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Red Bay RNLI's new Atlantic 85 lifeboat was officially named the Geoffrey Charles during a moving ceremony at the lifeboat station in Cushendall, county Antrim yesterday, (Saturday 28 May 2011).  The lifeboat was funded by Roger and Judith Colmer in memory of their son Geoffrey. The couple made the trip to Northern Ireland from their home in England with a group of family and friends to name the lifeboat and pay tribute to Geoffrey.

Geoffrey was a scuba diving instructor and working in Thailand when the devastating 2004 tsunami struck the island of PhiPhi. He helped save many lives during that time by recovering people from the water and bringing the injured for urgent medical assistance. He also returned to the area to help bring comfort to many families who had lost loved ones by helping to get official identification for those lost in the tsunami.  Sadly Geoffrey died shortly after this at the age of 32 and his parents wanted to do something to recognise the work he did in saving lives. Along with other projects they have funded this Atlantic 85 lifeboat in Geoffrey's name.

During the ceremony Roger spoke about Geoffrey and the reason they funded a lifeboat in his memory.  "It is very fitting given that Geoffrey saved people from the sea that we are here today to dedicate and hand over this Atlantic 85 to the Red Bay station in Geoffrey's memory.  In the same way that he saved people from the sea we are confident that those trained and skilled with this craft will carry out the same courageous acts and rescue people around these shores.

This project has given us something positive to focus on and we wish to stay in very close contact with the station.  Geoffrey loved the sea and the natural environment and when we first saw this lifeboat we knew it would be like him – big, powerful, a little bit noisy and very confident. From our very first visit to Red Bay we knew that this was the place for the lifeboat to be stationed in his memory."

In another special tribute well known singer Frances Black, whose father was from Rathlin Island spoke of her love for the area and thanked the Colmers for their gift in Geoffrey's memory.  Frances said, "When we were children we used to spend a lot of time up and around this area  travelling back and forth on the seas around Rathlin Island.  When we were young we thought it was really exciting that the waves were the size of houses but as we got older we became very aware that the seas were quite treacherous in this area, beautiful as it is.

The RNLI have saved many lives up and around this area.  To save one life is a miracle but to save the amount of lives they have is fantastic.  The work the volunteers do and the dedication that they have is absolutely phenomenal.  I would like to say a very special thank you to both Judith and Roger.  It is very important we remember the legacy that Geoffrey has left on this wonderful day. He would be so proud of his family and of what they have done today."

Frances then gave a beautiful accapella rendition of the well known song Bright Blue Rose, which she dedicated to Geoffrey.

Red Bay Lifeboat Operations Manager Alan Murphy accepted the lifeboat into the care of the station, "The lifeboat is the main piece of equipment provided by the RNLI and in many cases this is thanks to the generosity of people like Rogerand Judith Colmer, to whom we are extremely grateful.  We at Red Bay are very proud of our new lifeboat and will keep the boat well maintained and always ready to launch when requested."

The lifeboat was named with a bottle of champagne poured over the side of the boat.  The honour was carried out by Judith and Roger's grandson Edward.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Red Bay RNLI lifeboat Station names its new Atlantic 85 Lifeboat the 'Geoffrey Charles' next month on Saturday, May 28th.

The busy lifeboat station was in action as recently as Sunday 17 April 2011 when RNLI lifeboat volunteers saved two men after their vessel capsized off the North Antrim Coast.

The two men were on passage from Ballycastle to Scotland in a 9 metre landing craft. Their cargo shifted resulting in the vessel capsizing throwing the two men into the water. More on that Red Bay Lifeboat rescue here.

The new lifeboat will be named at 3.30pm at the lifeboat station and there will be celebrations afterwards at Cushendall Sailing and Boating Club.

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Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Our week began with the forecast of a huge swell hitting the North Coast of Ireland. It is usual that we travel through the night to meet the swell somewhere on the West Coast with great anticipation writes Conn Osborne. This time there was none of that, this time the swell was coming to meet us in our own backyard.

