Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

afloat sailing header

Displaying items by tag: Christmas Appeal

It’s a family affair across RNLI lifeboat crews on call in Cork and Kerry for the Christmas holiday period.

In Crosshaven and Ballycotton respectively, a father and daughter and a husband and wife are among the RNLI families in Cork who will be on call together for the first time this Christmas.

As the charity launches its Christmas appeal, asking for help to continue its lifesaving work at sea, Crosshaven RNLI’s Holly Fegan and Ballycotton RNLI’s married couple Brian and Ann Daly will be among the new lifeboat crew preparing to drop their festive plans this year and go to the aid of someone in need over the Christmas period.

Nineteen-year-old Holly Fegan joined the crew at Crosshaven RNLI three months ago. Her father James has been on the crew for 18 years while her cousin Molly is also a crew member, and her uncle and godfather Patsy Fegan is the lifeboat operations manager.

The family ties don’t end there as her aunt Tina Bushe was the first female helm at Crosshaven while supporting the work of the station’s fundraising branch are her aunt Annamarie Fegan and before her, Holly’s late grandmother Marie Fegan.

“Since I was a child, I have been going to the lifeboat station with my dad or helping out at open days with my grandmother,” Holly says. “I have always loved the atmosphere and the way everybody helps each other, and it is a small community in Crosshaven and I like giving back. As well as my own family connections, it is really an extended family at Crosshaven RNLI.”

Meanwhile, in Co Kerry, 18-year-old social science student Eimer McMorrow Moriarty will be one of four family members on call for Fenit RNLI throughout the festive period.

From left, Fenit RNLI family members John Moriarty, Eimer McMorrow Moriarty, Kevin Moriarty and Billy Moriarty | Credit: James McCarthy/Digimack Photography FenitFrom left, Fenit RNLI family members John Moriarty, Eimer McMorrow Moriarty, Kevin Moriarty and Billy Moriarty | Credit: James McCarthy/Digimack Photography Fenit

Eimer joined the lifeboat crew last year and received her pager in October 2021. Her father Kevin and uncle John are both coxswains at the station while her uncle Billy is also on the crew. Her great grandfather on her mother’s side of the family, Tony Browne, was also on the crew in the past. Not only is she third generation, but she is also the first woman in her family to become a crew member.

“I joined as soon as I was eligible at 17,” Eimer says. “My father has been on the crew for more than 25 years so ever since I was little, growing up as children, my younger sister and I would play lifeboat games and shout ‘lifeboat callout’ when Dad’s pager would go off.

“Along with my dad, I have my own watersport hobbies so joining was also a personal decision as I know it works both ways. On the lifeboat I can contribute to helping someone in need and when on the water myself, I know if I do get into trouble, the lifeboat will come to me.”

A third motivation for Eimer has been a fellow female crew member: “Denise Lynch has been another inspiration for me on the lifeboat. Denise is an incredibly knowledgeable woman who became the first female volunteer coxswain in Ireland back in 2020 which is such a fantastic achievement. I hope that I can follow in her footsteps and become a coxswain one day too and I am very grateful that I have talented people to learn from.“”

A keen windsurfer and sailor, Eimer has been on three callouts since becoming a crew member. “My first callout was quite a serious one as the casualty had fallen off the marina steps and we were unsure of her injuries initially.

“Thankfully, while in shock and showing signs of hypothermia, she was otherwise okay, but I remember as a callout, the experience was intense. There is an adrenalin rush when the pager goes off and when you are trying to get to the station and into your gear as quickly as you can. You always try to prepare for the worst and for the potential that you could be responding to a life and death situation.”

Last Christmas was Eimer’s first Christmas on call and on Christmas Day, she was part of the lifeboat crew who provided safety cover with various other agencies for the annual swim. “It was really satisfying to see how things on Christmas Day remain the same, all the emergency services are all still on call, the pager isn’t turned off and everyone is ready.”

File image of Fenit RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/FenitFile image of Fenit RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Fenit

Eimer says this Christmas will be no different for the Fenit and Valentia lifeboat crews: “Even at Christmas, our lifesavers are 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 they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case.

