving page and the final sum will be divided equally between the three Donegal stations.

Elsewhere, volunteers with Dunmore East RNLI are preparing for their own vertical Mayday Mile by summiting the highest peaks in both the Comeragh and Knockmealdown mountains, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Volunteers from the three Donegal-based RNLI lifeboat stations at Bundoran, Lough Swilly and Arranmore will climb the highest mountain in the county, Errigal, as part of the charity’s Mayday fundraising campaign.

Six crew — two from each station — will ascend the 751 metres of the Donegal mountain in full lifeboat gear on Saturday 13 May in a combined fundraising effort for the three stations.

The idea for the challenge came about after three members of the Bundoran crew walked the Bundoran 10-mile event last year in their full kit, raising over €6,000 for the charity.

This year they wanted to do something different, while involving their fellow lifeboat crew mates from Lough Swilly and Arranmore.

Barry Nixon and Stephen Quigley of Lough Swilly RNLI | Credit: RNLI/Lough SwillyBarry Nixon and Stephen Quigley of Lough Swilly RNLI | Credit: RNLI/Lough Swilly

Aisling Cox and Brian Proctor from Arranmore RNLI, Chris Fox and Brian Fowley from Bundoran RNLI and Stephen Quigley and Barry Nixon from Lough Swilly RNLI have all volunteered to complete the climb on 13 May.

Chris Fox was one of those who took part in last year’s Bundoran 10-mile event. He said: “While the blisters didn’t settle for a few days, it was still a great experience and a really great fundraising event for Bundoran lifeboat station.

“We wanted to change it up this year and put the challenge out to our two other stations in Donegal to see if they would help us complete the Mayday Mile on Errigal.”

Stephen Quigley added: “We jumped at the chance for this challenge with our fellow crew members from around the county. There is nowhere more iconic in Donegal than Errigal; walking up it in full kit will be quite the challenge. But it will be a great to come together as one crew with this fundraiser for the three stations here in Donegal: Bundoran, Lough Swilly and Arranmore.”

Brian Proctor and Aisling Cox of Arranmore RNLI | Credit: RNLI/John McCaffertyBrian Proctor and Aisling Cox of Arranmore RNLI | Credit: RNLI/John McCafferty

Aisling Cox is hopeful that the climb will help to raise the funds needed to keep all three stations running. “Mayday is our own call for help, as we rely on the generosity of the public to take part in events like the Mayday Mile and raise the funds that allow us to be there when we’re needed most,” she said.

“But we need to be ready. Training, kit, stations and fuel — these are just some of the things we need to save lives and that people fundraising can help provide.”

With the three stations in Co Donegal expected to be busy this summer, the RNLI is asking people to support the Mayday Mile throughout the month of May by covering the distance in any way they choose and raising vital funds to keep people safe.

Donations to the Errigal challenge can be made via the JustGiving page and the final sum will be divided equally between the three Donegal stations.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Paddy Conaghan worked in tunnels in Thailand, Hong Kong, Denmark, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and every place from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

But he says his greatest achievement was driving and ducking 515 times at beaches clockwise around Ireland as he celebrated his 82nd birthday.

Paddy set off on his latest quest on 4 December, having previously faced the challenge of diving off as many piers as possible anti-clockwise around Ireland.

His first challenge raised over €100,000 for local counselling service Gemma’s Legacy of Hope. And his chosen charities this time include one close to his heart: the RNLI.

“I chose the RNLI because I am very familiar with the work they do in saving lives at sea,” Paddy said. “We have a lifeboat on Arranmore since 1883 that has saved many lives and I thought the RNLI would be a safe bet if I got into bother in my ventures around the coast. They also rely on fundraising by the public so I hope I can raise some money for them.”

Paddy was supported at every swim by people who turned out to swim with him, supplied him with food, towels and the odd bottle of whiskey to stave off the cold.

Owners of the Arranmore Blue Ferry, Seamus and Louise Boyle supplied him with a van and kitted it out with bedding and cooking appliances and Paddy chose to stay full-time in the van despite many offers of bed and breakfast. Paddy felt it added to the challenge to stay in the van, enduring temperatures of -2 degrees.

Prior to completing his final swim at Maghery beach in Donegal, Paddy was thinking of how this venture might end and came up with the idea of leaving his final swim for somebody else to start a similar challenge.

In Paddy’s own words: “I would really like somebody else to continue this challenge on a yearly basis, always leaving Maghery beach for the next challenger. I am so glad to have completed the circuit twice, it gave me a great sense of satisfaction to do something for the various charities, I wasn’t doing much else with my life.”

Nora Flanagan, Arranmore RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer spoke to Paddy on arrival back in Arranmore last Sunday 13 March and said: “Paddy is the most unassuming, modest man I have the pleasure to know.

“I asked him about his World Open Water Swimming Awards Man of the Year award, an award which celebrates individuals and offerings that embody the spirit of open-water swimming and have positively impacted the community, showcasing their determination, fortitude, sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance, and he said he didn’t think he deserved it because many people swim in the sea. Yes they do, but not many would dive into the sea several times a day around Ireland in the middle of winter to raise funds for charity.

“The RNLI is a charitable institution which relies on people like Paddy to help keep the lifeboats afloat. Many people volunteer with the RNLI as crew, fundraisers and shore crew and together our one aim is to support the lifeboats to continue saving lives.

“I asked Paddy what he’s going to do now with time on his hands and all he said was, ‘I’m thinking’ and I have no doubt that he is.”

If you wish to donate to Paddy’s charities, visit his iDonate page HERE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Arranmore RNLI responded to a call at 7.15am on Wednesday morning (10 August) to assist a 25ft fishing vessel with one onboard after it sustained engine trouble.

The boat was drifting on to rocks at Calf Island which is located just metres from the Arranmore lifeboat station on the island off mainland Donegal.

On reaching the location, the lifeboat volunteers found that a neighbouring boat had secured a tow rope to the casualty vessel. The all-weather lifeboat escorted both vessels to Burtonport on the mainland.

Following the callout, RNLI relief coxswain Sean Curtin said: “We were delighted to be able to assist the boat and really pleased that they did the right thing in not delaying calling for help.

“We are a 24-hour rescue service operating 365 days of the year and we encourage the public to familiarise themselves with the safety messages from the RNLI which can be found by logging on to rnli.org/safety. We are always happy to respond to calls for assistance day and night.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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RTÉ News reports that an 18-year-old man has died by drowning off the island of Arranmore (Árainn Mhór) in Co Donegal after getting into difficulty while swimming.

The incident occurred on Monday afternoon 3 January at the beach at Leabgarrow (An Leadbh Gharbh) shortly before 3pm, according to the Donegal News.

Despite the best efforts of emergency personnel, the casualty was pronounced dead at the scene and the body has been taken to Letterkenny University Hospital pending a post-mortem.

Published in Island News
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The grandson of a distinguished Donegal coxswain, who was awarded the RNLI’s Gold Medal for Gallantry for his role in the rescue of 18 crew on a Dutch steamer in 1940, has returned home from Boston to become the third generation in his family to join Arranmore island’s lifesaving crew.

Mark Boyle was born and raised on Arranmore, but this will be his first Christmas on call for the RNLI after he was quickly recruited upon his family’s return to the island from America last April.

Mark follows in the footsteps of his late father Charlie, a former station mechanic spanning three decades, and his grandfather Jack, who was recognised for his bravery for a rescue during the Second World War.

Almost 81 years ago to the day, Jack and his crew rescued 18 people on the Dutch steamer Stolwijk of Rotterdam on 7 December 1940.

The Stolwijk was one of a convoy of ships from America which had come through three days of a rising northwesterly gale and was making for the passage between Scotland and Ulster, in mountainous seas and a hurricane of wind and snow, when it was forced onto rocks at Inishbeg.

Its crew’s rescue by Arranmore RNLI’s lifeboat crew was later recognised as one of great daring gallantry and endurance, carried out in weather of exceptional severity.

While Mark is delighted to be carrying on the family’s lifesaving tradition, he says his reasons for joining the lifeboat crew run deeper than just that.

And now as the RNLI continues its Christmas Appeal, Mark is urging people across Donegal — home to three lifeboat stations at Lough Swilly, Arranmore and Bundoran — to help his fellow crew, and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying a pager over the festivities, to continue their lifesaving work at sea.

‘I know there will be thousands of volunteers like me wearing pagers and ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water’

“I was born and raised on the island and spent my early years fishing lobsters, salmon and working on local white fishing boats,’ Mark said. “I then went to college and worked in Galway for 20 years before I moved to Boston for seven years.

“I returned home to the island with my wife and two of my three children in April and while it was always my intention to join the lifeboat crew when I came home, Tony Ward, the lifesaving operations manager, beat me to it and asked me to join before I got the chance to make the ask myself, which was lovely.”

Mark, who works in engineering as a head of operations for Irish Pressings, travels from the island to Bunbeg daily but when he is not working away, he is carrying his pager.

“The family connections are important but for me becoming a crew member runs deeper than that. It is about the sense of community and that is what the RNLI is all about,” he said.

“I spent the first three months on my return fishing which for many here is how they make their livelihoods, on the water.

“The lifeboat provides the vital service to those in distress at sea and that is always acutely felt by those living on the island. It is an added benefit for me that as a new crew member I am continuing in the family tradition.”

This Christmas Mark will be prepared to leave his loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned. Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period.

But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

“This is my first Christmas as a crew member with the RNLI,” Mark added. “I know there will be thousands of volunteers like me wearing pagers and ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather is at its worst and lives are on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out to sea, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas Appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit RNLI.org/Xmas

And listen to Tom MacSweeney’s latest podcast which discusses the RNLI’s investment in the Arranmore lifeboat.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Bundoran RNLI in Co Donegal were requested to launch on Tuesday evening (8 June) to reports of two paddle boarders being blown out to sea off Mermaid’s Cove in north Co Sligo.

The emergency call was made just after 6pm to Malin Head Coast Guard who immediately paged the Bundoran lifeboat volunteers. Within minutes the inshore lifeboat William Henry Liddington set off with four crew on board.

The Sligo-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 118 was also tasked to the scene, where the lifeboat crew assisted the two paddle boarders back to shore and assessed their wellbeing.

Lifeboat helm Brian Gillespie said later: “We were glad to be able to bring the paddle boarders back to safety and the person on the shore called 999 when they did.

“We would always remind people that if they see anyone in trouble on the coast to call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard, and for paddle boarders to be mindful of offshore winds which can catch people out very easily.”

Elsewhere in Donegal, Arranmore RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat was called on Sunday afternoon (6 June) to assist a RIB which got into difficulty on rocks off Kincasslagh.

Arranmore RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/ArranmoreArranmore RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Arranmore

When the lifeboat arrived on scene, the Bunbeg Coast Guard boat had secured the casualty boat and brought it to safety.

Arranmore volunteer’s busy weekend also saw a callout on Saturday (5 June) for a medevac from the island. The patient was transferred to a waiting ambulance at Burtonport.

Frankie Bonner, second coxswain, said: “We are a 24-hour on-call service and prepared at a minute’s notice to answer any call for assistance.

“Our callouts are many and varied, from providing medical assistance in transferring patients from the island to assisting boats and people in trouble within a 50-mile radius of our base in Arranmore.”

Frankie is the son of Francis Bonner, who served as coxswain on the lifeboat for many years along with his three sons Frankie, Seamus and Michael, who are part of the volunteer crew at Arranmore RNLI.