There had always been rumours of a wave, rumours as mythical as the tales of the Giants themselves at the Causeway. (SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS!)

Al Mennie has been surfing most of his life, and big wave surfing for alot of that. Years ago he began a survey of our coast searching for potential big wave spots, educating himself through much observation and study on what exact conditions were required for each indivdual location.

The exact conditions this time were culminating on one of Ireland's most famous landmarks and tourist attractions, we felt privileged and knew that performing our best was the only option.

Monday drew to a close with phone calls between us gradually slowing down and firm plans having been shaped and finalised by Al who stood alone on the Causeway in the dark watching...and waiting...

Tuesday finally arrived, we each set out alone before dawn, with an aim to meet at first light - plenty of time then to organise equipment and get the tide right.

We have done this so many times before and have seen so many big waves but it was certainly different and very inspiring to view our own waters through refreshed eyes.

Equpiment was organised, set up and checked, the chosen boards were ritually waxed and choice of fins installed. The Riders, Al Mennie, Andrew Cotton, and Lyndon Wake protected from the bitterness by high tech wetsuits set down the slipway with their Jetski and "Sled" rigs into the icey waters of the Atlantic.

The video of the expedition by Jamie Russell of Entity Media Productions

As we made our way over the the chop and over the swell we could see some white water entering the arena which is a bay that we knew would fill with white water and leave no safe exit from riding the large waves. (This was a spot that would prove to take all of our surfing knowledge and experience to surf.) We sat and prepaired with good grace 'n banter as we waited for those anticipated conditions to combine.
We could see spray fly off the back of swell as it rolled into the bay. The wind was picking up right.
Jetskis were powered up and we went in for a closer look to study how the wave was actually shaping up - the dynamics.

Swell increased in size and we could now really see the true challange of what we had set out to meet, for up until this moment, no one had witnessed swell of this size in position to surf.

Al Mennie Talks about his first experience..

"After watching the sets break and establishing some mark ups so we knew where we needed to sit in order to catch them, both Cotty and I jumped in and paddled to the peak. Every now and again the bay would close out with a set that would miss the main take off spot".

"Within 30 seconds, of paddling out, I got lucky and happened to be right under a big peak coming towards me. As I spun my 8'2" around to paddle into it I almost couldn't belive this was happening.  Last week I was in La Vaca surfing in the contest and the week before I was surfing big La Santa point with Rob Small.  Now, I'm paddling for a wave, just as big, two minutes from my house. I remember getting to my feet as it stood up and then going really fast down the face. As I kicked out I looked around me in disbelief. This big wave is breaking in one of the most beautiful natural arenas in the world and I've just ridden one.  It was very satisfying. As I paddled back out for what became a four hour session Cotty went on his first elevator drop."

"The bay is very deep and holds a lot of water causing quite a lot of movement out there. There are rock boils everywhere and it would be very easy to fall and become a human pinball!"

Al Mennie's exploits, expeditions and endeavours can be read about in his book... Surfing Mennie Waves. Available online at www.almennie.com

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Irish Big Wave Rider Al Mennie going over the Edge @ Finn MacCools - Giants Causeway

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The Team sit studying before commiting (Scale Setting)

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Early in the day before the real conditions meet, this is the wind starting to Rise

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Al Mennie, Ireland's Big Wave Rider "Taking the Drop" and experiencing weightlessness

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Al Mennie having a fun Tow In, the guys prefer to paddle into waves under their own steam, "Any wave worth surfing, is definitely worth earning"

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Favourable conditions.. This is what Finn MacCools looks like

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The Giant's Causeway before the real Big swell hits

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Al Mennie gets to his feet and anticipates the next 20 seconds

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This is Al Mennie paddling to get up to speed so he can catch the Giant that is about to rare up to him

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Al sets the Rail of the board as he makes the high speed descent down the face of this fast moving Giant

