Call to 'Respect the Water' as tragedy avoided in Tobermory Bay

Lifeboats News Release

As the RNLI’s major national drowning prevention campaign, ‘Respect the Water’ gets underway in the UK and Ireland, Tobermory RNLI was called to an unusual incident in the early hours of Sunday morning which could easily have resulted in tragedy.

Shortly after 0200 on Sunday 12th June, one of Tobermory RNLI’s Deputy Launching Authorities (DLA) was woken by a commotion on the Main Street. On looking out of the window, the DLA spotted a man asleep in the station’s boarding boat, a former D Class lifeboat which is used to access Tobermory's Severn Class lifeboat when it is on its storm mooring. The boarding boat is kept on a running mooring in Tobermory Bay approximately 25m from the shore. The DLA immediately alerted the Coxswain and then went down to investigate. She was advised by some eyewitnesses that the man had used another boat to get out to the boarding boat, that he appeared to be on his own and that they had not seen him enter the water. Within just a few minutes, the Coxswain arrived and notified Stornoway Coastguard of the situation. 

At this stage, the man had woken up and was trying to start the boarding boat’s engine. The Coxswain hauled in the boarding boat and assisted the man onto the shore where he was found to be soaking wet. He was taken to the Lifeboat Station where he received casualty care initially from the Coxswain and DLA and then subsequently a Tobermory Community First Responder who arrived very shortly afterwards before being handed over to the care of the Scottish Ambulance Service and taken to hospital as he was suffering from hypothermia. Some time later, the Coxswain discovered a small tender filled with water on the beach which it is believed was almost certainly used by the man and that he had capsized it and fallen into the water when getting into the boarding boat. The Coxswain and DLA recovered the tender to its rightful place.

Tobermory RNLI Coxswain David McHaffie said: ‘This incident could so easily have turned into a tragedy. Cold water is a real killer. People often don’t realise how cold our seas can be – even in summer months the sea temperature rarely exceeds 12 degrees, which is low enough to trigger cold water shock. If you enter the water suddenly at that temperature, you’ll start gasping uncontrollably, which can draw water into your lungs and cause drowning. The coldness also numbs you, leaving you helpless – unable to swim or shout for help. The RNLI is urging everyone but particularly men aged 18 to 40 to respect the water.' ‪#‎respectthewater‬

Notes to editors

The RNLI launched its annual national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, on Thursday 9th June. This year the charity is warning the public to watch out for key dangers that can catch people out in or near water. 

The campaign, which will run throughout the summer months, aims to highlight the risk of accidental drowning when people are near the coastline while encouraging safer behaviour both in and around the water. The campaign is primarily aimed at males aged between 16 and 39 but the same advice is relevant for anyone visiting the coast.​​

The charity is asking people to visit where they will find information on coastal hazards, how to keep themselves safe, and what to do should they someone else end up in trouble in the water. On social media search #RespectTheWater.

RNLI Media Contacts

For further information, contact Sam Jones, Deputy Launching Authority and Deputy Lifeboat Press Officer on 07747601900, Michael Stirling, Lifeboat Press Officer Tobermory on 07921 515686 or, Richard Smith, Public Relations Manager Scotland on 01738 642956, 07786 668903 or or Henry Weaver, RNLI Press Officer for Scotland, 01738 642946, 07771 943026,

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.