August was an important month for Clifden RNLI, with the arrival of a new lifeboat and the filling of two new roles in the local team. In the background, the search and rescue volunteers were as busy as ever, with crews from Clifden and the Aran Islands responding to multiple shouts (see opposite).  

At the start of the month, Clifden became the first lifeboat station in the west to receive the Shannon class lifeboat (pictured above). The €2.4m vessel features the latest in lifeboat technology, and is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers. This makes it the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat in RNLI’s fleet. The new 25-knot lifeboat replaces the station’s 15-knot Mersey class lifeboat, significantly cutting response times and helping the crew reach casualties faster. 

Coxswain James Mullen said: ‘Bringing [the Shannon] home to Clifden from Poole was one of my proudest moments. As we rounded Loop Head, we hit a bit of weather and we really made her dance. The ergonomic seats bear the force of the impact of the lifeboat hitting the waves and the improved communications technology means the crew can talk to each other by linked headsets and can hear each other above the noise and receive information directly from the Coast Guard.’

The 24-person volunteer lifeboat crew began training intensively for the new lifeboat last May. After its arrival, they completed several weeks of further training before the boat could be declared on-service and fully operational. 

The station’s existing all-weather Mersey class lifeboat, which it received three years ago, will then be retired and sold on. This reflects the RNLI’s upgrade of its entire fleet to a 25-knot capability. 

Also in Clifden, two lifeboat crew – past and present – have been promoted to new roles in the charity. Rob King (pictured, above), the former full-time mechanic for Clifden lifeboat station, has been appointed as the RNLI’s area lifesaving manager for the west of Ireland. His role at Clifden RNLI has been filled by volunteer Thomas Davis (above left).

Rob first volunteered as a crew member with the RNLI in 2007, before being appointed as full-time station mechanic in 2014. In his role of area lifesaving manager, Rob will be leading a team of staff and volunteers while managing the delivery of the RNLI’s lifesaving services on the west coast. 

Thomas now takes over as station mechanic, responsible for the maintenance of the lifeboat and equipment, having himself served as a volunteer lifeboat crew member.

Busy months for crews in Clifden and Aran Islands

Crews across Connemara had a busy summer, with multiple call-outs reflecting higher numbers of sea users in the area. 

Last week, the Aran Islands crew had two call-outs within hours, while earlier in the month, the Clifden station responded to three call-outs in the space of a week. 

On Wednesday August 28, the Aran Islands RNLI facilitated two medical evacuations.  

The first call was at 4.50pm, when the Coast Guard asked for assistance transferring an elderly resident of Inis Meáin who had sustained an injury from a fall. 

The volunteer crew members were then asked to launch their lifeboat at 11.05pm as a sick man on Inis Mór required further medical attention. 

In both cases, the patients were transferred via the lifeboat to a waiting ambulance at Rossaveal. 

 On Tuesday, August 06, 14 volunteer crew members of Clifden RNLI came to the aid of two kayakers who had gotten into difficulty in the water at Ballyconneely. The alarm was raised by a vigilant member of the public from the shore who gave very detailed information of the location and scene. 

The women were taken on board from offshore rocks and assessed, then brought to shore, where members of Cleggan Coastguard Unit took over their care. The two kayaks were also recovered. 

Clifden Station’s operations manager John Brittain said: ‘The crew did very well today to get three boats on the water in a matter of minutes and thankfully we were on the scene very quickly. This is an example of how situations at sea can change rapidly, and the vigilance of the public is so important, especially at busy times of year and in holiday destinations.’ 

The previous weekend, on Saturday August 03, Clifden RNLI went to the aid of a yacht in difficulty between Inishbofin and the neighbouring small island of Davillaun. The lifeboat retrieved a dinghy that had broken free from the yacht and, with weather conditions deteriorating, brought the yacht into Inishbofin harbor. 

On Thursday August 01, the Clifden RNLI crew had joined with the Coast Guard helicopter and Cleggan Coast Guard volunteers to help a man who had become trapped on the shoreline near Ballyconneely. 

‘The walker had caught his leg in some rocks and there was concern that the rising spring tide would reach him. A passing couple raised the alarm and Clifden’s Atlantic 85 in-shore lifeboat was launched. It was first on the scene, administering first aid until back-up arrived. The man’s injuries were found to be minor and he was airlifted back to safety by the Sligo-based Rescue 118 helicopter. 

Earlier that week, the Aran Islands RNLI came to the aid of a child who required a medical evacuation on Tuesday July 30. The volunteer crew were requested to launch their lifeboat by the Irish Coast Guard following a report that a young boy on Inis Mór needed medical attention.

The crew had also launched on Saturday July 20 as a yacht with one onboard was experiencing engine difficulty north east of Straw Island. Once alongside the yacht the lifeboat crew established a tow line and headed for Kilronan Harbour. 

Aran Islands RNLI coxswain Tommy Dirrane said: ‘Thankfully a good result, a call out to a yacht in difficulty can throw up multiple challenges. Today we reached the yacht quickly and were able to bring it to shore safely. 

‘For anyone planning a trip to sea, always wear a  lifejacket, always carry means of communication, and let someone ashore know where you are going and when you are due back. Should you get into difficulty or see someone in trouble call 999 or 112 for the Coast Guard.’