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Irish Big Wave Rider, and Devonshire Big Wave Rider Andrew Cotton go over their equipment.. "to be able to actually put yourself in these potentialy dangerous situations and get out of them not only requires reliance on others, but also equipment"

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Andrew Cotton makes it to the bottom of a Finn MacCool wave ready to turn in towards it and climb

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Young Devon Pro Surfer Lyndon Wake, Andrew Cotton, and Al Mennie attach their "Sleds" to their high powered jet skis, these enable a platform for a surfer in the water to swim, and hold onto so they can be evacuated from a hazardous situation in the least possible time

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Early morning at the Harbour .. North Antrim.. Cold and deserted

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Al Mennie and Lyndon Waxing their boards for traction

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Andrew Cotton takes the drop at Finn MacCools and tries to force the nose of the board down against the wind that howls up the face of such sized waves

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6ft 5' Al Mennie walks down the Causeway into the sea ready to paddle out and catch a giant

More from Conn Osborne on his website HERE

Published in Surfing

Plans to operate the first passenger-only ferry service between Northern Ireland and Scotland are scheduled to start in late May, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Kintyre Express is to operate a Ballycastle-Campbeltown service on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 27 May and 26 September. Three daily return trips are scheduled on the service though the 1200hrs sailing from Campeltown and the corresponding 1400hrs sailing from Ballycastle will only operate on customer demand.

The passage time is scheduled to take approximately 1 hour 30 minutes between County Antrim and the Mull of Kintyre which is a distance of some 50 kilometres / 30-miles. Ticket fares for a single journey are £30 and the return is £55. On the remaining days that the route is not operated on, the boat is available for private charter.

In addition the new venture is to include an on-demand Campbeltown-Troon route running between April and September. This second service, linking Argyll with Ayrshire, will operate on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The journey time is somewhat shorter with a scheduled time of 1 hour 15 minutes. The on-demand service must be booked in advance with singles fares costing £50 and a return ticket at £80. For further information click www.kintyreexpress.com

Like the recent proposals announced for a passenger-only ferry service across Galway Bay click here, the Kintyre Express operation will also use a fast-ferry in the form of rigid inflatable boats (RIB). The two routes from Campeltown will be served by Redbay Stormforce 11 metre RIBS which have centrally heated fully enclosed cabins for about 10 passengers. The Redbay Boats are built in Cushendall, Co. Antrim, for further information about the type of RIB to be used on the new routes click here.

The Ballycastle-Campbeltown route will be unique in that it will be the sole passenger-only ferry operator serving between the island of Ireland and the UK.

When the second route opens between Campbeltown-Troon, the company will be able to provide their boat service linked in with a train journey to Glasgow which they claim can be completed in less than two hours. Trains between Troon and Glasgow Central Station operate every 30 minutes and with a journey time of approximately 40 minutes.

For those who are car-free and time-free, this most northerly of travel routes is arguably the most scenic way to travel between Northern Ireland and Scotland and will appeal also to the intrepid traveler.

On both ferry services bicycles are carried for free and currently there is a special offer with all ferry tickets that can also be used for a free-day pass on the local Kintyre bus network for up to 24-hours. The bus operator is Craig of Campbeltown which trades as West Coast Motors and which owns Kintyre Express. The bus operator also serves on routes throughout Argyll and the island of Bute.

The next nearest cross-channel operator to the Kintyre Express Ballycastle-Campbeltown service is the car-carrying catamaran fast-ferry seasonal service between Larne and Troon operated by P&O (Irish Sea). The same company operates the year-round conventional car-ferry service on the North Channel between Larne and Cairnryan. Also operating to Loch Ryan is Stena Line which operates both ferry and HSS fast-craft services on the Belfast-Stranraer route.

Over the years there have been several attempts to revive the ferry between Ballycastle and Campeltown following a service that catered for vehicles too. For three summer seasons starting in 1997 the service was operated by the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company, using the Claymore (1978/1,632grt) which could accommodate 500 passengers and 50 vehicles.