“There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families – especially at Christmas. As lifeboat crew we couldn’t rescue people without kind donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely to our families.“”

Like hundreds of volunteers around Ireland, Holly and Emer have signed up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824. Indeed, this Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned.

During the festive period from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day over the last five years from 2017-2021, RNLI lifeboats in the Irish region launched 55 times and brought 43 people to safety.

Last year, across the RNLI, lifeboats launched 1,078 times, with volunteer crews bringing 1,485 people to safety, 21 of whom were lives saved. Lifeboats at Youghal, Ballycotton, Crosshaven and Kinsale launched 97 times bringing 137 people to safety. In Kerry, lifeboats at Fenit and Valentia launched 38 times bringing 35 people to safety.

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.

To make a donation, visit the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal website.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Volunteering for the RNLI is truly a family affair for lifeboat crews in Co Wexford.

While Robbie Connolly is looking forward to his first Christmas on call since becoming a helm at Wexford RNLI earlier this year, his father-in-law Eugene Kehoe — a seasoned coxswain at Kilmore Quay — will also be ready to answer the call if there is an emergency at sea.

As the lifesaving charity continues its Christmas Appeal, Robbie and Eugene will skip their dinner for the difficult seas of winter should their pagers sound.

And they are urging people across Wexford — home to five stations at Courtown, Wexford, Kilmore Quay, Rosslare Harbour and Fethard — to help their crews, and the thousands of other volunteer crews on call over the Christmas period, to continue their lifesaving work.

“I am 10 years on the lifeboat crew at Wexford RNLI,” says Robbie, who is an engineer by day. “I have always had a love for the sea but when I finished college and started working alongside crew members and a deputy launching authority, I was encouraged to join, and I am delighted to be involved.”

As a helm, Robbie is responsible for the inshore lifeboat and his fellow crew during the launch of the lifeboat and while at sea.

“I have had one callout as helm so far and it was to a yacht with three people onboard that had got into difficulty on a falling tide and ran aground as it was coming into Wexford Harbour.

“Where our station is located, there are shifting sands and the channel is changing regularly so time was of the essence and with the callout happening at night, there was the added challenge of working in the dark. But thankfully, we had a safe and successful outcome.

“There are a few differences in being a helm,” he adds, “you are more conscious of looking after your own crew as well as those you are going to rescue and the conditions at sea.

“However, what my helm’s training taught me was to have more confidence in my decision making and skills ability and I suppose in that sense it is about having self-belief and making your 10 years of training and experience become second nature when responding to a callout.”

Shane Crawford joins his brother Colum on the Aran Islands RNLI crew | Credit: RNLIShane Crawford joins his brother Colum on the Aran Islands RNLI crew | Credit: RNLI

Elsewhere, Aran Islands RNLI will have two new volunteer lifeboat crew on call, ready to drop everything and help launch the lifeboat to save those in trouble at sea.

Fisherman and father-of-five Georgie Gillan and NUIG student Shane Crawford are the most recent recruits to join the lifeboat.

Georgie says: “I’ve grown up around the sea and I’ve seen its power and its potential. I’m enjoying the training, and learning a different set of skills, all based around search and rescue and saving others.

“Being out on the lifeboat, you’re part of a team, the feeling of giving back is a great one. The standard of the kit and the training is so high and the support we get to do this job is amazing. I’m grateful to the people who support the work of the lifeboats and keep them at sea all year round.”

Meanwhile, Shane — a first year Arts student at NUIG Galway — knew from an early age that he would wear a lifeboat pager, as helping others is in his DNA.

His mother is the local community nurse and his father served with the local fire service for many years. Shane's older brother Colum is also a member of the Aran Islands RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew and is currently studying to become a paramedic.

Adding his support to the RNLI Christmas Appeal, Shane says: “It has been a dream for me to be on the lifeboat crew ever since I was very young. I feel very at home onboard the lifeboat even though I’m still new to it.

“The communication between the crew when we are out at sea is incredible and you can see the training and commitment of everyone involved. Every piece of kit has a purpose, and the RNLI are always looking to evolve and improve the equipment. It’s maintained to the highest standard and we are aware of the responsibility that comes with that.

“When the pagers goes, no lifeboat volunteer hesitates to answer the call, and these rescues would not be possible without the donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. Thank you to everyone who supports the appeal this Christmas.”

