RNLI Lough Swilly welcome first Shannon class Lifeboat

Date Published : April 12th, 2015    Published By : admin

FRONT IMAGE_RNLI Lough Swilly Incoming Waves
Huge crowds turned out in Buncrana, Co. Donegal on Friday last to welcome the RNLI’s newest edition to the Donegal coastline. A Lifeboat crew from Lough Swilly arrived into Buncrana at 12 noon onboard the new Shannon class lifeboat. At a cost of €2.4m, the new lifeboat is the first of its class to be put on service in Ireland and the first to be named after an Irish river in the RNLI’s 191 year history. This is in recognition of the service and dedication of Irish lifeboat crews. All previous classes are named after rivers in the United Kingdom.

The new lifeboat left RNLI Headquarters in Poole on Wednesday 1 April with a full crew and over the course of a ten day passage visited lifeboat stations at Newlyn, Aberystwyth, Douglas, Oban, Tobermory and Bangor before finally pulling in to its flanking station in Portrush, county Antrim from where it left in the early hours of Friday morning on the final leg to Buncrana. At 12 noon the lifeboat was escorted into Lough Swilly by a flotilla of boats to an emotional homecoming. The lifeboat is named Derek Bullivant and has been largely funded through a legacy from Mr Derek Jim Bullivant of Bewdley, Worcestershire in the UK, who passed away in September 2011.

RNLI Lough Swilly Incoming

Photo:Courtesy RNLI/Clive Wasson
The Shannon is the latest class of all-weather lifeboat to join the RNLI fleet and the first to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making it the most agile and maneuverable all-weather lifeboat in the fleet. Waterjets allow the vessel to operate in shallow waters and be intentionally beached. The lifeboat has a top speed of 25 knots and a range of 250 nautical miles, which makes it ideal for offshore searches and rescues in calm and rough seas.

RNLI Lough Swilly Shannon Boat 2

Photo: Courtesy RNLI/Clive Wasson
The new lifeboat was developed to operate in the worst of sea conditions and is self-righting, automatically turning the right side up in the event of a capsize. Its unique hull is designed to minimise slamming of the boat in heavy seas and the shock-absorbing seats further protect the crew from impact when powering through the waves. The Shannon lifeboat also has another strong Irish connection. Peter Eyre, an RNLI Engineer from Derry who works at the charity’s headquarters in Poole, was instrumental in the development of the new lifeboat, designing that unique hull form at the age of 24. Peter was present in Buncrana when the new lifeboat arrived into the harbour. He had a brush with the charity in 1998 when Lough Swilly Lifeboat came to his aid.

RNLI Lough Swilly Young RNLI Guy

Pic: Ronan Mahon gives the Thumbs Up for the new arrival. (Photo: RNLI/Clive Wasson) 
Peter Eyre has had a link with the RNLI for many years. He said “I was just 14 years old when my family’s 30ft cruiser racer yacht was dismasted in rough seas and force 7 winds. The yacht lost its mast and was escorted back to shore by the volunteer lifeboat crew. I wish the Lough Swilly crew the best of luck with their new Lifeboat. I can tell how much this boat means to them. It is clear they will take great care of her and put her to good use as they bravely respond to people in distress. Knowing that I have designed a Lifeboat that will keep the crew safe when they launch into challenging conditions in their quest to save lives at sea makes me incredibly proud” he said. The new lifeboat will replace the station’s current all-weather Tyne class lifeboat Robert & Violet and will be the first all weather lifeboat that has been specially commissioned for the lifeboat station, the previous two have come from the RNLI’s relief fleet.

RNLI Lough Swilly Officers on Shannon

Photo: Courtesy RNLI/Clive Wasson
The volunteer lifeboat crew will be busy training around the clock on the new lifeboat and when they are assessed as fully trained on it the new lifeboat will then officially be put on service. It will replace the Mersey and Tyne class lifeboats, which are now nearing the end of their operational lives. Once rolled out, the entire all-weather lifeboat fleet will be capable of 25 knots, making the lifesaving service more efficient and effective than ever before. Speaking of the Buncrana Shannon homecoming event, Lough Swilly RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager John McCarter said “This is an historic day for Lough Swilly lifeboat station. We were established as an inshore lifeboat station in 1988 and in 2000 received our first all weather lifeboat. This Shannon class lifeboat will be here for years to come and will come to the aid of many people over its lifetime. May our lifeboat crews always come home safe on her and may she bring many people home to their loved ones.”

RNLI Lough Swilly Group 3 Uniforms

Photo: Courtesy RNLI/Clive Wasson
Lough Swilly RNLI Coxswain Mark Barnett added, “It is a very emotional day for everyone connected with the RNLI in Lough Swilly. So many people have made this possible and we are grateful for the continued support we receive and the great welcome from all the lifeboat stations we visited on our passage home. I would also like to acknowledge the incredible gift that the late Derek Bullivant has made to the RNLI, which allowed the purchase of this state of the art lifeboat and which will proudly bear his name.” Lough Swilly’s lifeboats have launched over 700 times and saved 47 lives, as well as bringing 517 others safely home, since its establishment in 1988.

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