South west RNLI lifesavers look back on a busy 2013

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MS Shannon at Exmouth with launch and recovery vehicle Credit Nathan Williams

Shannon Class on trials at Exmouth

Exmouth RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager, Kevin Riley MBE has commented;

‘Exmouth RNLI figures again show the dedication of our crews, to not only give up their time to respond to assist those in difficulty at sea or on our shore, but they also give up time to train to learn or maintain the skills needed to operate safely and professionally . The Institution thanks both the families and employers for the support they give in supporting our crew.

‘As we move into 2014, we are excited about getting our new Shannon-Class lifeboat. We will have a 21st Century lifeboat in a 21st century lifeboat station. To that end, we thank all who help us both in fundraising, as well as all who donate. We are still actively fundraising to raise the remainder for the Shannon Launch and Recovery Vehicle appeal, which is designed and built locally at Dunkeswell.’

Volunteer RNLI lifeboat crews across the south west* are reflecting on what was a busy 2013 after official statistics released by the charity today (Tuesday 28 January) reveal that last year they launched their lifeboats 1,449 times, rescuing 1,450 people and saving 34 lives. Meanwhile the charity’s lifeguards reported their busiest year since the service was launched in 2001, having attended 13,390 incidents, assisting 14,802 people and saving 56 lives during the summer of 2013.

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In a year in which weather information released from the Met office** revealed the coldest spring since 1962, the hottest summer for seven years and the windiest December since 1963 the RNLI lifesavers spent an incredible 10,207 hours helping others in trouble at sea, the equivalent of 425 days. In addition to this massive commitment, they spent a further 23,368 hours (974 days) on weekly training exercises on the water.

Andy Hurley, RNLI Regional Operations Manager says;

‘The figures released today, go some way to illustrating the incredible dedication shown by the charity’s volunteers, without whom we could not carry out our core purpose to save lives at sea.

These volunteers are equipped and trained to respond to all kinds of incidents whatever the weather throws at them. However it is a massive commitment, not only for them, but for their families, loved ones and employers who must also become part of the wider RNLI family.’

Whilst the volunteer crew responded to all manner of incidents in 2013, including fishing boats, people in the water and commercial vessels, it was sailing pleasure craft that accounted for the greater number of rescues (326). One such incident was a dismasted yacht at the mouth of the River Yealm to which the Plymouth all-weather lifeboat volunteers responded. Footage of the incident is available to watch here

Problems encountered by powered pleasure craft resulted in the second highest number of rescues with 317 call outs. The biggest reason for RNLI call outs was mechanical failure, with 286 incidents, a slight increase on the previous four years. In August the volunteer crew at The Lizard assisted two people onboard a 10 metre yacht that was becalmed and had suffered gear box failure. Footage of this incident is available to watch here

Mudeford RNLI were tasked to assist a man and his two children after they experienced trouble on their six metre Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) in September, the full story is available to read here

The volunteer lifeboat crews at Burnham-on-Sea and Weston super Mare worked together to assist the crew of a 26 foot yacht, which had suffered mechanical problems, as well as a member of the crew suffering with severe seasickness. Full story here

To try and prevent incidents from happening in the first place, and to help people have a safe and enjoyable trip to the coast, the RNLI strongly recommends that those going boating or enjoying other water sports should know the basic methods of starting, running and maintaining their engine and other equipment. The charity also advises anyone going afloat to wear a well-fitted lifejacket and know how to operate it should an emergency situation unfold.

People being cut off by the tide continues to result in a large number of the ‘shouts’ the volunteer RNLI crew respond to, with a small year on year increase which resulted in 99 launches to those stranded in 2013. This included two people cut off by the rising tide near Ilfracombe who were rescued by the volunteer crew. Video here and story here.

RNLI advice is to always check the tide times and weather forecast before you set off. Both are available from your local lifeboat station or harbour office. Get regular updates if you are planning to be out for any length of time and be prepared to change your plans or cancel the trip if the forecast is bad.

RNLI lifeguards on the regions beaches also dealt with a number of incidents involving people who were cut off from the incoming tide. One of the more interesting launches was to rescue two people and their eight dogs at Whitsand Bay, footage of the incident is available to view here

With the warmest, driest and sunniest summer since 2006** not surprisingly the RNLI lifeguards who patrol 103 beaches across the south west had their busiest summer yet.

Andy Hurley continues;

‘There were nearly 12 million visitors to RNLI patrolled beaches in the south west during 2013. That’s a staggering number so it’s not surprising that it was a busy time for the RNLI lifeguards on patrol. As well as reacting to incidents which happened on the beach and in the water, including major and minor first aids and missing children, they also worked extremely hard to keep the estimated 1.3 million bathers between the red and yellow safety flags safe.’

Whilst the charity’s operational volunteers were busy out on the water or patrolling the beaches, the volunteer fundraisers were also working hard with the launch of five major appeals across the south west in 2013.

Appeals at St Ives, Exmouth and Ilfracombe were launched to help raise the money needed for the launch and recovery vehicles that will be used in conjunction with their new Shannon class all-weather lifeboats. The St Ives Appeal was launched during a visit by Her Majesty the Queen in May and the station were honoured to be mentioned in her 2013 Christmas speech.

At Swanage in Dorset, local fundraisers launched an appeal to raise funds towards a new boathouse to accommodate their new Shannon class lifeboat and in the Bristol Channel area an appeal is being run to support developments at Weston super Mare and Portishead where the RNLI are working towards the adoption of the local lifeboat station.

Andy congratulates the commitment of the fundraisers, he says;

‘What a fantastic year for both the lifesavers on the front line and the tirelessly dedicated army of extraordinary fundraisers we have across the south west. They work extremely hard behind the scenes to bring in much needed funds to ensure the RNLI can continue to save lives at sea.’

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