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Displaying items by tag: Paddleboarders

Taylor Swift songs and shooting stars sustained cousins Ellen Glynn (17) and Sara Feeney (23) during their 15-hour overnight ordeal on paddleboards in Galway Bay.

“I think I know every line of Taylor Swift – we sang them all,” Ellen told The Irish Examiner, speaking from her ward in University Hospital Galway yesterday.

“What I would really like to do is to thank the hundreds of people who came out on boats, planes, in helicopters, on foot, and said prayers and lit candles and raised the alarm on social media,” she said.

Describing how she and her cousin kept their cool during the long hours of darkness, she recalled how she sang every Taylor Swift song she knew.

They saw a meteor shower of shooting stars, they kept memorising the lights of Furbo and Spiddal on the exposed northerly shore for as long as they could see them, and “we would each talk about what we’d do when we get home”.

Ellen said that both a helicopter and a vessel were close enough to light up the sea around them, at one point.

There was lightning and heavy rain, and waves became bigger and they were “shivering uncontrollably”, she said.

When sun rose, visibility was poor – but as the fog lifted, they realised just how far they had been swept, with the Cliffs of Mother just south of them, the Aran island of Inis Oirr to the north, and the Atlantic to the west.

“I had thought we were being carried into Galway, but we were being swept in the opposite direction,” she said.

When Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan located them on their seven-metre Johnny O at around midday on Thursday, some two to three nautical miles south-west of Inis Oírr, Ellen says they told the two men they thought “no one was looking for them”.

“And they said ‘do you know how many people are out looking for you’”, she laughed.

More in The Irish Examiner here

Published in Galway Harbour
Tagged under

It says everything about the announcement that Patrick Oliver of The Claddagh in Galway and his son Morgan are to receive the Afloat.ie National Seamanship Trophy with immediate effect, when we realise that everyone in the country will know exactly what it's for without any further explanation.

Their brilliant rescue on Thursday of two paddle-boarders, who had been blown right across Galway Bay overnight in strong to gale force nor'easters, such that they were 17 sea miles from their start-point in Connemara at Furbo Beach, and south of the Aran Islands, involved genius-level detailed navigational and sea and wind calculations.

When the Olivers set off on their search, they went directly from Galway to Black Head in northwest Clare, and then southwest leaving Inish Oirr to starboard. Map by Irish Times

The last time we made a similar immediate award was jointly with Irish Sailing three years ago in August 2017, when Simon Hoffman of Australia, and Santiago Alegre of Spain, succeeded in a heroic rescue of Cork's Johnny Durcan when he had been completely trapped and was in danger of drowning under his capsized 29er during a major championship in California.

The Hoffman-Alegre award was for bravery, as both sailors had to dive under the 29er's sails and haul Johnny underwater through ropes and other clutter to save his life. But in this instance, as there's no sailing involved, Afloat.ie are going it alone. And as Patrick and Morgan were not themselves in personal danger, the award is for Seamanship.

But what Seamanship it is…..it cannot be said often enough that it has been an instance of completely brilliant seamanship up to the point of genius. The Oliver family are "Claddagh Fishing Royalty", with a flotilla of fishing boats – "too many", they quip - for various purposes. But as Patrick (40) and his son Morgan (18) absorbed the news of the lack of success in the increasingly grim search in Galway Bay on Wednesday night, they set to work ashore, analyzing the way the tides would have been running, and the effect the almost freakish winds – gale force at times – would have affected surface drift.

Then first thing Thursday morning, the pair of them set off in their "little speedboat", a 7 metre Cheetah Class catamaran powered with "two enormous outboards". This is an outfit which they acquired from Kilmore Quay in Wexford, a port where they also know a thing or two about fast lobster and crab fishing boats.

Thus while other craft were combing Galway Bay in an increasingly despairing search pattern, the Oliver team streaked straight down the Bay at 20 knots and then on out of the Bay, only beginning their searching – and in a focused southwesterly direction at that – once they'd got well past Black Head, the imposing northwest headland of County Clare.

Patrick and Morgan Oliver's 7 metre Cheetah ClassThe fastest lobster boat in the west? Patrick and Morgan Oliver's 7-metre Cheetah Class is well able to reach 20 knots. They sourced this special machine in Kilmore Quay in County Wexford. Photo: Pierce Purcell

With calculations now in overdrive, they were two miles south of Inish Oirr – the most easterly of the Aran Islands – with the unforgiving Cliffs of Moher the nearest bit of the mainland, when Morgan's eagle-eyes spotted the two women paddle-boarders – still with their boards - attached as best they could to a lobster pot marker.

Patrick and Morgan have nothing but praise for the calmness and resilience of Sara Feeney (23) and her cousin Ellen Glynn (17) in coming through their 15 hours-plus nightmare.

It had started with a freakishly warm and calm evening in Furbo, with the sea temperature at the beach - as we reported in Afloat.ie – at 19 degrees centigrade. It was so calm and quiet that the two paddleboarders could make their way gently along the shoreline, chatting with those on the sand.

