Edinburgh’s lifeboat crew gear up for 2016

The RNLI crew rescue a yacht in Leith last year. Picture: comp

The RNLI crew rescue a yacht in Leith last year. Picture: comp

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The RNLI crew patrolling the Capital coastline get ready for another hectic year as they embark on more dramatic rescue efforts

Hanging from a lifeboat, braving 30mph winds and the icy cold waters of the Forth, the crew desperately tried to grab hold of a woman who was clutching to a dinghy – fearing for her life after it capsized.

Eventually they managed to lure her into their boat before reuniting her with her panic-stricken family.

And while they rightly earned praise for their bravery, it was all in a day’s work for the Kinghorn-based RNLI Lifeboat team.

Covering the Edinburgh coastline, with a western boundary between Inchcolm and Granton, and Largo to Gullane to the east, the Kinghorn crews – who also cover smaller stations North Berwick, Dunbar and Queensferry – were called out 41 times in their 50th anniversary year in 2015.

They searched for missing people, tugged home broken-down boats, saved stranded people and rescued distressed dogs.

Their rescue bids almost always end well – but there is no room for complacency as they look ahead to what is certain to be another busy year.

Neil Chalmers, helmsman of the RNLI, said the dinghy rescue was typical of the work carried out by his team.

He said: “That one rescue operation in September where we rescued the woman after her dinghy capsized sticks in my mind.

“The winds were so high and, after her family managed to get the dinghy back upright but couldn’t get her back inside it, that’s when the panic kicked in.

“They were about a quarter of a mile away from Inchkeith Island, but we managed to 
rescue her.”

The unpaid voluntary team work tirelessly for the charity, giving their time to help others when they could be at home with their loved ones.

They are on call 24/7 to answer a pager that could buzz at any time, knowing the speed of their response could be a matter of life and death.

Megan Davidson, who has been a crew member of the RNLI for seven-and-a-half years, said being trained to the highest level is vital for rescue operations – as conditions on the water can change within minutes.

She said: “I remember one night in August, it was dark and we were called out to reports of a person in the water at the Forth Road Bridge.

“Our colleagues from Queensferry were already out there and we went to assist them.

“We searched for a couple of hours and unfortunately we didn’t manage to find anyone.

“In the time we were out there it was scary how much the weather changed – when we left Kinghorn the wind was reasonably high and the visibility was clear but by the time we were on our way back we couldn’t see a thing.

“We had to take quick action and use our GPS to navigate where we were going.

“It’s times like that which highlight that any crew member needs to be trained to the best possible standard because you just never know what lies ahead.”

The trainee solicitor added: “When the pager goes off it’s an adrenaline rush.

“You have to be prepared to give up a lot of your time to be involved with the RNLI.

“It is a big commitment but I’m always ready to help out, it’s something you have to be dedicated to and be passionate about.”

• To find out more about volunteering for the RNLI, see its Facebook page or the Kinghorn Lifeboat website.