In 1996 the vessel was chartered to carry out tender duties for visitors and crew of the aircraft-carrier USS John F. Kennedy (displacement 82,655 tons full load) which was at anchor off Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Published in Ports & Shipping
The recent cold snap has posed a serious threat to Northern Ireland's fish.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that thousands of salmon froze to death at a fish farm in Co Antrim last week as temperatures dropped well below zero.
Staff at the British government research centre in Bushmills have battled against the elements to protect their fish stocks, as rivers and canals throughout the country have frozen over into virtual ice rinks.
Centre manager Martin McAleese told BBC Radio Ulster: "Unless you keep the water running in the tanks overnight, they'll run out of oxygen. The fish suffocate."
The full extent of last week's extreme cold on inland waters is not yet known, but it is feared that angling in the area could be affected.

The recent cold snap has posed a serious threat to Northern Ireland's fish.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that thousands of salmon froze to death at a fish farm in Co Antrim last week as temperatures dropped well below zero.

Staff at the British government research centre in Bushmills have battled against the elements to protect their fish stocks, as rivers and canals throughout the country have frozen over into virtual ice rinks.

Centre manager Martin McAleese told BBC Radio Ulster: "Unless you keep the water running in the tanks overnight, they'll run out of oxygen. The fish suffocate."

The full extent of last week's extreme cold on inland waters is not yet known, but it is feared that angling in the area could be affected.

Published in Angling
Simon Herriott and Tom Moran from Wicklow's Greystones Sailing Club are leading the RS400 fleet after day one of an open sailing event in Red Bay, Cushendall. Robin Flannigan from Ballyholme is helming the second place boat, while Robert Galligan and Sam Savage are in third place. Weather conditions were fine but cold, with more than 10 knots of wind blowing from the North West.

There were 23 high performance boats starting today's races – 16 in the RS 400 class and seven RS 200s. Of the fleet, large numbers travelled from Greystones (Co Wicklow) and Royal North (Cultra), with boats also coming from the National Yacht Club (Dún Laoghaire), Strangford Lough and Ballyholme. Six local Cushendall boats also started.

The fast, light-weight sailing dinghies have a crew of two.

Published in Racing
The popular Red Bay boating area on the North Antrim coast is to gain protection under EU Law as a marine animal protection area.

The area was chosen because it contains rare species that are in danger of becoming extinct.

The new marine protection area restricts human activity to protect living, non-living, cultural, and/or historic resources.

Protections in various areas range from limits on development, fishing gear types, fishing seasons, catch limits, moorings, to complete bans on removing marine life of any kind.

It is understood Red Bay is a nursery ground for many commercial fish species.

Published in Marine Wildlife

County Antrim's Red Bay Lifeboat crew launched this evening (Saturday 7 August 2010) to rescue a brother and sister who had got into difficulty in the Boulder Field on Fair Head rocks on the North Antrim Coast.  This is the first callout for Red Bay's new Atlantic 85 lifeboat Geoffrey Charles.

The call for help was received at 18.25 this evening when the siblings went walking in the Boulder field and got into difficulty.  The Red Bay lifeboat was launched and in a heavy swell manoeuvred close to the rocks.  One of the volunteer lifeboat crew then swam from the lifeboat onto the rocks with another crewmember's drysuit and a lifejacket.  He then assisted the casualties one at a time using a rope.

Under difficult conditions the two casualties were recovered onto the lifeboat and landed at Ballycastle.  No further medical attention was needed.  Commenting on the rescue Red Bay RNLI helm Paddy McLaughlin said, " Although people like to walk in this scenic area of North Antrim it can be a very dangerous spot.  This was a successful first callout for our new lifeboat and the two people are recovering well from their ordeal."

The new lifeboat was only put on station less than a fortnight ago.  It has a number of improvements on its predecessor including a faster top speed of 35 knots; radar; provision for a fourth crew member and more space for survivors. It can operate safely in daylight in up to force 7 conditions and at night in up to force 6, it is also capable of being beached in an emergency.

Related Safety posts

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Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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