Wexford lifeboats rescued 144 people during 2010

RNLI Lifeboats around Wexford's coast launched 94 times last year, rescuing a total of 144 people.

The callouts were varied in nature, but they did reflect an increase on the previous year. Part of this increase can be explained by the rise in numbers of people taking to the water for various leisure pursuits.

As the long evenings and milder temperatures set in, the coming months represent the busiest time for the county's beaches and waterways, and also for the volunteer Lifeboat crews stationed around the coast.

'Lifeboat crews are always available to give advice to anyone thinking of taking to the water,' said Áine Stafford, PRO and one of the Sea Safety Officers with Courtown RNLI Lifeboat. 'Especially if you are taking to the water for the first time, we can give sea safety advice.'

Some of the basic tips and advice for those going out to sea are just common sense, but they can often be overlooked. 'Always tell someone where you're going and what time you will be back at,' advised Áine. 'If you're going out to sea, always wear a functioning lifejacket, and have a proper means of communication.'

'Sometimes mobile phones have blind spots at sea,' she added. 'If you have a VHF radio, some lifeboats can find you by tracking the signal.'

She said that people are advised to get trained in a relevant course, such as power boating; PWC (personal water craft) handling; a sailing course; or even basic swimming lessons. It's worth asking at local Lifeboat Stations, or at local Sailing Clubs, or Angling Clubs, if they know of any courses being organised locally.

'Do basic checks if you are going out on a craft, such as if you have enough fuel,' continued Áine. 'Make sure you now the weather forecast and tidal conditions before you head out.'

'Remember, if you get into difficulty, or see someone in difficulty, dial 999, and ask for the Coastguard,' she added.

'Every year, we get several calls from boat owners suffering from engine failure,' she explained. 'If you do get into trouble, it can be a good idea to call for help before you actually find yourself in immediate danger, such as drifting onto a lee shore, or are taking on water, or are being swept out to sea.'

She advised those launching a vessel down a slipway to ensure they don't leave a child in the back of the vehicle. 'Every year in Courtown, we get at least two cars that go down the slipway, and people don't even have time to put the handbrake on, never mind get a child out of the car seat,' she said.

It is also recommended that regular water users join a club such as a Sailing Club where training is available, or where you can go out with a group.

Otherwise, people should seek local advice before heading out to sea. They will know about local hazards such as underwater rocks, the condition of the entrance to the harbour, and different tidal conditions or strong current issues in the area.

Even a family day out at the beach can present certain dangers. ' We don't recommend people use inflatables on the beach, especially when the wind is blowing from the land to the sea,' said Áine. 'You can very quickly find yourself blown out to sea, and far from shore, unable to get back.

'If this happens, the people on the beach should call 999 straight away, and the person in difficulty should stay with the inflatable. It's easier to find a bigger target.'

For more sea safety advice, got to www.rnli.org.uk which contains lots of information for both adults and children, as well as activities for children.

A Water Safety instructor herself, Áine also recommended people take part in an upcoming Wexford Water Safety Course to learn basic life saving skills, such as resuscitation, and how to deal with water based emergencies.

'Many lifeboat crew members will have a wide range of knowledge, and take part in a large range of activities outside of their Lifeboating duties, such as surfing, sailing, diving, jet-skiing, power boating, rowing, swimming, angling, or water safety,' said Áine. 'All Lifeboat crews are volunteers who are on call 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.' The RNLI is entirely funded by voluntary donations, and by fundraising events such as the upcoming Sea Sunday Raft Race in Courtown.

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