But then the underlying new gradient wind from the nor'east started to make its catspaws on the water as dusk set in, and with the cooling effect of the evening, the land temperatures fell much more quickly than the warm sea, rapidly accelerating the now combined gradient wind and this growing wind off the land, which in turn gained further power from building thunderstorms.

Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued cousins Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney off Inis Oirr island, with some of Patrick’s RNLI colleagues on their arrival back at the Galway RNLI Lifeboat Station at Galway DocksPatrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued cousins Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney off Inis Oirr island, with some of Patrick’s RNLI colleagues on their arrival back at the Galway RNLI Lifeboat Station at Galway Docks. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

In an incredibly short time as night fell, the scene was transformed, and the two paddleboarders found themselves being blown out into the lightning-pierced darkness in a near gale. While they both had lifejackets, neither wore a wetsuit, so despite the warm sea, there was a growing risk of hypothermia.

But despair would have been their greatest enemy had they allowed it to take over, so they lashed their paddleboards together using the little painter lines, and kept each other's spirits up by singing and chat, while if one felt sleep coming on, the other let her have a nap while keeping a lookout and a watch on her cousin.

They were in the Atlantic by the time dawn came on, having passed almost exactly midway between Inish Oirr and Clare. But with the light of the new day, they spotted the pot-marker which was to be their saving, and though both painter ropes were already being used to keep the paddleboards together as a sort of life-saving raft, they were able to utilise the side-webbing on the boards to create an atttachment to the pot-marker line - they weren't "clinging on" as initial reports suggested.

And there they waited, in the middle of nowhere with the Atlantic swell for company, until the genius in reading the ways of the sea of Patrick and Morgan Oliver in their little 22ft "lobster speedster" arrived on almost a straight line from Black Head to scoop them up.

There'll have been some shrewd offshore racing campaigners who, when they heard just how accurately this remarkable father-and-son crew calculated precisely where the paddleboarders would be, might understandably have got to thinking that there's the making of an astonishing offshore racing tactical team here.

Patrick (who has served with the Galway lifeboat) and Morgan Oliver return with their very efficient rescue vessel to Galway Port, accompanied by the Galway LifeboatJob done. Patrick (who has served with the Galway lifeboat) and Morgan Oliver return with their very efficient rescue vessel to Galway Port, accompanied by the Galway Lifeboat. Photo: Galway RNLI

But equally, there'll be HR managers in some high-powered organisations who will be impressed by the cool and calm and resilient way in which Sara and Ellen dealt with their appalling predicament. For sure, they'd made an awful mistake. But anyone who never made mistakes never made anything. It's how you handle the outcome that ultimately matters, so Sara and Ellen are two very special people.

And as for their rescuers, a simple award scarcely does justice to the achievement of Patrick and Morgan Oliver. But it's something we can do to mark the great joy they have brought to Ireland this weekend.

Published in News Update
Tagged under

When Helen Feeney took a photo of her daughter, Sara (23), and niece Ellen (17), off Furbo beach on the northern shore of Galway Bay, the pair were happy out on stand-up paddleboards.

It was a bright warm summer’s evening, just a little after 9 pm on Wednesday. The two women were wearing swim gear, but not wetsuits. Fortunately, they had buoyancy aids.

As the Irish Examiner reports, Helen, who had her dog with her on the shore, noticed they seemed have gone a little too far out for comfort. This was to be a “short trip”. Initially, she put her anxiety down to her own cautious nature.

As darkness fell, that anxiety grew. Within the hour, she had phoned her sister Deirdre, Ellen’s mum, and her husband, and the Irish Coast Guard. As she told RTE Radio’s Drivetime yesterday evening, these were “two very smart sensible girls”.

The hours in between were “horrific”, she recalled. A full-scale air-sea search was initiated after 10 pm, co-ordinated by Valentia Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in Co Kerry. The wind was northerly, and picking up, and weather conditions were deteriorating.

By the time, the RNLI’s Aran island and Galway city lifeboats put to sea, visibility was poor and there was heavy rain, thunder, and lightning, according to RNLI Galway operations manager Mike Swan.

The focus initially was on inner Galway Bay, but by daylight, it had extended right across to the Clare coast and Black Head. During the long night, a rotation of Irish Coast Guard helicopters from Shannon, Waterford and Sligo, and the Doolin and Costello Bay Coast Guard units joined the lifeboat crews.

The Civil Defence, local fishermen, anglers, leisure craft and hundreds of shore searchers were out by daylight, as were pilots with Galway Flying Club, Aer Arann, and the Oranmore-Maree coastal search volunteers.

Fisherman Patrick Oliver, one of the Galway Oliver family born with salt in their blood, knew that if the wind had gone north-easterly anything that drifted would be out towards the mouth of the bay and the Aran Islands. Onboard with him was his son Morgan (18) in their seven-metre catamaran potting vessel, Johnny Ó.