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A father and son from Bellanaleck are among eight new lifeboat crew members who will carry pagers for the first time this Christmas at Carrybridge and Enniskillen RNLI in Northern Ireland.

As the RNLI continues its Christmas Appeal, Brian and John Sammon — who are ready to swap turkey and pudding for the December waters of Lough Erne — are urging people across Co Fermanagh to help their fellow crew, and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the festivities, to continue their lifesaving work.

It was when 19-year-old John became eligible to become a crew member two years ago that the family duo encouraged each other to join.

Brian says: “I had thought about joining the lifeboat crew at different times over the years because I was so aware of the work of the RNLI and I really wanted to give something back, but it wasn’t until John reached the eligible age at 17 and we saw a recruitment drive for new crew that we encouraged each other to get involved. We attended an open night and it just snowballed from there.”

Having received their pagers in November, Brian and John are now preparing to hear the beeping sound as the request for help comes in for the first time.

“We are excited but also nervous at the same time,” Brian says, “but we are here, and we want to help. That is why we joined; we want to support what is an invaluable service on Lough Erne.”

Among the other new crew members at Carrybridge are Simon Kidney, Matthew Nelson, Simon Carson, Paul McDaid and Cliff Walters, while Richard McFarland has joined the lifeboat crew at Enniskillen.

Richard, who lives in Lisbellaw, has always had a great love for the water but having worked away he couldn’t commit to joining the lifeboat crew until he returned home.

“This is my first Christmas on call,” Richard says, “and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water…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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A brother and sister who volunteer to save lives at sea with Valentia RNLI have called on the public to support the charity’s Christmas Appeal.

Dominic and Cornelia Lyne will be on call, along with their colleagues at the Kerry lifeboat station and RNLI volunteers at 45 other lifeboat stations across Ireland, ready to launch at a moment’s notice to save lives.

Cornelia and Dominic grew up in a house where the RNLI lifeboat pager going off was a familiar sound. The siblings are the children of former volunteer lifeboat crew member Nealie Lyne, who after 25 years saving lives at sea is now a deputy launching authority at the station.

Dominic says: “Because we are family, once you put on the gear, we are all in it together and we have to ensure we all come home to those waiting for us.”

Cornelia is very proud of being a female crew member in the RNLI and hopes to inspire other women to join, too.

“I’m nearly 10 years a crew member and I still love it when we have landed home safe after a callout during the summer when there are a lot of tourists around and the kids see me walking up to the boathouse in my full gear and they realise girls can join the crew too.

“When the pagers go, no lifeboat volunteer hesitates to answer the call, and these rescues would not be possible without the donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit [and] training equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. Thank you to everyone who supports the appeal this Christmas.”

James Kitt joined Baltimore RNLI after relocating to the West Cork town with his Irish girlfriend Emma | Credit: RNLIJames Kitt joined Baltimore RNLI after relocating to the West Cork town with his Irish girlfriend Emma | Credit: RNLI

Meanwhile, in neighbouring West Cork, one of Baltimore RNLI’s newest recruits is James Kitt, who joined the lifeboat station after relocating with his Irish girlfriend Emma.

Baltimore RNLI is one of eight lifeboat stations based in Cork, along with Castletownbere, Courtmacsherry, Union Hall, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Ballycotton and Youghal.

James was previously volunteer lifeboat crew at Chiswick on the Thames in London, one of the busiest of the charity’s lifeboat stations.

Born in Poole in Dorset, he met Emma in the States at a sailing event and the couple decided to relocate to Ireland before the pandemic, moving to Dublin.

When the first lockdown came, the couple relocated to Baltimore with James working remotely for an Irish aid organisation. Having swapped the busy London life for West Cork, he says he couldn’t be happier finding a station where he can use his lifeboat training.

“I’m one of a number of new joiners to the lifeboat crew in Baltimore and the level of maritime experience and expertise here is incredible,” he says. “Although it’s not surprising when you see the love of the sailing here. I’m learing so much from my colleagues and getting into the West Cork way of life. Emma and I love it here and feel very much at home.

“Baltimore lifeboat is so embedded in the community, something that’s a little harder to achieve at a busy London station. When there is a callout here everyone is aware of it and the whole place gets behind the crew, it’s fantastic.

