Leverburgh’s RNLI lifeboat is in operation again, after a three-year gap without the service.
Leverburgh lifeboat station was first established in 2012, after a sustained campaign and fundraising by the local community. It has not been operational since late 2019.
But the RNLI announced today (Thursday 8 September) that a new volunteer crew have completed a year of intensive training and are now fully passed out and ready to start active service.
Now that the station is operational, it will begin a two-year trial period, measuring the life-saving effectiveness of the service at Leverburgh.
Crew training to reach this stage has included a trip to the RNLI’s state-of-the-art college in Poole and familiarisation exercises around the Harris coast, while the majority of the crew are also casualty-care trained, following an intensive three-day course.
Leverburgh’s new Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, the John and Louisa Fisher, will be crewed by four qualified helms supported by a volunteer crew of seven. The crew has skills of all kinds and includes local fishermen, a telecoms engineer and a home care worker.
Telecoms engineer Eilidh Macmillan is one of the station’s four helms. She said: “It’s been a really hectic year with courses and training every week. There have been many long days and late nights, but we are now delighted to have reached this stage.
“Although we’ve been training for over a year, the learning is only just beginning. When the pager goes off will be the real test. While we hope no one will have cause to need us, we’re happy to finally be in the position to answer that call.”
Integral to the running of the station will be the station’s five deputy launch authorities (DLAs), all of whom have undergone role specific training.
And training will continue even while the station stands ready to answer calls to save lives at sea. On Monday nights and other evenings through the week the lights will be on at the station as crew continue to be supported by the RNLI through their next phase.
RNLI area lifesaving manager Bruce Rae saluted the efforts of the Leverburgh team in their return to operational service. He said: “Thanks to the dedication of our volunteers in Leverburgh, we now have a lifeboat back on service, ready to save lives.
“I hope this is the first of many significant milestones for hugely enthusiastic team in Leverburgh as we embark on a two-year trial, and I would like to thank each and every one of the team for their hard work and achievements thus far.”
The station, which has previously been home to Mersey and Shannon class lifeboats, now has an Atlantic 85, perfectly designed for complex coastline and shallow bays like those around Harris.
It’s also ideally located for operation in the Sound of Harris and to provide cover both to the west side of Harris, Berneray and Uist, and the east coast and Minch area. The area is busy with marine traffic, both commercial and leisure vessels, and is also surrounded by a number of fishing ports.
Catriona Maclennan, lifeboat operations manager (LOM) at Leverburgh said: “I am immensely proud of all that everyone has achieved in the last year. It hasn’t been an easy journey.
“One of the things that’s facilitated our progress is the environment in which we have been working. We have a great complement of people and their ability to gel and work together is what has got us to this stage.
“The station door is always open and the kettle is always on. We would love to hear from anyone else who would like to join us, either in shore based or sea-going roles.
“Living in an area with a low working population is always going to present challenges, but we sincerely hope to build on what we have created here, to ensure the service is as sustainable as possible going forward.
“We look forward to serving our coastal communities for the duration of our trial period and thank the public for their support while we have been re-building a life-saving presence for the area.”
The picture shows Leverburgh lifeboat and crew Rachael Campbell helm, Eilidh Macmillan helm, Jethro Lomas crew, Kieran Macaulay helm (Catriona Maclennan)