Forth lifeboat crew top rescue league after hectic year at sea

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THE RNLI crew at South Queensferry have been named the busiest inshore lifeboat team in Scotland.

Queensferry Lifeboat was launched 54 times in 2008, rescuing 75 people – the highest of any lifeboat in the country.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution's annual rescue figures show their boats across Scotland responded to 967 calls for help and spent a total of 1642 hours – almost ten weeks – at sea. The volunteers manning the Forth have been called out to deal with everything from a whale in difficulties to stranded daytrippers.

Queensferry Lifeboat spokesman Hamish Campbell said: "There is a lot of traffic in the Forth and over the past five years Queensferry Lifeboat has been in the busiest three stations in Scotland, so this is not a surprise.

"We have two dozen volunteers and there are always people on call, 24 hours a day."

July saw the busiest period in the crew's 41-year history, with 13 call-outs in a single month.

Among the more unusual rescues was a stranded minke whale about two miles up the River Forth off the village of Limekilns. The Queensferry Lifeboat joined divers, a vet and Coastguard, to coax the 15ft mammal back out to sea.

Also in July, the lifeboat was called out to help a speedboat which lost a propeller; two yachts which experienced engine failure and another which ran aground at Cramond; and a six-year-old boy who gashed his head after falling from rocks on Inchcolm Island.

The Queensferry Lifeboat was involved in many dramatic rescues during 2008, including an accident when a kayaker dislocated his shoulder and four of his friends rafted together to protect him in force six winds and torrential rain. The RNLI Queensferry Lifeboat team performed a difficult rescue in the darkness and transferred injured kayaker Neil Hamlet to a waiting ambulance at Aberdour, Fife.

Other incidents last year include a man and his friend who had spent the day drinking on Cramond Island in May.

David Gardiner, 26, was rescued in the nick of time after slipping and falling into the water in strong currents and being pulled down by the weight of his backpack. His flatmate, 20-year-old Natasha Cameron, had to support her friend in the water until help arrived.

And in April a 29-foot yacht, Jezebel 2, struck rocks at Battery Point, North Queensferry.

Five crew members managed to swim ashore, leaving the skipper aboard. He was joined by a lifeboatman in stormy conditions to attach a tow rope where the lifeboat managed to tow the yacht into the bay before she sank.

A new lifeboat station has been given the green light, ahead of the arrival of a new, bigger and faster 135,000 lifeboat. Work will begin this year on a two-storey building on the historic Hawes Pier at South Queensferry.