last year was another busy one for Kinghorn lifeboat.
The dedicated ground staff and crew dealt with 40 callouts during 2012, just one fewer than in the previous 12 months, saving three people’s lives and helping to rescue a further 20. And it was the seventh busiest lifeboat in the country.
The inshore lifeboat spent 196 hours on service and spent a further 104 hours at sea on exercises, while the crews did 520 hours of waterborne training and maintenance checks.
And as well as all that, they took part in helicopter, Coastguard and ambulance straining sessions, hosted visits from schools and other community organisations, and took part in a wide variety of fundraising activities to help boost the charity’s coffers and enable it to continue saving lives.
Neil Chalmers, helmsman and PR officer for Kinghorn lifeboat station, said: “The trend throughout Scotland is for more callouts, but we seem to have broken that trend this year, although it was still an extremely busy year for everyone.
“People are taking more heed of safety and the RNLI is about to appoint a new sea safety officer for the Kirkcaldy area whose job it will be to raise awareness of safety in and around the sea. He is currently on a training course, but he will be affiliated to this station, which will be good for us.”
The main role of the officer will be to provide advice to all leisure boaters on the safety equipment needed for whatever craft they take to sea from a kayak or dinghy to a sailing or motor cruiser.
He can offer a free visit to advise on the safety equipment the RNLI considers it would be appropriate to carry, and
discuss how to use and maintain it, as well as how to plan for things that could go wrong at sea.
Among the more noteable callouts – or shouts as they are known – during 2012 was the rescue of a yacht which had caught its keel on a rock off Inchkeith Island and was well submerged when the lifeboat received the call to attend in June. They managed to tow it to Granton and saved the lives of two people.
Another was the medical evacuation of an 18-year-old fisherman who had caught his arm in the engine of his boat and required urgent medical attention in hospital, while in December they were called out to help jet skiers who had fallen off in rough waters but had managed to make it back to shore but were trying to go back in to recover the jet skis.
Paul Wibberley, the stations operations manager, explained that there were strict criteria governing the classification of incidents they were called out to, including what was deemed to be a hoax call and what was a callout “with good intent.”
“Someone who deliberately dials 999 to call out the emergency services when they know there is nobody in the water is wasting valuable time and resources,” he said.
“It is quite different from someone who thinks they see someone in trouble or something floating in the water and calls with the best intentions. In these cases we are quite happy to go out and check, because if there is someone then we could potentially save a life. But someone who makes a hoax call is taking our service away from someone else who could need it and it costs a lot of money every time we launch, which, because we operate as a charity, means our volunteer fundraisers have to raise more to make up for it.”
New crew members are always being trained up to replace those who retire or move on, and at the end of last year two new recruits were enroled who will be undergoing training before taking their places. Two members have also moved from being tractor drivers to joining the crew.
“At the moment we have four crews with four people on each, and they work on a weekly rota so that they will serve one week in four, as well as doing regular training on top of that,” explained Neil.
“It means we have a bit of flexibility and we can plan ahead.”
FUNDRAISING played a big part in the station’s year, starting on January 1 with the first ever Kinghorn Loony Dook organised by Mark Gowans, a member of the ground crew.
What started off as a family and friends event quickly grew to attract around 50 dookers. It was repeated again this year when even more people braved the waters to raise over £1600 for the Kinghorn station.
Sheona Baxter, president of the fundraising team, said the station could not continue to operate without the loyalty and committment of the local community who turned out in all weathers to offer their support.
“We held our annual open day in July last year and the weather was truly awful with pouring rain and gales, but they still came along. As they say – the lifeboat crew goes out in all weathers, so why shouldn’t they?”
The SOS day in January has become an annual event, and there are regular coffee mornings between March and November. The famous Spooky Walks for Hallowe’en in October are continuing to increase in popularity, and a successful Christmas shopping event was held in the Kingswood Hotel, Burntisland, in November.
During 2012 the organised events raised £16,000 while £10,000 came in in donations. Sales of souvenirs through the lifeboat shop, run by crew member Joanne Wibberley also raised £4500.
Sheona said: “One of the biggest challenges is coming up with something different as we don’t want to do the same thing every year, but there are a good number of community groups in the village which all help out, and last year was a great year again. We have had a year on year increase since 2009 which is great as there is always equipment needing replaced, training and running costs to meet.”