Thursday 8 December 2016

Swell of pride at heroics of an extraordinary crew

The welcome shown to 21 rescued sailors makes Louis Jacob very proud to be a Baltimore boy

Published 21/08/2011 | 05:00

BALTIMORE lifeboat is no ordinary lifeboat and Baltimore is no ordinary village. It's comforting to know that in today's world of uncertainty and variables, there remain a few constants on which you can count.

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Last Tuesday morning, I was bursting out of my skin with pride as the news filtered through of Baltimore lifeboat's heroic rescue of 21 sailors from the yacht Rambler 100 which capsized whilst rounding the Fastnet Rock in West Cork. Being from Baltimore myself, I was also beaming with joy (although in no way surprised) at the news of the welcome and the hospitality which the crew received from the people of Baltimore.

For the people of Baltimore this kind of attitude is par for the course. They know that when it comes to this kind of thing, you take out what you put in and I imagine there will be a warm glow of satisfaction around the village that such a perfect result came from a situation which could have been tragic.

The crew of Rambler 100 will be aware of their good fortune, knowing that if a terrifying incident like this had to happen, it couldn't have happened in a better place.

Anyone who has been rescued by Baltimore lifeboat knows that it is special, as is Baltimore village. Both are a shining example of community organisation and communal responsibility. The effort put in by the people on shore to make sure that the crew of Rambler 100 were fed and clothed and comforted is one that will have been practised many times before.

It is significant that one of those plucked from the sea, Joe Fanelli, is a member of the US coastguard. The professionalism of the Baltimore crew won't have been lost on him. Indeed, the crew on the Baltimore lifeboat wouldn't do a bad job of racing an ultra-modern machine like the Rambler 100 themselves. They have extensive Fastnet race and Round Ireland ocean-racing experience themselves and would have been acutely aware of the kind of distress the crew of Rambler 100 were in. They would also have been aware that this accident was a total freak, a one-off which no one onboard would have expected.

The mutual respect between the two crews in Baltimore last Monday night probably developed in pure emotion as the night wore on.

Rescues like this one are high-profile and command huge respect and admiration from the international media, but the Baltimore lifeboat is a year-round, 24/7 operation. Anyone who has seen the Hilda Jarrett in the harbour and assumed by her condition that she couldn't be more than five or six years old would be astounded to learn that she was commissioned back in 1986.

This is because lifeboat mechanic Cathal Cottrell, who has had the position since his father Noel passed away 20-odd years ago, lives and breathes lifeboat matters and keeps the vessel as tuned and shiny as if she were his own rare Lamborghini.

There was admiration from all quarters at the professionalism of the rescue. It does seem incredible that such a rescue, involving a capsized yacht, a lifeboat, a helicopter, the coastguard and a local diving boat, could have passed off so smoothly in such turbulent weather.

This was no fluke, however. The reason a crew of volunteers can carry out a rescue of such precision is because not only are they all competent sailors and boating people, they also train and do exercises every week of every month of every year. As well as this, they attend extensive courses in every aspect of rescue and safety, from navigation to seamanship.

Many of the rescues that the lifeboat carries out are straightforward and routine but they have to be executed to the highest standards nonetheless. They also commit themselves to voluntary civic duties. When the floods hit Skibbereen a couple of years back, the Baltimore lifeboat crew showed up with dinghies and spent the day ferrying people from the waterlogged streets to dry ones.

But make no mistake, this latest rescue will resonate in Baltimore long after it ceases to be a story of interest in the media. It is a story that will be told for decades and will give lifeforce to the souls of Baltimoreans for a very long time.

Eoghan Harris Page 23

I also know that no matter how many newspaper articles I read or television reports I watch, I won't get the true lowdown on this rescue, the real nitty-gritty, until I am back in Baltimore, sitting on a stool next to Cathal Cottrell or buying a newspaper in lifeboat coxswain Kieran Cotter's shop. That's when every minute detail, every wave, every manoeuvre will be divulged. I can't wait.

These people don't go chasing headlines. But once in a blue moon the admiring headlines find them. And they deserve every word.

Sunday Independent

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