A coastal search yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 23 September) helped Coastguard Rescue Teams (CRTs) to consolidate training which they had just begun at the beginning of the week.

Police Scotland asked for the help of CRTs from Stornoway and HM Coastguard duty officers, after reports that there was concern for a person reportedly heading towards Tràigh Mhòr in Tolsta.

Although the alert turned out to be a false alarm with good intent, teams had set up a control point, searched surrounding areas and prepared the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) for use by the time the individual was found safe and well.

HM Coastguard area costal commander Murdo Macaulay said: “We had just returned to training this week, with Stornoway CRTs receiving training on Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday we had a call-out.

“Having just done the training made us sharper. We were keen to get started and train to be better, because we never train to maintain skills, but to improve them.

“In the event the call was a false alarm, but we’re much happier to respond to what turns out to be a false alarm than not to be called and perhaps to see a different outcome.”

Training sessions restarted this week for teams from Stornoway, Miavaig and Breasclete, Ness and Bragar, with teams from Uist due to begin training today (Thursday).

The revived activity follows a long period when the regular CRT training programme was suspended due to lockdown.

Murdo Macaulay said: “Since March we have focused on maintaining our incident response capacity and providing aid to partner responders and NHS Western Isles. This week we restarted the vital training that keeps us always ready to respond.

“Of course, there are differences and challenges ahead as we embrace a new way of training to reduce COVID risks, but the dedication to constantly improve remains the same.”

Among the routine tasks undertaken by CRTs this summer, teams have collected COVID test samples from the Leverburgh ferry for transport to NHS Western Isles labs, undertaken patrols to maintain safety at beaches and helped Police Scotland with traffic management during funeral processions.

Pictures show teams undertaking training in Stornoway and Uig this week, and during the incident in Tolsta on Wednesday evening (HM Coastguard Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber).