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Portrush RNLI was requested to launch by Belfast Coastguard at 11.10pm last night (Sunday 5 June) to reports of a 31ft yacht without power at the Barmouth near Coleraine.

The all-weather lifeboat under coxswain Des Austin launched at 11.35pm into near perfect conditions, with a clear sky, excellent visibility and a calm sea.

The volunteer lifeboat crew arrived on scene 10 minute later and escorted the yacht with two persons on board back to Portrush Harbour on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast and towed her alongside.

Carl Kennedy, deputy launching authority at Portrush said: “Unfortunately, this can happen with a yacht, but the couple on board did the right thing by contacting us.

“If you are taking part in any activities at sea, make sure you have a means of contacting the coastguard in case you do encounter difficulties. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Baltimore RNLI was called out to provide assistance to a yacht with four people on board that got into difficulty 52 miles off the coast of Baltimore, West Cork, yesterday (Sunday 5 June).

The volunteer lifeboat crew launched their all-weather lifeboat just before 1 pm, following requests from the Irish Coast Guard and the UK Coastguard to go to the assistance of a 36-foot motor yacht, with four people on board, which had encountered difficulties and was 52 miles south of Baltimore.

The Baltimore all-weather lifeboat crew arrived at the casualty vessel at 3.22 pm. After making sure all four people on board were okay, Coxswain Aidan Bushe assessed the situation and decided that undertaking a tow was necessary and the safest way to assist the casualties.

Crew members from the lifeboat passed a tow to the yacht and the lifeboat and casualty vessel were underway by 3.30 pm. The lifeboat then proceeded to Baltimore Harbour, the nearest safe and suitable port, and secured the casualty vessel at the pontoon at 10.14pm. The lifeboat then returned to the station, arriving at 10.25 pm.

There were six volunteer crew onboard the lifeboat, Coxswain Aidan Bushe, Mechanic Micheal Cottrell and crew members Pat Collins, David Ryan, Colin Whooley and Jim Griffiths. Conditions at sea during the call were choppy with an easterly force 3-4 wind, a 1.1m sea swell and good visibility.

Speaking following the call out, Kate Callanan, Baltimore RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer said: ‘It was a long callout for our volunteer lifeboat crew who spent over 9 hours at sea, but the occupants of the yacht did the right thing in requesting assistance. We wish them well with the rest of their journey. If you get into difficulty at sea or on the coast, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Lough Derg RNLI were called to assist two people on a 36ft cruiser aground outside Garrykennedy’s old harbour wall on Saturday evening (4 June).

At 7.15pm the inshore lifeboat Jean Spier was ready to go with helm Eleanor Hooker, Doireann Kennedy, Joe O’Donoghue and Ciara Lynch on board.

As the lifeboat was launching, Valentia Coast Guard informed the volunteers that a person on shore had reported that local boats had taken the cruiser off the rocks.

However, the lifeboat was requested to proceed as as there was no update on the two people on board nor the current whereabouts of the cruiser.

The lifeboat arrived at Garrykennedy within seven minutes and the volunteers crew identified the casualty vessel tied alongside an outside jetty in the new Garrykennedy Harbour.

After the crew established that both people on the cruiser were safe, the vessel was checked for any evidence of water ingress before they updated the coastguard and returned to station.

Jeremy Freeman, deputy launching authority at Lough Derg RNLI advises boat users: “If you find yourself in difficulty on the lake, dial 999 or 112 and ask for marine rescue.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The volunteer crew of Clifden RNLI joined Aran Islands RNLI and the Shannon-based Rescue 115 helicopter to carry out a search of the waters around Bunowen Bay on Friday night (3 June).

A member of the public reported seeing a distress flare in the area around Bunowen, west of Ballyconneely in Connemara at midnight on Friday.

Shortly afterwards the crew - coxswain James Mullen with Andy Bell, Daniel Whelan, Owen Hayes and Conor Ryan — launched the new Shannon class all-weather lifeboat St Christopher for its first call on service since being brought to Clifden three weeks ago.

With good weather conditions and calm seas overnight, a full search of the area to the south east of Slyne Head was carried out over several hours.

As no evidence of a casualty vessel was found, the crew were requested by the Irish Coast Guard to stand down. The lifeboat was back at base at 4am where it was refuelled, cleaned down and made ready for the next launch.

James Mullen, Clifden RNLI coxswain said: “As a crew we are ready to respond 24 hours a day, whenever the pager goes. The search was stood down last night but it could have been a serious incident, it is so important to call the rescue services on 112 or 999 to report any concerns.

“We are grateful to the person who raised the alarm last night and thank the volunteer crew who sacrificed a night’s sleep to ensure a successful outcome.

“It is also worth reminding people that using fireworks in a coastal area can be mistaken for distress flares which will trigger an emergency response. Please notify the coastguard if you intend setting off fireworks anywhere near the coast.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Both Wicklow RNLI lifeboats were launched after 09:45 am this morning (Saturday 4 June), following reports of a missing swimmer at Silver Stand beach.

The alarm was raised after the wife of the swimmer became concerned for his safety and contacted the Coast Guard.

The lifeboats arrived off the Silver Strand beach, south of Wicklow head fifteen minutes later and began a search of the area. Conditions at the scene were wind easterly wind force Six with moderate sea and good visibility.

The Dublin based Coast Guard s92 helicopter ‘Rescue 116’ and a Coast Guard shore unit were also tasked to the incident along with an NAS Ambulance crew and Wicklow Garda Siochana.

Speaking after the callout, Wicklow RNLI Station Coxswain, Nick Keogh said: “During the search we made visual contact with the swimmer who was stranded on rocks near the beach, we stood by as he was winched to safety by Rescue 116.”

The casualty was airlifted to the beach and hand into the care of NAS Paramedics.

The callout comes as the Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland issued a joint water safety appeal over the June bank holiday. As Many people are expected to take advantage of the break and visit the coast and inland waters and the organisations are asking people to check that they have the correct equipment they need to enjoy their activities and that they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager Micheál O’Toole said, ”We want everybody to enjoy our waters but please pay attention to your own safety. Never ever swim alone and if you are using a boat or kayak, please ensure that if an emergency arises and you need assistance, that you are capable of contacting the Coast Guard with a marine VHF radio, PLB or EPIRB. Never rely on a mobile phone alone.”

RNLI Water Safety Delivery Support Lisa Hollingum added: “It’s great to see people getting out and taking part in water based activities this summer but it’s important to know what to do if something unexpected happens. There are so many great products on the market for water safety and something as simple as a water proof pouch to hold a means of communication for when you go out on a paddle board or kayak, can make all the difference.”

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble; Dial 999 or 112 or use VHF radio CH 16 and ask for the Coast Guard.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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This week marks the end of an era at Wicklow RNLI as long-serving crew member and station mechanic Brendan Copeland officially retires from saving lives at sea.

Brendan’s last day started with a trip to Dun Laoghaire Harbour to bring Wicklow RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat back to station after a lift-out and hull clean.

While the lifeboat was departing Dun Laoghaire for Wicklow, a call came in regarding a motor cruiser that had suffered engine failure in Dublin Bay.

As Wicklow RNLI’s lifeboat was close by and the motor cruiser was drifting in busy shipping lanes and a danger to traffic at Dublin Port, the lifeboat diverted to assist and was on scene in minutes.

A tow line was quickly established and the cruiser was towed to the nearest safe port of Dun Laoghaire, where its occupants were safely landed ashore.

The crew then returned to Wicklow and Brendan quietly retired after 31 years with the RNLI, helping to save 23 lives and assisting over 334 people.

Brendan, a former lighthouse keeper with The Commissioners of Irish Lights, joined Wicklow RNLI as a volunteer in 1991. In the early years he served on both the all-weather and inshore lifeboats as a crew member and emergency mechanic. In 2007, Brendan was appointed Wicklow RNLI’s full-time station mechanic, a position he held for the last 15 years.

His role involved a wide range of duties that included maintaining the Tyne class lifeboat, Annie Blaker, a labour of love he continued up to 5 April 2019 when she was officially retired as the last operating Tyne class lifeboat in the RNLI fleet.

At the time, former lifeboat operations manager Des Davitt said: “I want to pay a special thanks to our station mechanic Brendan Copeland who looked after Annie so well for all these years. Her incredible life-saving record is a measure of how well she was maintained.”

When asked in April 2019 how he felt prior to Annie Blaker launching for the final time at Wicklow, Brendan replied: “You’re asking me if I’m sad or emotional today? I’m more than that, I’m heartbroken, to borrow a quote used for the Blasket Islanders, ‘the likes will never be seen again’.”

While the Tyne lifeboat had twin propellors with a top speed of 18 knots, the new modern Shannon class lifeboat which was to follow is capable of 25 knots and considered the fastest and most technologically advanced in the RNLI fleet.

