Monday 17 June 2019

After 30 years' service, Annie Blaker lifeboat is to be retired

The Annie Blaker is to be retired
The Annie Blaker is to be retired
The Annie Blaker after towing a boat back to Wicklow Harbour in the early hours of the morning
Wicklow RNLI were grand marshals at the 2018 St Patrick’s Day parade

Myles Buchanan

2018 represented the last full-year of operational service for the all-weather lifeboat Annie Blaker before she is placed into retirement.

The lifeboat has been based in Wicklow since 1989, and was involved in her first call-out less than an hour after first arriving. The boat is named after Annie Lydia Blaker, an Essex sheep farmer and land owner.

Tommy Dover, PRO for Wicklow RNLI, says it will be a sad day for all the volunteer crews, old and new, when the Annie Blaker makes her final journey out of Wicklow Harbour.

'She has been a fantastic boat and will be much missed. We have had her for close to 30 years now and she made a huge difference. She was actually launched for the first time less than an hour after first arriving in Wicklow Harbour. She really has served us incredibly well and is still in great condition, especially considering her age'.

Wicklow lifeboat who have risked everything to save the lives of others ever since the local lifeboat station was established in 1857.

The callouts for Wicklow RNLI during 2018 ranged from assisting fishing vessels and yachts with mechanical problems and helping with the evacuation of an injured sailor to saving a dog stuck on the cliffs near to the Black Castle.

In March, Wicklow RNLI was bestowed with the honour of Grand Marshal for the St Patrick's Day Parade which they led through the streets of Wicklow town.

IN August, the RNLI volunteer crews were involved in no less than five separate call-outs. On Saturday, August 11, a ten-metre cruiser ended up in difficulty eleven miles north of Wicklow. The alarm was raised after the boat was reported to be listing in the water and had lost power and steering. A small angling boat with one person on board has been towed to safety by Wicklow RNLI after it got into difficulty near Wicklow head on the evening of Wednesday, August 8.

Two fishing vessels had to be towed to safety in separate incidents on the morning of Saturday, August 4, by the all-weather lifeboat Annie Blaker.

The first callout came during the early hours after a 24-metre beam trawler travelling from Howth to Kilmore Quay experienced total power failure three miles east of Wicklow harbour. The second callout came a couple of hours later after a whelk fishing vessel reported mechanical problems.

The level of support the local community has shown toward the RNLI in Wicklow is also very much appreciated.

'People are very good to us, organising different fundraising events on our behalf. We really appreciate al the efforts,' said Tommy.

June and July also proved to be busy months for Wicklow RNLI. Three fishermen were towed to safety on Sunday, June 3, after their 13 metre fishing vessel suffered engine failure off the Wicklow coast. Two lifeboat crew members were transferred onto the fishing vessel to assist with establishing a towline and assess one of the fishermen, who had sustained an arm injury.

Wicklow all-weather lifeboat Annie Blaker launched on Wednesday, June 13 to assist a yacht with engine failure. The 12-metre yacht, with three sailors on board, contacted the Coast Guard for assistance, after losing all power south of Wicklow Head.

The Wicklow Inshore Lifeboat launched on Saturday, June 23, to assist a swimmer in difficulty while participating in an open sea race near Wicklow Harbour. The crew quickly located the swimmer and lifted them into the lifeboat. The swimmer was experiencing breathing difficulties, so oxygen was administered while the lifeboat returned to shore. The casualty was handed into the care of an Ambulance crew and Paramedic on arrival at Wicklow harbour.

A father and son had a lucky escape while enjoying the unusually hot summer weather near Brittas Bay on Sunday, July 1. The pair set off in a small inflatable dingy in order to try to catch some fish. They were carried off shore south around Mizen Head and were having difficulties rowing back to land.

Fortunately, the father managed to get the dinghy ashore on an inaccessible beach after much effort. Onlookers and family members were unable to get down the cliff to help them, so they waited until the inshore lifeboat came ashore at 5.30 p.m. to pick up the stranded father and son.

They were transferred to the all-weather lifeboat a short time later and assessed by first aider Carol Flahive. The Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 was also tasked to the incident. The two casualties were cold and shaken after their ordeal, but required no further medical assistance.

A yacht requested help on Sunday, July 22, after the vessel began taking on water one mile north of Wicklow Harbour.

The RNLI crew were also involved in the rescue of a dog who became stuck on an isolated beach near to the Black Castle just as darkness began to fall. The owner was out walking with her pet when the dog climbed down onto an isolated beach and couldn't get back up again. It was too dangerous for the owner to attempt to rescue the dog so she contacted the Wicklow RNLI Lifeboat Station for assistance.

The inshore lifeboat crew, who were on exercise at the time, were alerted and carried out a beach landing in the breaking surf. They rescued the animal from the small beach, which was cut off by the rising tide.

'Winnie' the dog was reunited with her relieved owner a short time later at the Lifeboat Station.

'The owner of the dog did exactly the right thing by contacting us,' said Tommy. 'In such cases people often get themselves into trouble trying to help their dog. The best option is to contact the coastguard and they will alert us to the situation and we will respond'.

The volunteer crew also participated in the medical evacuation of an injured sailor from a yacht after he suffered an injury following a fall.

Wicklow People