Clifden RNLI have become the first station on the west coast of Ireland to receive the latest in lifeboat technology, the Shannon class lifeboat.
This is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making it the most agile and maneuverable all-weather vessel in the search and rescue charity’s fleet.
The new 25-knot lifeboat replaces the station’s 15-knot Mersey class boat, significantly cutting response times for the volunteer crew and reaching casualties faster.
The twenty-four-person strong Connemara based volunteer RNLI crew are a close-knit community.
Two of the station’s four Coxswains are brothers, there is a husband and wife serving on the crew as well as a father and son.
There are currently two Shannon class vessels at Lough Swilly in Donegal and Clogherhead in Louth with a relief boat in Wicklow.
The introduction of the Shannon class boat into Clifden represents a major investment by the charity, €2.4 million, into search and rescue on the west coast.
Commenting on the arrival, Clifden RNLI Coxswain James Mullen said, ‘Three years ago we received our first all-weather lifeboat on a two-year trial, and we were thrilled with it.
It meant we could launch in all-weathers and cover greater distances. However, with the arrival of the Shannon we have 21st century lifeboat design and technology.
He added that “Bringing her home to Clifden from Poole was one of my proudest moments. As we rounded Loop Head, we hit a bit of weather and we really made her dance.”
“The ergonomic seats bear the force of the impact of the lifeboat hitting the waves and the improved communications technology means the crew can talk to each other by linked headsets and can hear each other above the noise and receive information directly from the Coast Guard.”
The crew have been undergoing intensive training since May and will receive consolidation training on station in Clifden before the lifeboat is declared on service and fully operational and the Mersey class lifeboat is retired.
Clifden’s new Shannon class lifeboat is named Brianne Aldington and comes from the RNLI’s relief fleet having been built two years ago.
The station’s former lifeboat will be sold on as the charity has upgraded its entire fleet to a 25-knot capability.
The first planned outing for the new lifeboat is to visit the nearby island communities where it can be called on to respond to urgent requests for medical evacuations.
Both Inishbofin and Inishturk are first in line to receive a visit and have a tour of the new vessel that will serve the west coast.
photo credit: RNLI/Michael McLaughlin