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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

Larne RNLI father-and-son duo Frank and Jack Healy plus father and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew have been reflecting on what it’s like to be on call together as both family and fellow crew members.

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.

Frank Healy has been a lifeboat crew member at Larne RNLI for 29 years, 27 of those as coxswain. Before that he was a crew member at Red Bay RNLI, further north along Northern Ireland’s East Antrim coast, for three years. His son Jack joined the Larne crew in August 2018.

For five years now, Frank and Jack have been regularly training together and have been on a number of the same call-outs.

So, what’s it like to be on the crew with a family member? “I do enjoy Jack being on the lifeboat,” Frank says. “I enjoy seeing him go through the various stages and achieving the different goals — it’s hard to put into words how proud I feel when I see him doing that.”

But like many families who have a loved one on the lifeboat, there is concern too when they put the lifeboat to sea.

“Recently, on one of the shouts,” Frank recalls with a smile, “I had to put Jack aboard another vessel at two o’clock in the morning in a Force 8 gale and everyone thought it was a great achievement and a great job. Except his mother — and she gave me such a hard time for putting his life on the line.”

Father and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew aboard Larne RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/LarneFather and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew aboard Larne RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Larne

For Frank though, it was no surprise when Jack decided to join the crew: “I was absolutely delighted that he was going to be a part of it, but I had no doubt that that was going to happen because Jack had shown such an interest from an early age. When I was going out on shouts he would wait up until I came in and the first thing I would hear was this voice from our little boy’s bedroom: ‘Dad, what was it?’

“His achievements within the lifeboat also — it’s probably one of the drivers that is keeping me on the lifeboat. I enjoy going out training with Jack and I particularly enjoy when we go on call outs together. It’s really rewarding when you go out on a shout and you come in and everything has gone well but to have your big son beside you when you do it, it’s pretty special.”

Meanwhile, Sami Agnew joined the lifeboat crew in Larne in October 2009 following in the footsteps of her father Martin, who marks 25 years of volunteer service next year.

“Being on the crew with my dad is very special’ following in his footsteps makes me very proud and always having him there when I need him is like an extra safety net,” Sami says.

For both families, Christmas will be no different than any other day on call this year and should their pagers sound, they will be ready to respond.

“There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families,” Sami adds. “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.”

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

As the RNLI launches its annual Christmas fundraising appeal, 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, there will be a new coxswain this Christmas on the Aran Islands.

Aonghus Ó hIarnáin started volunteering with the RNLI at 17 and always had a desire to move up in the organisation and become a coxswain.

“When my fiancée Treasa and I had moved home from Australia and then had our daughter, I had to start working away on ferries and research vessels as an engineer again,“ he says. “This wasn’t ideal as I was spending a lot of time away.

“When the coxswain job came, I committed myself to training and preparing for the job. I was fortunate to be offered the job then which I gladly accepted. It suits us as we want to stay on the island to raise the family and stay close to both our parents and this job allows us to do so.”

As coxswain, Aonghus is in charge of the lifeboat and her crew at sea and as such, he is all too aware of the importance of training.

Aran Islands RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Aran IslandsAran Islands RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Aran Islands

“Regular training for everyone on the crew is important,” he says. “Everyone needs to get familiar with the person they are onboard with so that when a call out comes, you know that the person next to you is going to do their part correctly and safely.

“It is rare that the same crew do two call-outs after each other, so knowing that no matter who shows up, they have the same standard of training is important for the search and rescue capability of the station. It allows the coxswain on the day to have full confidence in the crew and allows the crew to have full confidence in whichever coxswain is in command on the day.

“Allowing the crew to get as much time on the lifeboat as possible is important. Practice makes perfect and when you see a trained person in an emergency, its shows by the level of calmness they have at that critical time.”

The role of full-time coxswain can be busy, says Aonghus: “The job is demanding time-wise, and it is difficult for the family more so. There have been several times where we plan on going for dinner, for example, only for the pager to go off and then you are gone for a few hours.

“There is a need to know where somebody is at all times. For example, on a weekend if Treasa goes for a walk or to the shop and I have our baby on my own, if the pager goes off then we need a plan for where Treasa is gone so that I can collect her with our baby and then they come to the station with me and take my car or that I bring the baby to the station and get Treasa’s parents, who are living close the station, to collect her. This is the side that people don’t see when you are full-time on call.

“Credit goes to Treasa for adapting to this and having patience with me as the demands of the job take me at uncertain times day or night. Without her support, it wouldn’t have been possible to take this job and make it work. She understands how vital the RNLI is to the island and the west coast and that we signed up to help keep it going.”

‘For the time you give at the RNLI, you will receive good training, good memories, and a great sense of achievement after every call as you know you are making a difference’

As for what he finds most rewarding, Aonghus says it’s a combination of the people you meet, the training and skills you gain and the opportunity to make a difference.

“You also have the chance to work alongside members of the community ranging in ages and experiences and backgrounds that you would normally never get the chance to work with,” he says. “Along with this, you are keeping a vital lifesaving service going on an island which needs it.

“For the time you give at the RNLI, you will receive good training, good memories, and a great sense of achievement after every call as you know you are making a difference. I started my journey in the RNLI 13 years ago and I have never looked back and it has served me well.”

Whatever weather winter throws at them, RNLI crew members like those on the Aran Islands are ready to battle the elements to save lives at sea. Their rescues are only made possible by the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews.

As he prepares for his first Christmas on call as coxswain, Aonghus says: “There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families — especially at Christmas. But as crew we couldn’t launch our lifeboat 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.”

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

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
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Kinsale Yacht Club located in Kinsale, County Cork lies just 120 nautical miles from Wales, 240 from North West France and only 500 from the Galician Coast of North Spain.

Kinsale Yacht Club is only a few minutes walk from every shop, hotel, pub and restaurant in Ireland’s gourmet capital but most significantly it is only 30 km by road from Cork, Ireland’s second city, and between the two lies one the region’s main assets - Cork International Airport - with its daily links to many European capitals.

Club members, of which there are more than 600, race Cruisers, One Design Keelboats and Dinghies.

The club runs inshore and offshore races, has an active cruising scene, a powerboat section and most significantly for any real club, a strong and dynamic junior training programme.

Beyond the club’s own marina is the club house itself and the dinghy park. Within the clubhouse are changing rooms, bar and restaurant all with full wheelchair access. The club’s full-time secretariat, steward and marina manager are there to look after sailing visitors and members alike in a relaxed, informal and fun environment.

The club welcomes new members and has always got room on its members’ yachts for new comers to the sport.