There is still a strong family tradition of voluntary service at Arranmore RNLI since the first lifeboat came to the island in 1883.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Since Sir William Hillary founded the RNLI in 1824, women have had a role in the service — initially working in the background by helping to launch and recover the lifeboats, fundraising for the voluntary service and supporting their husbands and sons when the lifeboat went to the rescue.

Today, women are taking their place at the forefront of the RNLI, serving as crew members, leading fundraising campaigns and of course still supporting their family who crew the lifeboats.

Arranmore RNLI off mainland Donegal was founded in 1883 and although it was only men with a knowledge of the sea who crewed the lifeboats, without the support of their female family members they would have had difficultly manning the vessels while looking after young families.

The women of Arranmore were always very resilient, from dealing with the hardships and tragedies of island living in their every day lives, to playing a vital role in supporting the lifeboat families when the crew were responding to a difficult rescue in horrendous weather conditions.

An example of the type of rescues the Arranmore RNLI were involved in was in December 1940, when they rescued 16 crew members of The Stolwyjk in the most challenging weather conditions. The crew were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals for the very memorable rescue.

Today, as in every lifeboat station throughout Ireland and the UK, Arranmore RNLI is proud to have women crew members. Lifeboat press officer Nora Flanagan was the first woman to join the Arranmore RNLI crew, and four more women have since joined the crew in this vital lifesaving service.

Nora Flanagan was the first woman to join Arranmore RNLI’s crew (Photo: RNLI/Arranmore)Nora Flanagan was the first woman to join Arranmore RNLI’s crew | Photo: RNLI/Arranmore

These women are Karen McGowan, a registered advanced nurse practitioner in Beaumont Hospital and president of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO); round-the-world sailor Sharon O’Donnell; Erin McCafferty, a student at NUI Galway; and primary school teacher Aisling Cox.

Karen McGowan joined the Arranmore RNLI crew at age 17 and continued to serve throughout her nursing training. Speaking to Karen about why she joined the RNLI, she said: “I enjoyed the adrenaline rush and I knew I wanted to train as a nurse; as a crew member on the lifeboat I gained a huge amount of experience with the excellent training the RNLI provides. Dealing with medical emergencies on a callout served me well in my student nurse training.

“I had quite a few memorable rescues during my time as a crew member but the most poignant was rescuing the crew of a sinking trawler. As soon as the crew were brought on board the Lifeboat the trawler sank very quickly. It was very hard to watch somebody’s livelihood sink beneath the waves and witness the raw emotion on the faces of both the lifeboat and the trawler crews.

“I would encourage anybody to join their local RNLI, it really helps you think outside the box and the crews are very supportive and helpful to new recruits”.

All crew members are required to serve a probationary period where they learn all the skills involved in saving lives. Learning is competence-based and crew members must prove their competency in one skill before taking on another. This training enables all volunteers, many of whom have little or no knowledge of boats or the sea, to become first-class lifesavers.

The first RNLI women’s award was to honour Grace Darling, a lighthouse-keeper’s daughter who helped rescue nine people in 1838.

Aisling Cox with her dad and fellow crew member Kieran (Photo: RNLI/Arranmore)Aisling Cox with her dad and fellow crew member Kieran | Photo: RNLI/Arranmore

Voluntary fundraising committees are an essential part of the RNLI and women are very much to the fore in raising funds to keep the lifeboats afloat.

As the charity celebrates International Women’s Day, it salutes the selflessness and dedication of the many women of the RNLI involved in saving lives at sea.

Grace Gallagher has been a member of the Arranmore fundraising committee for over 25 years. She has been honoured and recognised by the RNLI as the longest-serving member of the fundraising committee and has raised thousands of euro for the RNLI.

