Loch Ness RNLI in 2018
During this festive period, we reflect on 2018, which has proven to be a monumental year for the RNLI team on Loch Ness, with a new lifeboat, a new station, new crew, and many Shouts.
The Shouts have ranged from mechanical faults, groundings, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards.
We have acquired 3 new DLA’s, 2 crew retirements, 2 newly qualified helms, and 2 new trainee helms, as well as 2 new trainee crew.
January and February saw drastic changes for the team, as they received their new Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, and moved into their new boathouse.
The new Loch Ness lifeboat arrived at Urquhart Bay harbour following a long journey from RNLI headquarters in Poole. The ILB, named Sheila & Dennis Tongue IV, replaced the Atlantic 75, Colin James Daniel, following 5 years of service.
The Atlantic 85 is a quicker vessel, with much more advanced technology onboard, including radar, intercom, and VHF direction-finding equipment. This all goes towards helping the crew carry out the job in hand, more effectively.
Following years of appeals, planning, fundraising, and construction work, the team moved into their new boathouse in February, which crucially keeps the lifeboat inside and out of the elements. The boathouse also boasts a large training room, as well as a changing room with dehumidifiers, meaning any wet gear is quickly ready for another service.
The new boathouse was opened up for the public in March, as the Loch Ness RNLI team of volunteers held their first ever open day. The team were able to demonstrate both their old and new lifeboats to approximately 180 visitors, and raising almost £800.
It seemed appropriate that the ground-breaking year of 2018, should also mark 10 years since the RNLI first established a station at Loch Ness, on 2 April 2008.
Later in April, the team were delighted to have two newly qualified helms. Following extensive training and assessments, crew members Jamie Macpherson and Jamie Young passed their Helm Passouts.
A couple of days later, the new Atlantic 85 was called into action for the first time, as the first Shout of the year was called in. The new lifeboat made light work of towing the broken-down yacht back to the safety of Urquhart Bay Harbour.
On the 26 May the Loch Ness RNLI Station Opening and Boat Naming Ceremony took place.
The lifeboat was officially handed over from Raymond Tongue, the nephew of the boat’s benefactors, to Roger Lockwood, Chair of the Scottish Council, who accepted it on behalf of the RNLI. It was then passed into the care of Joanna Stebbings, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Loch Ness RNLI Station.
The station was then officially opened by Roger Lockwood and Robin Barr, who represented his stepmother, Agnes. Agnes Barr was a regular contributor to the RNLI, with her single largest contribution being to the Loch Ness lifeboat station. Agnes sadly passed away last year, before she could see the results of her incredibly generous donation, but it was a pleasure to welcome her family to see the finished result. Other contributors to the cost of the station were Mr James McGregor Sinclair, Mr Roy Arthur Burns Hamilton, Lord Shane Gough, and The Stafford Trust, as well as hundreds of kind members of the public who dug deep to donate to the team’s own fundraising efforts.
The new boathouse has welcomed many visitors already, and June saw the crew assemble to take part in Jack Lowe’s Lifeboat Station Project. The project is to create a photographic archive of every lifeboat crew and station, with the intention of showcasing the finished exhibition as a fundraiser for the RNLI. Loch Ness was the 103rdstation (of 238) that Jack has visited with his 113-year-old camera and mobile darkroom.
The milestones kept coming in July; the team completed their 12th Shout of the year, which also marked their 200th Shout since the station was first established in 2008. This instance involved a 36 tonne Dutch barge which had run aground on a sand bar near the mouth of the River Moriston. The powerful new Atlantic 85 managed to free the barge with relative ease.
Days later, the new boathouse played host to its first Shout carried out under red lights, as the volunteer team were tasked to search the loch following a sighting of a red distress flare during the night. The lifeboat launched shortly before 2am on 18 July and searched the north end of Loch Ness. The crew were stood down a couple of hours after launching, as the sun slowly began to rise, with nothing being found, and no further sightings.
The tail end of August sees the annual Highland Games being held in Drumnadrochit, which the RNLI team regularly attend, offering safety advice and information.
The team were joined this year by local personal trainer Gavin Heath, who had been fundraising on behalf of the Loch Ness team and intended on dead-lifting the equivalent of 42 tonnes, the weight of a Severn class lifeboat. Gavin successfully lifted a 100-kilogram bar, 420 times, to complete his challenge in one hour and forty minutes.
Gavin managed to raise in excess of £600 for the Loch Ness RNLI team.
Towards the end, of what has been an incredibly successful year, the team had two retirements from active crew. Senior helm Garry Macleod and Linda Izquierdo-Ross have both taken DLA roles however, so will thankfully remain as part of the RNLI team on Loch Ness. Linda and Garry have attended around 100 Shouts altogether, so their experience and knowledge of Loch Ness will continue to be vital assets to the team.The RNLI team on Loch Ness will continue to be on call over the festive period. Lifeboat crews carry pagers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
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, in a normal year, 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.