“When the pager goes, no lifeboat volunteer hesitates to answer the call, and I know first hand that these rescues would not be possible without the donations from the RNLI's generous supporters.”

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A busy mother of one is among five new volunteer crew members who will be on call for the first time this Christmas at Lough Derg RNLI.

Polish native Ania Skrzypczynska is preparing to swap traditional festivities for the cold waters of the December lake, should the call for help come in.

And as the RNLI continues its Christmas Appeal, Ania is urging the public to help her crew, and the thousands of other volunteer crews on call over the Christmas period, to continue their lifesaving work.

Ania says she joined the RNLI “because I wanted to become part of the community after moving to Dromineer. After the first few training sessions on the lifeboat, I had got to meet really nice, friendly people and found it to be a great experience.

“Then after passing my first assessment and being allowed to go on the lifeboat, it was like the beginning of an adventure for me.

“Being a mum of a small and very busy boy, I am restricted with the amount of time I have to spare between my full-time job and family life. However, I know that in the future I will be able to get more involved in the life of the station.

“I am looking forward to becoming a fully qualified crew member. I like new challenges and I want to channel it towards learning how to help others. And by living so close to Lough Derg, I want to learn more about the lake, its beauty and, its dangers.”

Among the other new crew members at Lough Derg RNLI are Richard Nolan, Ciara Lynch, Eimear Kelly and Ciara Moylan.

For Richard, his knowledge from youth of the work the RNLI did on the lake was a major influence in his decision to join the crew, but he also found that having lived away from home in London for almost 10 years, it was a good opportunity to reintegrate into his community.

Richard says: ‘This is my first Christmas on call, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water.”

From left: Paul Sillery, Graham Fitzgerald and John Stapleton have taken up new roles at Wicklow RNLIFrom left: Paul Sillery, Graham Fitzgerald and John Stapleton have taken up new roles at Wicklow RNLI

Elsewhere, Wicklow RNLI have passed out three volunteer lifeboat crew into new lifesaving roles at the station.

Graham Fitzgerald is a new station coxswain, Paul Sillery is a new helm on the station’s inshore lifeboat and John Stapleton is a new mechanic on the all-weather Shannon class lifeboat.

Graham has been a volunteer lifeboat crewmember since 2009, becoming a helm on the inshore lifeboat back in 2013. He has a strong family connection to the station, with his grandfather Billy Kilbride a former lifeboat volunteer.

From a strong seafaring background and working in Dublin Port, the sea is in his veins, and he was involved in the rescue of two children who were blown out to sea on an inflatable earlier this year.

“I like the challenge of going out on a rescue and not knowing what we may face; I’ve been on a few challenging ones and it’s so rewarding to bring people home safe, something that sadly not every family have experienced,” he says.

“As a helm and now a coxswain, I feel a huge responsibility to the crew and the station, thanks to the support of the public we have the kit and the equipment to ensure we can save lives at sea whenever and wherever we are needed.”

Paul Sillery joined the lifeboat crew back in 2009 and has recently passed out as a helm on the station’s D class lifeboat. Like Graham, Paul has a strong lifeboating tradition in his family: his great uncle Parker Keogh was coxswain and his uncle David Sillery was a crew member.

“I knew I was always going to join the lifeboat crew and the minute I turned 17 I was at the door of the station,” Paul says. “People recognise the crew in the street as they see us going out to train and see us leaving for a shout. It’s so humbling to have that kind of community support behind us.

John Stapleton has been recently passed out as a mechanic on the all-weather lifeboat. Born and raised in Dublin, John moved to Wicklow 11 years ago and joined the lifeboat crew in 2015.

“There is a role for everyone in the RNLI and if you have an interest in something you can develop it and train up,” John says. “We have navigators, launching authorities and shore crew — everyone does the role that suits them, and it all works together. The resources the RNLI puts into the training and the kit is incredible.:

John adds: “Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, 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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

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

A busy mother of two young children is among five new volunteers who will be carrying pagers and on call for the first time this Christmas at Sligo Bay RNLI.

As the charity continues its Christmas Appeal, Rachel Wirtz is preparing to swap turkey and pudding and run to the lifeboat station should her pager go off.