Grace said: “I can’t believe I’ve been fundraising for the RNLI for over 25 years. Living by the sea and with many of our families involved in the fishing industry, we rely on the lifeboat and the contribution of the public to continue with this essential voluntary service. It has been a pleasure to be part of it.”

Other remarkable women connected with Arranmore RNLI include Sadie Bonner, a former postal worker who started supporting the RNLI by collecting fundraising buckets from shops and selling badges, and who is now treasurer of the fundraising committee; and Arranmore RNLI station president Majella O’Donnell.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Arranmore RNLI volunteer Nora Flanagan has been recognised for 25 years of service to the charity that saves lives at sea.

The retired nurse, who serves as the Donegal island station’s press officer, first got involved with the RNLI in 1995 when she became the first female crew member to join Arranmore’s all-weather lifeboat crew.

“I remember my first call out well,” Nora recalls. :We were involved in an all-night search for a fisherman who fell overboard a trawler and I remembering finding that challenging.

“The next day my pager went off again, this time for a medical evacuation. I was more confident on this callout when I was helping the injured person. It was then I realised and understood that there is a role for everybody who wants to join a lifeboat crew.”

Nora also got involved with the local fundraising team and later became the station’s volunteer lifeboat press officer, a role she still holds.

“This involves writing news releases and doing local radio interviews after callouts and keeping in touch with the local media about any activity that is going on at the station such as safety awareness and education, fundraising and events.”

One of the highlights over the years was a visit to the RNLI College in Poole, where Nora was asked to represent the RNLI in Ireland for the launch of Volunteer Spirit, a lifeboat which was funded by selling badges.

“That was a huge honour for me personally, but overall, I have had an exceptional 25 years with the RNLI and I love being part of an organisation that is one big family.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Nora could not be presented with her medal in person but said she was delighted to receive the recognition from the RNLI, which came with a warm word of thanks from the charity for having achieved over 20 years of extraordinary service.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Two people were rescued by Arranmore RNLI’s volunteer crew in Co Donegal after reports of a RIB in difficulty over the weekend.

The all-weather lifeboat launched on Saturday (1 August) and headed south to the scene in the Portnoo area, where they found one person in the RIB and recovered another from the water before giving casualty care.

A tow was established to bring the RIB to Portnoo where an ambulance was waiting to take the casualty to hospital for further treatment.

This was the first callout for the Arranmore lifeboat crew since March, when coronavirus restrictions were imposed.

Lifeboat coxswain Jimmy Early said: “As there is now an increase in visitors to the Wild Atlantic Way, we would remind people to be fully aware of the RNLI’s water safety messages.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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How to sail, sailing clubs and sailing boats plus news on the wide range of sailing events on Irish waters forms the backbone of Afloat's sailing coverage.

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The packed 2013 sailing season sees the usual regular summer leagues and there are regular weekly race reports from Dublin Bay Sailing Club, Howth and Cork Harbour on Afloat.ie. This season and last also featured an array of top class events coming to these shores. Each year there is ICRA's Cruiser Nationals starts and every other year the Round Ireland Yacht Race starts and ends in Wicklow and all this action before July. Crosshaven's Cork Week kicks off on in early July every other year. in 2012 Ireland hosted some big international events too,  the ISAF Youth Worlds in Dun Laoghaire and in August the Tall Ships Race sailed into Dublin on its final leg. In that year the Dragon Gold Cup set sail in Kinsale in too.

2013 is also packed with Kinsale hosting the IFDS diabled world sailing championships in Kinsale and the same port is also hosting the Sovereign's Cup. The action moves to the east coast in July with the staging of the country's biggest regatta, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from July 11.

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On the international stage Afloat carries news of Irish and UK interest on Olympics 2012, Sydney to Hobart, Volvo Ocean Race, Cowes Week and the Fastnet Race.

We're always aiming to build on our sailing content. We're keen to build on areas such as online guides on learning to sail in Irish sailing schools, navigation and sailing holidays. If you have ideas for our pages we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at [email protected]