To prepare for the arrival of the Shannon class, Brendan and a panel of mechanics travelled to Poole for training on the new jet-propelled lifeboat powered by two Scania engines. The training paid off and with great determination and huge commitment from Brendan and the crew, the Shannon went on service much quicker than anticipated.

Brendan has gone to sea on countless callouts during his time with the lifeboat and one shout that stands out to him occurred in the early hours of 22 March 2013 after a fishing vessel with three crew lost power and was in danger of being washed ashore east of Wicklow Head.

He recalled: “Annie was launched, and I can honestly say as we went around the pier the sea was boiling. We managed to get a line to the boat which was larger than Annie and towed it back to Wicklow; it felt like we were in a teapot that was being shook to make the tea stronger.”

For their actions in bringing the vessel and three crew to safety, Brendan and the crew received a letter of commendation from RNLI operations director Michael Vlasto.

Brendan took part in his last afloat exercise on the lifeboat last Saturday 28 May with his volunteer team deciding to mark this milestone for their much-loved mechanic, who has been a mentor, friend and the backbone of Wicklow RNLI for many years.

As the Wicklow lifeboat returned to station, a flotilla of local boats and Arklow RNLI’s lifeboat accompanied Brendan into Wicklow Harbour.

From the east pier the arrival was witnessed by a large turnout made up of Brendan’s family, friends and his lifeboat family, while a lone piper played as the boat passed and the Dublin based Coast Guard helicopter made a flypast.

As the lifeboat reached the south quay berth, local emergency services lined up in a guard of honour and sounded their sirens as the lifeboat passed. Brendan was overwhelmed and thanked everyone.

Commenting on Brendan’s retirement, Mary Aldridge, Wicklow RNLI lifeboat operations manager said: “The crew and I wish you and Betty all the happiness in the world on your well-deserved retirement. You have provided excellent service as a community lifesaver with the RNLI since 1991; you will be severely missed at the station.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Following their two callouts on Monday, the volunteer lifeboat crew of Aran Islands RNLI were tasked again on Tuesday evening (31 May) to a woman in need of medical attention.

The Severn class all-weather lifeboat launched under coxswain in charge Sean Curtin and a full crew and headed straight from Inis Mór for the neighbouring island of Inis Meáin.

Conditions at the time of launch were good, with a northwesterly Force 3-4 wind blowing.

Once at the pier in Inis Meáin, the patient was transferred safely aboard and under the supervision of the volunteer crew, the lifeboat headed straight for Ros an Mhíl harbour and the waiting ambulance.

Speaking after the callout, Curtin said: “The volunteer crew responded quickly to the call and we got the patient safely on her way to the medical attention needed. we would like to wish her a speedy recovery.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

As the June bank holiday approaches, the Irish Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland have issued another joint water safety appeal — this time for the many thousands of people expected to take advantage of the break this weekend and visit the coast and inland waters.

The organisations are asking people to check that they have the correct equipment they need to enjoy their activities and that they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Water-based activities are safe and enjoyable with the right equipment. However, inflatable toys are not suitable for use in open water, including at the seaside, inland waters and rivers.

Inflatable toys, including dinghies and air mattresses, can quickly blow out to open waters or capsize. They should not be used in any open waters.

The three organisations have issued a joint water safety appeal as the summer months traditionally bring an increase in callouts for the search and rescue organisations, including coastguard and lifeboat crews, many of whom are volunteers.

As the popularity of kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding increases, the safety advice for these activities includes:

  • Always have a means for calling for help and make sure you can access it when you are out on the water
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return
  • Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid
  • Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off
  • Paddle in a group where possible. If you're exploring somewhere new, seek knowledge from experienced practitioners in the area

“We want everybody to enjoy our waters but please pay attention to your own safety,” Irish Coast Guard operations manager Micheál O’Toole said.

“Never, ever swim alone and if you are using a boat or kayak, please ensure that if an emergency arises and you need assistance, that you are capable of contacting the coastguard with a marine VHF radio, PLB or EPIRB. Never rely on a mobile phone alone.”

RNLI water safety delivery support Lisa Hollingum said: “It’s great to see people getting out and taking part in water based activities this summer but it’s important to know what to do if something unexpected happens.

“There are so many great products on the market for water safety and something as simple as a water proof pouch to hold a means of communication for when you go out on a paddle board or kayak, can make all the difference.”

Water Safety Ireland’s acting chief executive Roger Sweeney added: “This weekend, the lifeguards trained and assessed by Water Safety Ireland begin summer patrols at local authority run bathing areas.

