News from the Lookout

This month, the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) Rhoscolyn branch has had such a lot to say that we are giving it a page of its own.  It will revert to the news page next month (unless of course they continue to be as active as they were in April).

News from the Lookout

After several minor incidents early in the month, in which the NCI were interested onlookers rather than active participants, the most interesting incident occurred late in the afternoon of Saturday 21st April while David Thomas and Stephen Knight were sharing the watch. They had noted and logged a RIB, with five people aboard, drifting in open water about a mile beyond the beacon.

As the RIB’s crew were not displaying any of the recognized distress signals David and Stephen quite reasonably assumed that they were fishing. They were surprised, therefore, to receive a telephone call from Holyhead Coastguard asking them to confirm that they had visual contact with a RIB off the Beacon, drifting and broken down. They said that they could see the vessel, and duly reported its currently bearing and distance from the watch station. On a fast ebb tide, when the current runs swiftly from right to left as you look out from the watch station, they updated the RIB’s position, which was changing rapidly, shortly before the Trearddur Bay inshore lifeboat arrived on scene to take the stricken RIB in tow. The first ‘red-ink’ entry in the log book for 2018. A red-ink entry is made whenever NCI Rhoscolyn either initiates, or plays an active part in, a rescue, as they did on this occasion.

Training exercise:

It is always possible that our watch keepers will be involved in conning (directing) a lifeboat on to a casualty. When the casualty is something large like a boat this is not too difficult, but when it is a much smaller target, such as a person in the water, it is not so easy. Apart from anything else it is incredibly difficult to spot the casualty, and then to keep him or her in sight, especially if the sea is rough. For this reason we carry out regular training exercises with the local lifeboats. Such an exercise took place on Sunday 22nd April.  Unfortunately the weather was awful! Rain was driving onto the lookout windows, and with five or six people inside the small building the windows inside were quickly misted up. Visibility was little more than a mile anyway, so one way and another we were unable to see anything from indoors (picture on left below). So we set up for the exercise outside, in the rain, where conditions were dire, but visibility was a little bit better (right hand picture -L-R: Wes Johnson, Mike Shaw, Elizabeth Pope, Tim Hopper)


The exercise started and we successfully conned the main Trearddur Bay lifeboat onto a man-sized dummy, called Fearless Fred, that had been placed in the water as our casualty by the smaller inshore lifeboat. This was the first time Wes Johnson (on the radio) and Elizabeth Pope (manning the tripod mounted binoculars) had ever conned a lifeboat and in the prevailing conditions they did brilliantly well and soon had the lifeboat alongside Fred who was unceremoniously hoisted aboard and ‘rescued’.

Then the weather got so bad and we were forced to abandon the exercise – a decision the lifeboat crews seemed pleased to go along with as it was getting ‘a bit choppy’ even for them. Though the exercise was curtailed we still learned some very valuable lessons, which have now been shared with the whole NCI team. You can see how murky the weather conditions were from the accompanying pictures which were taken by new watch keeper Gerrit Forrester, to whom we extend our thanks.
Mike Shaw