SCOTLAND’S dedicated lifeboat crews rescued a record number of people last year.
Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) figures released yesterday revealed that crews from the country’s 47 lifeboat stations rescued 1,175 people in 2014 – the equivalent of three a day – with the number of lives saved being 51.
The country’s coastal lifeboat crews attended 1,004 call-outs, up from 995 in 2013, with Broughty Ferry and its two boats being the busiest station in Scotland with 74 calls.
The country’s busiest single all-weather lifeboat was Oban’s Mora Edith MacDonald. Covering a vast area stretching as far as the Corryvreckan whirlpool, and including a myriad of islands, Oban lifeboat responded to 68 calls in 2014.
Praising the commitment of all RNLI volunteer crews, Oban coxswain John Hill said: “You don’t know what the ‘shout’ is, the crew don’t know until they are actually at the lifeboat station, but when the pagers went off in a force 9-10 earlier this month, we had a good turnout of crew. I could have filled the boat twice over.”
Deputy coxswain Ronnie MacKillop explained: “Most of us do it because we want to give something back to the community.
“A lot of the crew are involved with the sea in some way, and anybody with a connection with the sea recognises that it’s very important to be able to call for help if you get into trouble.
“When the pager goes there is always a little burst of adrenaline happens. You get to the lifeboat and it could be something really simple, or something really major, but I have never found it really scary. I have never known a guy say I am not going to go.”
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Fellow deputy coxswain Mark Scott, whose son Andrew, 17, has also joined the Oban crew, added: “People ask me why I do it, but I have been involved in the maritime industry all my life and I feel that I am putting something back into it.”
Some 405 incidents were dealt with in the dark, the official figures from the charity revealed, and 90 children were rescued. On one day in July, two neighbouring lifeboat stations were involved in two separate incidents which resulted in the saving of nine lives, including those of two children.
The boy and girl were saved by the Fraserburgh crew while seven on board a yacht were later rescued by Peterhead crews.
Last month, an all-night operation involving Lochinver and Thurso lifeboat stations resulted in four lives being saved aboard the cargo vessel Norholm during severe gales and very rough seas near Cape Wrath.
Michael Avril, community incident reduction manager in Scotland, said: “The very nature of the sea means it is unpredictable and can catch out even the most competent water users.
“But it’s not just people who set out to use the water who end up in it – walkers can get caught out too as conditions can change very quickly or a trip could mean they end up in the water.
“We would urge people to respect the water and never underestimate the power and strength of the sea.
“Always check tide times. Avoid areas where you could get swept off your feet in stormy weather and be sure to visit a lifeguarded beach during the summer months.”
The RNLI’s newest station in Scotland at Stonehaven had eight launches.
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Our lifeboat crews do a great job in some very difficult circumstances.
“We owe them our heartfelt thanks for their invaluable service to others and for their role in making our seas safer.”