RNLI launch yacht safety appeal after record year

Picture: Donald MacLeod
Picture: Donald MacLeod
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OBAN is poised to benefit from a special water safety plan.

The news comes in the wake of the town’s RNLI lifeboat being scrambled to its 60th callout of the year yesterday.

The all-weather lifeboat Mora Edith MacDonald – the third busiest in Scotland last year with 52 calls – ­ responded to an 
appeal to help a yacht with 
engine problems near the isle of Kerrera.

The yacht, with two people on board, suffered engine failure shortly after leaving Loch 
Feochan. Stornoway coastguard called the lifeboat to tow the vessel to Oban marina for 
repairs.

Now Michael Avril, the RNLI’s community incident reduction manager in Scotland, is looking to introduce the next in a series of water safety plans around the country’s coast, at Oban.

The plans are tailored to address specific local problems.

The first was introduced at South Queensferry earlier this year because of the number of calls to help walkers caught out by the tide at Cramond Island.

Mr Avril said that for Oban, the initial target would be to 
reduce the number of yachts that get into trouble.

He said: “We have taken the Oban shouts [call-outs] and 31 per cent of those in the last five years were to yachts, nine per cent to fishing vessels and six per cent to power boats.

“We found that 112 of people rescued – over 40 per cent of the 270 people rescued overall – were from yachts.”

Every shout attended by the Oban RNLI lifeboat crew is logged on “a wheel of misfortune” to get a clear picture of the kinds of incidents that may benefit from preventative action.

Mr Avril said: “There are six top tips and it’s basic information. Please wear your lifejacket, keep an eye on the weather and tide, check your engine and fuel, have some means of calling for help, tell someone where you are going and what to do if you don’t return, and get appropriate training.”

He added: “Now we have got the hard facts, we are profiling our audience. We are trying to get a community safety plan that is designed for the station. The plan spans five years and we should be able to see at the end of it if we have achieved anything.”

He added: “You can get 25,000 people extra in Oban in the summer, on top of the indigenous population, which can be quite a challenge for the emergency services.

“If I can change one person’s behaviour this year, if I can prevent just one death, I will be happy.”

John Hill, coxswain of Oban lifeboat, said: “I am very supportive of Michael Avril’s work.

“We are busier than last year but at the end of the day, things happen and lifeboat crews 
nationwide are always here to assist anyone in trouble.”