The Oliver family are heavily involved in Galway RNLI lifeboat and Galway Sea Scouts, with Patrick’s brothers Ciaran and Dave being coxswains, and Patrick being a member of the shore search team.

Ciaran’s son and Patrick’s nephew, Sean Oliver, was just 14 years old when he and fellow Galway Sea Scouts pulled a man from the river Corrib during the Macnas parade in October 2018.

It was Morgan who spotted the movement two miles south-west of Inis Oírr.

“They were waving their paddles at us,” Patrick said later. The two women were sitting on their paddleboards, holding onto a float attached to lobster pots, and to each other.

They were weak, exhausted, but well able to express their delight at being found. They told the Olivers they had seen the lights of the Aran islands and tried to reach the shore, but couldn’t make it.

They had been over 15 hours at sea, and over 17 nautical miles from their original location, when they were found.

Back on the beach at Furbo, there had been initial word that two bodies had been located. Minutes later, there was a shout as Ellen’s father, Johnny Glynn of Galway United Football Club, threw his arms up in the air.

“They’re alive!” he roared, as he ran over to his wife Deirdre Feeney, and younger daughter Alice (12), dropping to his knees in relief.

"I'm so happy,” he said afterwards. “I had given up. How could they be in the water from 9.30?”

Patrick and Morgan Oliver rooted out jackets, towels, whatever they could find to wrap the two women up on the deck of their catamaran.

The two women were “chatting away on deck”, they told Mike Swan back at the RNLI Galway station as they headed into Inis Oírr.

Both women were fit enough to walk up the pier before an Irish Coast Guard helicopter flew them into University Hospital Galway to check them out for hypothermia.

The buoyancy aids helped, but staying together and staying with their paddleboards had been crucial – along with keeping calm, Patrick Oliver said.

“That’s the danger with them blow-ups [paddleboards],” he said. “when the wind is offshore, the wind can carry them out to sea.”

Breda Feeney, an aunt, was in tears of joy, and family members hugged each other as the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter landed at the hospital helipad.

“Knowing the two girls, they are very strong and resilient,” she said.

"We are forever indebted," she said.

Experienced Galway sailor Pierce Purcell paid tribute to the “phenomenal effort”, and said that sailors would “never complain about lobster pots getting in the way again”.

Irish Coast Guard divisional controller John Draper said that sea temperatures were about 15 degrees, but if they had been in the water, and not on their boards, it could have been a “different story”.

More from the Examiner here

Published in Galway Harbour
Tagged under

Following a major search and rescue operation on Galway Bay overnight and this morning (13 August 2020), two women have been found safe and well off Inis Oir after spending 15 hours out at sea.

Former Galway RNLI lifeboat crew member and current shore crew member and fisherman Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan joined the search early this morning and discovered the two women on their boards holding on to a lobster pot about two miles south west of Inis Oir.

Despite spending the night out on the water in extreme conditions, the women did not require medical attention. They had drifted almost 20 miles when discovered. They were taken onboard the fishing vessel, the Johnny O, and after disembarking, walked up the pier where they were medically assessed by Coast Guard personnel.

The 23-year-old woman and 17-year-old teenager who are cousins, had gone paddle boarding at about 9 o’clock last night from Furbo Beach when a sudden north wind blew them out to sea. A relative of the women raised the alarm and the Irish Coast Guard immediately launched a major search and rescue operation which continued throughout the night and today.

Galway RNLI launched its inshore lifeboat at 10pm (last night) and stayed out throughout the night changing crew three times. They were joined immediately by the Aran Island RNLI all-weather lifeboat and the Irish Coast Guard Rescue helicopter 115 from Shannon. Two further Coast Guard Rescue helicopters from Sligo and Waterford joined this morning, along with Coast Guard lifeboats from Oranmore/Maree, Cashla Bay and Doolin while the Civil Defence carried out a search along the north shore co-ordinated by the Gardai. Galway Flying Club and Aer Arann also joined the search.

There were scenes of jubilation and joy in both Galway and Aran Island RNLI Lifeboat stations when fisherman Patrick Oliver rang the Galway Lifeboat station with the good news.

Barry Heskin, Galway RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said the two women kept their heads and did the right thing: ‘We are absolutely delighted that it has all worked out well.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The two young women paddleboarders who went missing off Furbo on the northern shore of Galway Bay at 8 pm yesterday evening have been found alive and well clinging to a lobster pot marker off Inisheer, the most easterly of the Aran Islands.

As Afloat reported earlier, the pair were the subject of major search operation las night and this morning.

While the waters of the Bay are relatively warm this year, with 19 degrees centigrade being recorded close in off Furbo beach, it is nevertheless little short of miraculous that they should have survived for more than 16 hours, for although both were wearing lifejackets, neither was wearing a wetsuit.

More follows on this good news story on Afloat.ie.

Published in Galway Harbour
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