“Last year, they rescued 473 people and provided first aid to 6,700 people. This weekend, let them be there for you. Bring your loved ones to any of the lifeguarded waterways listed at watersafety.ie.”

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 999 or 112 or use VHF Channel 16 and ask for the coastguard.

Published in Water Safety

Coxswains from Dunmore East, Rosslare Harbour, Kilmore Quay and Castletownbere RNLI have been presented with gallantry awards by His Royal Highness (HRH) The Duke of Kent, in recognition of their lifesaving roles in rescues off the coast of Wexford and West Cork.

The Duke – the RNLI’s President – attended a lunch for a number of volunteers and employees and their partners at St James’s Palace in London on Friday (27 May), during which four Irish Coxswains were presented with the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry.

Mark Dowie, RNLI Chief Executive said: ‘First awarded in 1824, RNLI Medals for Gallantry are the highest honours bestowed by the charity. They are awarded for saving life at sea and celebrate the courage, skill and dedication shown by our charity’s lifesavers.

‘To receive their awards at St James’s Palace from The Duke of Kent is an honour and as the charity’s chief executive, I am humbled and proud of all our volunteers and employees that make up this incredible institution. Every one of them and their families give so much to the charity and our purpose of saving lives at sea.’

Castletownbere RNLI Coxswain Dean Hegarty was presented with a Bronze Medal for Gallantry for his part in the dramatic rescue of a fishing crew in October 2018. In challenging conditions, the Castletownbere crew saved the lives of six fishermen. A local presentation on a future date will see the crew involved receive RNLI framed Letters of Thanks.

The rescue of the six men who were the crew of the 25m fishing vessel, Clodagh O, took place on the evening of 10 October 2018 at an area known as The Pipers immediately south west of the harbour entrance at Castletownbere. Answering an urgent Mayday from the fishing crew, the lifeboat launched in darkness into a Force 9 gale, driving rain and heavy squalls, to rescue the crew who were in grave and imminent danger due to their vessel having lost all power after their propeller became fouled on their fishing gear.

The Duke of Kent with Dean Hegarty of Castletownbere RNLI Photo: Beaumont PhotographyThe Duke of Kent with Dean Hegarty of Castletownbere RNLI Photo: Beaumont Photography

Arriving on scene, the lifeboat crew saw that the fishing vessel was located in a precarious position and Coxswain Hegarty made the decision not to take the crew off the boat but instead establish a towline in breaking 4-5m swells.

With the weather deteriorating, there was only a short window of opportunity to save the men before the vessel would hit the rocks or cliff face and be lost. With the Coxswain skilfully manoeuvring the lifeboat into position and holding it steady in mountainous seas, the lifeboat crew on deck established a tow on first attempt. The Coxswain had to initially steer the lifeboat out to sea to gain a safe separation between the rocks and cliffs before he could then turn the lifeboat and start the journey back to the harbour. The tow was carried out at a speed of a half a knot in case it parted, only gathering speed as they found shelter. Once inside the safety of the harbour two local tugboats helped to secure the boat alongside the pier.

RNLI Coxswains Eamonn O’Rourke from Rosslare Harbour, Eugene Kehoe from Kilmore Quay and Roy Abrahamsson from Dunmore East were also presented with Bronze Medals for Gallantry on Friday for their role in a rescue in 2020 that saved nine lives and prevented a 100m cargo vessel, carrying 4,000 tonnes of coal, from hitting rocks at Hook Head. The volunteer lifeboat crews who responded to the call out will each receive Medal Certificates.

On 20 October 2020, Dunmore East RNLI, Kilmore Quay RNLI and Rosslare Harbour RNLI, along with Rescue 117, conducted a joint rescue operation off the Wexford coast. The Lily B had lost all power, just two nautical miles from Hook Head. Conditions on scene were force eight with severe force nine gusts and wave heights between eight and ten metres. The Lily B was drifting and in danger of striking rocks on Hook Head or capsizing in the heavy seas.

The 12-hour service in challenging conditions saw multiple attempts by the lifeboat crews involved to establish a tow between the casualty vessel and the lifeboats. With the crew of the Lily B unable to stay on deck for long in the poor conditions and with language difficulties, two of the lifeboats were eventually successful in passing a rope on deck by using a rocket line and pulling the cargo vessel clear of the rocks. The lifeboat tow was maintained for three hours with waves continually crashing over the decks until the tug vessel Tramontine from Waterford Port arrived on scene and took up the tow. The three lifeboats stayed with the Lily B until they reached the safety of the Waterford Estuary.

