An unusual lifeboat training exercise took place on Sunday off the Connemara coastline, involving the Irish Naval Vessel LE Orla and the volunteer crews of the Clifden RNLI lifeboats.
In calm conditions, RNLI volunteers and Naval crew cooperated on a number of training exercises, beginning with a ‘man overboard’ scenario, in which the casualty was transferred by hoist from the LE Orla to the RNLI Mersey all weather lifeboat Fishermans Friend. A rigid inflatable boat (RIB) from the naval vessel was then recovered in the water and towed by the Clifden Atlantic 85 lifeboat helmed by Daniel Whelan with crew John Mullen, Gerry Claffey and Michael Carey.
Next up was a salvage operation exercise, where the lifeboat crew used their salvage pump onboard the Naval vessel which was supposedly adrift at the time.
Clifden RNLI Coxswain David Barry explains ‘It was at this point it occurred to me that as part of a salvage operation we would normally tow the vessel in question so I requested permission to tow. After a brief pause, Captain Phil Diker granted permission to tow and we proceeded to tow the 750 ton LE Orla at 1500 revs and 3.2 knots. Andrew Bell and Sinead Pryce remained on the Mersey with me, while David O Reilly, and Alvin Bell were on board the LE Orla.’
Admittedly, conditions were very calm at the time, but we were all really delighted to have been able to sAdmittedly, conditions were very calm at the time, but we were all really delighted to have been able to successfully carry out a brief tow. In poorer conditions, we might have been able to at least keep the ship nose to sea. Overall, the day’s exercises were a huge success for the whole crew and we are really grateful to the Irish Naval Service for facilitating these invaluable exercises’.
To round off the exercise session, three Navy divers were recovered from the water by both lifeboats. Since the introduction of all all weather lifeboat to Clifden, the volunteer crew have undertaken many hours of advanced and innovative exercise scenarios intended to give the crew experience and competence. This opportunity to cooperate with the Irish Naval Service was certainly a highlight of the exercises of 2016 to date.