EVERY now and then you have a watch where everything seems to come together and the messages we send out seem to be being listened to. On a blustery Thursday, in mid-April, the watchkeepers at Peveril Point received a phone call from some hardy young sailors saying that they intended to sail from Weymouth to Swanage, aiming to arrive between 14.00 and 15.00. What made the call unusual was that they were planning on making the journey in Lasers. Anyone that knows about sailing would tell you these single-handed boats are the sports car of the dinghy world and can be pretty unforgiving if you don’t know what you’re doing.
With a fresh south-westerly breeze and a flooding tide, conditions would have been ideal but for the fact that it was the day after Storm Noa. Sea conditions, as one of the local skippers would say, were a little bit chewy!
Having logged the call, the watchkeepers contacted St Alban’s Head to let them know about the intended passage and asked them to keep a look out for the boats. St Alban’s picked the dinghies up around lunchtime and were able to let their colleagues at Peveril Point know they were making steady progress. The St Alban’s team monitored the sailors along the cliff and rang Peveril when they rounded Anvil Point, where they lost sight of them.
The section of cliff between Durlston Head and Anvil Point is a bit of a blind spot between the two lookouts and it is standard practice to let the other station know when a vessel we are monitoring passes these points.
As the Swanage team were preparing to monitor Durlston Head, they received a channel 65 radio message from Pierhead Watersports’ boat Ski Protector to say the young sailors had been seen making their way along the cliffs. Once the three dinghies rounded Durlston Head, the afternoon team at Swanage monitored them across Durlston Bay. As Phil Palmer, owner of Pierhead Watersports, is also on the lifeboat crew at Swanage, he went over to check them. ‘Radio-ing’ back to Peveril Point, he let us know they were fine, adding that we were watching part of the British sailing team at work! In fact, one of the group, Sam Whaley, is a local lad. He cut his teeth in Swanage Bay, sailing with Swanage Sailing Club and is currently number three in the world rankings!
Shortly after 14.00, three tired, but no doubt satisfied, sailors sailed passed the Peveril Point Lookout and into the relative calm of Swanage Bay. With the grins on their faces, I think we all thought ‘oh to be young and invincible again!’.
What was pleasing about the episode was that the young sailors had the common sense to let us know of what they were intending and had given us a timeframe. With that in place we were able to share information and observations between stations. Talking to Sam afterwards, he said they’d planned the trip well but that it was good to have the watchkeepers keeping an eye on them.
Using the lookouts for a radio check and letting our teams know of your intentions helps take the load off the coastguard, enabling them to concentrate on their key task of co-ordinating maritime safety. When diving, we always let Peveril Point know when we go out and what time we are likely to return. If there’s an issue, we know that someone knows where we are and what we are doing.
The one thing we can’t accept is a full passage plan. This is where a vessel leaves one port and finishes in another port, often arriving the next day. An example of this would be a yacht travelling from Poole to Cherbourg and making an overnight Channel crossing. This kind of plan still needs to be logged with Solent Coastguard or one of the other rescue co-ordination centres. An alternative is to use the RYA SafeTrx App or website. The app provides all recreational boat users with an easily accessible and simple to use means that can inform HM Coastguard of their voyage plans and dynamic location in the event of distress.
RYA SafeTrx allows you to enter your plans and contact details directly from a smartphone knowing that should you not arrive by the time given, your nominated emergency contact will be alerted and advised to initiate appropriate action.
Where an emergency contact calls HM Coastguard about an overdue trip, the Coastguard will have access to the boater’s location and SafeTrx trip data through a secure SafeTrx server. This will help the Coastguard to get help directly to you, and quickly.
With the Coronation, May Day and Whitsun, we seem to have a plethora of Bank Holidays in May. It is hoped the weather will be good enough for people to get out and enjoy the coast. The ‘Hatch’ will be open for refreshments at St Alban’s on May 7 and 8 and between May 27 and 29. The team at Peveril will be offering tea and cakes on May 28 and 29. If you’re out about come and join us, enjoy some refreshments and find out some more about what we do.
This is St Alban’s NCI and Swanage NCi welcoming your radio check on Channel 65, NCI out.