She is urging people across Sligo to help her crew, and the thousands of other volunteer crews on call over the Christmas period, to continue their lifesaving work.

Rachel joined the crew over a year ago but due to the pandemic and restrictions, she couldn’t work on completing her assessments face-to-face until this year. While she has been involved in callouts as shore crew, she hasn’t yet made a lifeboat callout to sea.

“The standard and extent of the training has been excellent, and I am learning terrific new skills,” says the mum-of-three who lives in Rosses Point. “There was a rush of adrenaline and excitement rather than apprehension for my first call out. I am excited about being able to contribute and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.”

Among the other new lifeboat crew members at Sligo Bay RNLI are Reece Meldrum and Aisling Murphy, while Noah Canham and Caroline Collery have joined the shore crew. Yvette Carter, meanwhile, will be spending her first Christmas as a lifeboat helm.

Like Rachel, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

Rachel adds: “This is my first Christmas on call, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are 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 can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out, 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.”

The four men taking on new roles with Clogherhead RNLI this ChristmasThe four men taking on new roles with Clogherhead RNLI this Christmas

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Clogherhead RNLI have appointed four people to new lifesaving roles as this Christmas the station stands ready to launch at a moment’s notice to save lives at sea.

Sean Flanagan, a pilot boat coxswain at Dublin Port, and Denis Levins, an officer with P&O Ferries, have been passed out as lifeboat coxswains, while Raymond Butterly has joined the station to become shore crew for launching the station’s impressive Shannon class lifeboat.

Barry Sharkey has also been appointed as the new full-time mechanic for the station, taking over from the retiring Padraig Rath.

The four men helped the charity launch its Christmas appeal at the Co Louth-based lifeboat station and are calling on the public to support the RNLI’s lifesaving work this Christmas, as they remain on call and ready to launch.

“We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case,” says Barry, who comes from a well-known local fishing family. “Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, 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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Santa Claus had to make his own way back from Rathlin Island yesterday afternoon (Sunday 19 December) after the volunteer lifeboat crew from Red Bay RNLI were diverted to go to the aid of a fishing trawler.

The 25-metre trawler with six crew on board was six miles northeast of Rathlin Island off the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland when it requested assistance after its propeller became snagged in nets.

Thankfully the lifeboat crew were nearby as they had delivered Santa to Rathlin Island during their weekly training exercise.

Unfortunately, it meant that Santa had to take the ferry back to Ballycastle as the lifeboat crew immediately made their way to the trawler and carried out the rescue mission.

As the trawler had snagged its nets round its propellor, the lifeboat crew took the vessel under tow to Ballycastle in a four-hour operation.

Commenting on the callout, Red Bay RNLI coxswain Joe McCollam said: “We were sorry to leave Santa to make his own way home from Rathlin but we knew we were leaving him in very good hands with the local ferry crew.

“The snagged trawler was in some difficulty and the crew were not able to move the vessel. That area can be quite treacherous, and they needed to be brought to a safe harbour.

“Thankfully the lifeboat crew were nearby and able to bring them to Ballycastle. We also heard that Santa had a safe and enjoyable journey back from Rathlin and is looking forward to Christmas.”

Meanwhile, a Glasgow native who moved to Cushendall three-and-a-half years ago and has since joined the lifeboat crew at Red Bay RNLI is preparing to drop everything this Christmas if her pager sounds and there is an emergency at sea.

As the charity launches its Christmas Appeal, Hazel Imrie —who runs a hardware store in the town — is urging people across Co Antrim to help her fellow crew at Red Bay, Portrush and Larne and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the festivities to continue their lifesaving work.

Red Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie with the station’s inshore lifeboat | Credit: RNLIRed Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie with the station’s inshore lifeboat | Credit: RNLI

“I joined the crew at Red Bay in February 2020 just before COVID hit,” Hazel says, “so unfortunately with the pandemic and restrictions, my training was disjointed, and it wasn’t until this year that I could focus on completing my assessments.

“I have always had an interest in the work of the RNLI and I knew when I moved here with my partner, who is from Cushendall, that I wanted to get involved because I could see how integral the service is to a coastal community. I wanted to give something back to the community that I was living in.”

