Staycation families keep RNLI busy

THE rise in “staycationing” Scots who get into difficulties in the sea has resulted in one of the busiest years on record for the crews of the 45 RNLI stations around Scotland’s coastline.

Scotland’s lifeboats rescued more than 800 people last year and were involved in more than 1,000 launches during 2011 – the sixth busiest year since the life saving charity was founded in 1824.

Scots opting for a holiday by the sea at home rather than abroad and then getting into difficulties in the water have featured in many of the rescues, according to the charity.

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The RNLI’s annual statistics reveal that 20 lifeboats were launched in Scotland on average each week in 2011. There was a total of 1,006 launches during the year in which 847 people were rescued.

The busiest lifeboat station in Scotland was Broughty Ferry, near the mouth of the Tay, where the RNLI’s two lifeboats launched a total of 104 times – a record-breaking year for the volunteer crews at the station, on the outskirts of Dundee. More than a third of the launches were during the hours of darkness.

The busiest inshore lifeboat was at the RNLI Queensferry station, on the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, with 62 call-outs in which they helped 117 people.

The report also reveals that more than 230 of the call-outs around Scotland were caused by boats breaking down at sea or suffering damaged propellers. There was also an increase in the number of people who were in danger after being cut off by the tide – up from 24 in 2010 to 35 in 2011.

Paul Jennings , the RNLI’s divisional inspector in Scotland, explained that the recession had played a part in the number of launches during the summer months.

He said: “What we have been noticing in the past few years is that people have less money in their pockets and are less likely to go abroad, and therefore they are holidaying around the coast. But often they are not prepared when they go out for a sail – they have not prepared their boats properly – or they go for a walk and get stranded on sandbanks or causeways to little islands.

“They are holidaying at home, but they don’t really know their own coast very well. They are getting into difficulty and they need our help.”

Mr Jennings also praised the dedication of RNLI crews: “The annual statistics reveal once again the devotion to duty by our volunteer crews throughout Scotland.

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“The crews also spend a great deal of time in exercising and improving their skills so that they are in a position to help anyone in all types of situation.

“It is particularly notable that during December we had four spells of stormy weather with winds from force 10 to 12, and yet our crews still launched.

“On 8 December lifeboats launched at Buckie in hurricane conditions, while Troon, Peterhead, Oban and Peterhead also launched in severe gales.”