During the ceremony, Coxswain Eamonn O’Rourke was also accorded a vellum for his role during a Storm Ophelia rescue in 2017 in hurricane conditions described by the crew as some of the worst they had ever witnessed. The crew battled 10m seas in force 12 conditions to save three lives. The Rosslare lifeboat crew involved will each receive Vellum Service Certificates.

At 10am on 16 October 2017, a Mayday was received by the Irish Coast Guard from the skipper of Second Love, a 10m Dehler yacht, in serious trouble en route from the UK to Malahide. With conditions deteriorating rapidly the crew were struggling to keep control of the yacht. They had planned to berth in Rosslare but decided to head to Arklow in a bid to outrun the weather. Rosslare Harbour RNLI lifeboat was launched, and the rescue lasted four hours in severe weather and sea conditions. In what proved a vital course of action on the day, a decision was made to pass a drogue (a device trailed behind a vessel to slow it down in rough conditions) to the casualty yacht and then establish a tow to bring the vessel to safety.

Commending those who received awards on Friday and those who will receive awards locally, Anna Classon, RNLI Head of Region for Ireland, said: ‘The RNLI does not give out awards for gallantry lightly and to receive one is a great privilege. Everyone in the region is extremely proud of our lifeboat crews involved in these three rescues for their brave actions that together saved the lives of 18 people.’

HRH The Duke of Kent has been President of the RNLI since 1969 after succeeding both his parents as President of the charity.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Crowds turned out in the sunshine to see Fenit RNLI’s new inshore lifeboat officially named Lizzie this past weekend (Sunday 29 May).

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the new lifeboat is being named after Liz Fraser, a Southwark-born actress well-known for roles on stage and screen over a career spanning decades and who died in 2018.

Naming honours were given to Jan Bolt, the station’s administration officer and wife to late station mechanic Bob Bolt.

Guests on the day included the RNLI’s new head of region for lifesaving, Anna Classon, in her first visit to the Co Kerry lifeboat station as well and RNLI trustee and council chair Dr John Killeen, who accepted the lifeboat on behalf of the RNLI and presented it to the station.

The ceremony included a service of dedication which was presided over by Fr Francis Nolan and Rvd Jim Stephens. Musical accompaniment was provided by The Tralee Pipe Band; Oidreacht, managed by Michelle O’Sullivan; Fenit School Choir; and Dave Buckley. who performed the RNLI anthem ‘Home from the Sea’ to close the ceremony.

Tom McCormack, chair of the lifeboat management group and station medical advisor, was MC for the ceremony and opened proceedings by paying tribute to the donor and all fundraisers who support the work of the RNLI.

Dr Killeen acknowledged the incredible legacy gift by Frazer: “Being charitable was part of her nature. The legacy that she has left behind and which is here today, will go to sea to save lives for many years to come.”

Fenit’s new inshore lifeboat with the Irish Coast Guard’s Shannon-based helicopter Rescue 115 overhead | Credit: RNLI/Terry SheehyFenit’s new inshore lifeboat with the Irish Coast Guard’s Shannon-based helicopter Rescue 115 overhead | Credit: RNLI/Terry Sheehy

He also spoke of the work of the men and women who volunteer for Fenit RNLI. “When we talk about lifesaving in the RNLI, there are two parts to it. One is the lifeboat, and the other is the volunteers. There is a fantastic history of lifesaving here in Fenit. We value and appreciate the work being done on behalf of the community.”

In accepting the lifeboat into the care of the station, Fenit RNLI lifeboat operations manager Gerard O’Donnell said: “This is a great and proud day for us. We are very sad to say farewell to our past lifeboat, the Sonya and Bradley, which served us well for the past 12 years and we look forward to writing a new era in the history of Fenit lifeboat station with this new lifeboat which has been gifted to us.

“This boat, along with the all-weather lifeboat which we already have, helps provide a great service here to the Tralee Bay and extended areas.”

O’Donnell concluded by addressing the lifeboat crew of Fenit RNLI, past and present: “Over the years you have given of your time consistently, irrespective of weather conditions which at times can be horrendous. Day or night, you have never failed to respond when the pager has been activated.

“To all our past and present, members of our RNLI station, be proud of the service you provide, be proud of the countless lives you have helped to save and finally on behalf of all users of the sea and inland waters, thank you for being there to help save those who get into difficulty on the water.”

Following the naming of the lifeboat, the Irish Coast Guard’s Shannon-based helicopter Rescue 115 carried out a training exercise with the new D-class lifeboat to the delight of the watching crowds.

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