With no prior maritime, sailing or boating experience, Hazel fully immersed herself into the rigorous training involved in becoming a crew member.

“I have valued the support of an experienced team and I have learned so much from others. Everyone has been so welcoming, and the training has been hands on, practical and a really enjoyable experience.”

Now as Hazel prepares for her pager to sound, she says there is a mixture of emotions involved ahead of her first callout: “I am excited but there is also anticipation and concern because you are going into the unknown, but I am also reassured because I know when that call does come, everyone else who turns up is experienced and will support me.”

Like Hazel, thousands of volunteer crew members around Ireland and the UK sign up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water 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.

Hazel says: “This is my first Christmas on call and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are 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 can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out 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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Inishturk islander John O’Toole will enjoy his 89th Christmas at home with his wife Mary, his children and grandchildren in the coming weeks.

He and his family won’t take this for granted. however, since John spent several weeks in hospital during the summer after his medevac by Achill Island RNLI when he became seriously unwell in June this year.

As thanks to the lifeboat crew that came to his aid, John and his family are supporting the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal.

John spent almost two months being treated for his illness in Mayo University Hospital before recuperating in a nursing home and finally becoming well enough to return home courtesy of Achill Island RNLI to Inisturk in August.

Speaking about her father’s dramatic recovery, John’s daughter Annie Maher said: “On that day in June when Dad took ill, the Achill Island lifeboat was called to transfer Dad from home to the mainland to get medical attention at Mayo University Hospital.

“Without the quick response of the lifeboat on that day, it may have been a very different outcome.”

Supporting the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal comes easy to the O’Toole family, who have been long-standing supporters of the charity that saves lives at sea.

Having John at home brings back fond memories of Christmases in the past, and that unique relationship that exits between the islanders and the RNLI.

File image of Achill Island RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLIFile image of Achill Island RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI

Annie recounts stories of how the young children on Inisturk would donate all the money they gathered on their traditional Wren Boys Day collection to the RNLI, which they affectionally refer to as ‘the lifeboat’.

She said that the islanders were always assured that even in really bad weather conditions, ‘the lifeboat’ would always come to their aid. “What a wonderful service it is to all still living on the islands around Ireland.”

She also spoke about the RNLI collection box which was always on the counter in the local pub, and the islanders happily popped their change into it.

“Dad has made a remarkable recovery following his return home,” Annie said. “He enjoys daily short walks with mum and the dogs while keeping an eye on the sheep. He is looking forward to spending time with family and friends and maybe have a little glass or two of rum.”

She concluded: “Dad, Mum and all of us understand the commitment and dedication of the Achill lifeboat crew and all involved with the lifeboat. We wish them all a very Merry Christmas and safe New year. May God watch over them all while at sea.”

These callouts 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.

Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, lifeboat crews have remained on call, available to launch at any hour, day, or night, to help those in trouble at sea.

Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, the RNLI can continue to operate the lifesaving service and work towards the charity’s goal, to save every one.

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Nine months into her role as lifeboat operations manager at Kilrush RNLI, Shawna Johnson is preparing for her first Christmas on call since taking up the management of the Co Clare lifeboat station.

As the charity launches its Christmas appeal, Shawna — who has been volunteering with Kilrush RNLI since 2013 — is preparing her crew to swap their turkey and pudding for the cold waters of the sea should the call for help come in.

She is urging the public to help her crew and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the Christmas period to continue their lifesaving work.

As LOM, Shawna is responsible for all operational activities at the lifeboat station including authorising the launch of the inshore lifeboat and the day-to-day management of the station.

“I was appointed to the role in April and had to hit the ground running with three callouts in my first week,” Shawna says. “Thankfully, all were successful with the crew towing two boats and their crews to safety and coming to the aid of a kayaker who had got into difficulty.

“That first week was nerve-wracking because while I had been a crew member on the lifeboat and then a deputy launching authority, this was the first time I was the station manager with responsibility for everyone and everything. However, once I got the first call out out of the way, I knew I could do this.”

Like Shawna, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water 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.

Shawna says: “This is my first Christmas on call as lifeboat operations manager, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are 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 can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out, 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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

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.

