1–6 May 2013 is Ireland’s MAYDAY. Will you answer the call for help?
Brave Irish lifeboat volunteers have responded to the mayday calls of fishermen and sailors in distress for more than 200 years.
Today, there are 44 lifeboat stations in Ireland, crewed entirely by volunteers, providing a ring of safety around the entire Irish coast and at three inland locations – Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree.
In 2012, RNLI lifeboats in Ireland launched 939 times and rescued 1,041 people. This was only possible due to generous donations from the public. The RNLI is a charity, independent from government.
The Fastnet Race, 2011: Real mayday rescue
In 2011, Baltimore lifeboat was involved in one of the RNLI’s most dramatic rescue operations in recent years when the 30m yacht Rambler 100 capsized during the famous Fastnet Race with a crew of 21 onboard.
Mick Harvey, the boat’s Project Manager, told the Guardian: ‘I was down with the navigator, when we heard the sickening sound of the keel breaking off. It was instantaneous; there was no time to react. The boat turned turtle like a dinghy capsizing. Peter issued a mayday and we got out as quickly as we could. It was a scary moment, one I’ll never forget.’
Baltimore lifeboat rushed to the scene. The crew found the upturned yacht about 5 miles south of the Fastnet Rock with 16 people stranded on the hull. After a short, unsuccessful search for 5 more people who had drifted away from the yacht, the 16 casualties were brought aboard the lifeboat. They had been stranded for around 3 hours.
Meanwhile, station Mechanic Jerry Smith had gone out in his own dive boat to help with the search. He found that the missing five had linked arms in a desperate attempt to survive the surging waves. A severely hypothermic woman was airlifted to hospital for urgent medical attention, and the other four were returned to shore.
Coxswain Kieran Cotter recalled: ‘We were out on exercise in the area where they capsized and we must have just missed them by minutes. We saw a light in the distance and did not know what it was so we went closer to investigate it. When we got nearer we saw that it was a torch the casualties were flashing to attract attention. Our priority was to get them back to shore as quickly as possible.’
Read more rescue stories