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A Christmas Cara: First Christmas for Scotland’s only serving female Coxswain

Lifeboats News Release

For 16 consecutive years, Islay volunteer Cara McEachern has spent the festive period on call for the RNLI, willing to drop everything for those in need. But this year comes with added responsibility as Cara qualifies to take charge of the Islay lifeboat as Scotland only serving female Coxswain.

Cara stands proudly beside the lifeboat she could take command of this Christmas.


Cara stands proudly beside the lifeboat she could take command of this Christmas.

While she might not be one for the limelight Cara has racked up impressive statistics in the 16 years she’s been volunteering for the RNLI; launching 117 times on incident with a further 200 exercise launches. This makes for a total of over 763 hours at sea,168 people aided, and seven lives saved. This experience and dedication afforded Cara the opportunity to undertake a rigorous programme of training and assessments to become a fully qualified Coxswain.

Cara joined the Islay RNLI volunteer crew in 2006 aged 17, she modestly says: ‘With my family always being involved it just seemed natural to join the crew as soon as I could. It was before I had even passed my driving test!’

One of Cara’s first and most memorable rescues was in the New Year of 2008: ‘It was to a boat way out near Skerryvore lighthouse in the new year. The boat was taking on water, and we had to get the salvage pump over to them to stop the boat going down. We somehow managed but was a long night in rough weather towing them back in.’

The crew were out for 18 hours in a six-metre swell with breaking waves in excess of 20 feet and heavy hail showers. The crew towed the vessel the 44 miles to safety for which they received awards for seamanship and outstanding teamwork from the RNLI.

As well as being one of five coxswains in the crew Cara is a qualified sea-going casualty carer and navigator. When the crew find themselves out on a shout Cara can often be found in the role of navigating the lifeboat through our west coast seas.

Islay RNLI Coxswain, David MacLellan, has supported Cara on her journey and is thrilled with her achievement. David says: ‘Everyone at Islay RNLI wishes to pass on congratulations to Cara on the undertaking and successful completion of her training. She is a fabulous asset to the crew and we are all proud that she has achieved this milestone in becoming coxswain.’

Cara will join thousands of RNLI volunteers, willing to leave their loved ones to save others this Christmas. As a charity, the RNLI rely heavily on the support of donors and fundraisers to fuel our lifeboats and train our crew members. Cara explains: ‘The training we receive equips us with the skills and ability to save lives at sea. If you can, please donate to the RNLI this Christmas and be part of our lifesaving mission.’


Notes to editors

Statistics - over the past five Christmases, RNLI lifeboats in Scotland have launched 100 times, coming to the aid of 51 people and have saved three lives.

Since 1979, Scottish lifeboat stations have launched 414 times in the festive period, saved 51 lives and aided 216 people.

Media contacts

For more information, please contact: Martin Macnamara, [email protected] , 07920365929

Natasha Bennett, RNLI Regional Media Officer for Scotland, 07826 900639, [email protected]

The RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email [email protected]

Clive Booth

Cara joined the RNLI in 2006 and has launched on 117 rescue calls.


Cara and the Islay crew who took part in an epic 18-hour rescue back in 2008.


Cara and the Islay crew were awarded by the RNLI in Perth in the summer of 2008 for their seamanship and teamwork.


Cara, pictured with Islay's Severn-class lifeboat and the Paps of Jura.

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 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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

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