We aim to encompass the widest range of activities undertaken on Irish lakes, rivers and coastal waters. This page describes those sailing activites in more detail and provides links and breakdowns of what you can expect from our sailing pages. We aim to bring jargon free reports separated in to popular categories to promote the sport of sailing in Ireland.

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.

Our coverage though is not restricted to the Republic of Ireland but encompasses Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Irish Sea area too. In this section you'll find information on the Irish Sailing Association and Irish sailors. There's sailing reports on regattas, racing, training, cruising, dinghies and keelboat classes, windsurfers, disabled sailing, sailing cruisers, Olympic sailing and Tall Ships sections plus youth sailing, match racing and team racing coverage too.

Sailing Club News

There is a network of over 70 sailing clubs in Ireland and we invite all clubs to submit details of their activities for inclusion in our daily website updates. There are dedicated sections given over to the big Irish clubs such as  the waterfront clubs in Dun Laoghaire; Dublin Bay Sailing Club, the Royal Saint George Yacht Club,  the Royal Irish Yacht Club and the National Yacht Club. In Munster we regularly feature the work of Kinsale Yacht Club and Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven.  Abroad Irish sailors compete in Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) racing in the UK and this club is covered too. Click here for Afloat's full list of sailing club information. We are keen to increase our coverage on the network of clubs from around the coast so if you would like to send us news and views of a local interest please let us have it by sending an email to [email protected]

Sailing Boats and Classes

Over 20 active dinghy and one design classes race in Irish waters and fleet sizes range from just a dozen or so right up to over 100 boats in the case of some of the biggest classes such as the Laser or Optimist dinghies for national and regional championships. Afloat has dedicated pages for each class: Dragons, Etchells, Fireball, Flying Fifteen, GP14, J24's, J80's, Laser, Sigma 33, RS Sailing, Star, Squibs, TopperMirror, Mermaids, National 18, Optimist, Puppeteers, SB3's, and Wayfarers. For more resources on Irish classes go to our dedicated sailing classes page.

The big boat scene represents up to 60% of the sail boat racing in these waters and Afloat carries updates from the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA), the body responsible for administering cruiser racing in Ireland and the popular annual ICRA National Championships. In 2010 an Irish team won the RORC Commodore's Cup putting Irish cruiser racing at an all time high. Popular cruiser fleets in Ireland are raced right around the coast but naturally the biggest fleets are in the biggest sailing centres in Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay. Cruisers race from a modest 20 feet or so right up to 50'. Racing is typically divided in to Cruisers Zero, Cruisers One, Cruisers Two, Cruisers Three and Cruisers Four. A current trend over the past few seasons has been the introduction of a White Sail division that is attracting big fleets.

Traditionally sailing in northern Europe and Ireland used to occur only in some months but now thanks to the advent of a network of marinas around the coast (and some would say milder winters) there are a number of popular winter leagues running right over the Christmas and winter periods.

Sailing Events

Punching well above its weight Irish sailing has staged some of the world's top events including the Volvo Ocean Race Galway Stopover, Tall Ships visits as well as dozens of class world and European Championships including the Laser Worlds, the Fireball Worlds in both Dun Laoghaire and Sligo.

Some of these events are no longer pure sailing regattas and have become major public maritime festivals some are the biggest of all public staged events. In the past few seasons Ireland has hosted events such as La Solitaire du Figaro and the ISAF Dublin Bay 2012 Youth Worlds.

There is a lively domestic racing scene for both inshore and offshore sailing. A national sailing calendar of summer fixtures is published annually and it includes old favorites such as Sovereign's Cup, Calves Week, Dun Laoghaire to Dingle, All Ireland Sailing Championships as well as new events with international appeal such as the Round Britain and Ireland Race and the Clipper Round the World Race, both of which have visited Ireland.

The bulk of the work on running events though is carried out by the network of sailing clubs around the coast and this is mostly a voluntary effort by people committed to the sport of sailing. For example Wicklow Sailing Club's Round Ireland yacht race run in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club has been operating for over 30 years. Similarly the international Cork Week regatta has attracted over 500 boats in past editions and has also been running for over 30 years.  In recent years Dublin Bay has revived its own regatta called Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and can claim to be the country's biggest event with over 550 boats entered in 2009.

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]