Summer visitor surge could see lifeboat struggle

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A sudden increase in visitors to Oban could see the town’s lifeboat struggle to get to every call-out.

Oban Lifeboat’s coxswain Ally Cerexhe has warned the volunteer-run life-saving service can not ‘be everywhere at once’ and a surge of visitors heading to  the coast could see it struggle to meed demand this summer.

As international travel remains restricted, this summer is being predicted to be a busy one for lifeboats as the public flock to coastlines.

Mr Cerexhe said: ‘We understand that many people will have been missing trips to the coast and will be eager for a change of scene or activity. However, we are really just asking for the public to help us, by doing what they can to keep themselves safe.

‘We cannot be everywhere at once, and if we see a sudden increase in people visiting Oban, our volunteer-run service could struggle to meet demand.

‘Therefore we ask people to stay aware of the inherent risks around our coast. Check the weather and tides, seek local advice and carry appropriate safety equipment.’

The volunteer crew have remained on call throughout the pandemic but in order to attend a shout, they must break physical distancing rules, putting
themselves and their families at risk.

Oban lifeboat is one of Scotland’s busiest stations and a normal year can see them attending around 80 callouts. Callouts for the volunteers can be anything from a commercial vessel needing help, to a person in the water or a medivac from one of the islands.

An increase in paddle sport in the area was evident last year and is expected to continue this year too.

‘We’d like to remind everyone taking to the water to make sure that their craft is suitable and that they have adequate safety equipment, ensuring life jackets are correctly sized and worn. We’d advise checking the tides and weather before setting off and always carry a means of calling for help,’ said Leonie Mead, the station’s press officer who is also a sea kayaking instructor.

She added: ‘Although you may set off in conditions within your ability, our weather is unpredictable and conditions can change in an instance.

‘It’s easy to find yourself out of your depth whether you are a beginner or not. We are luckily enough to have a number of highly qualified sea kayaking and watersports instructors operating in our area who offer tuition and guided trips and are happy to share their knowledge of the local area to help keep you safe.

‘Our local clubs are also a great way to get out on the water safely. I would
encourage anyone looking to take to the water either as a visitor or a local, to gain some skills and knowledge before hand.’

The lifeboat station is also appealing to boat owners, who have had their boats lying ashore unused for many months, to make sure their engines are properly maintained and in good working order before launching again.

The RNLI’s website offers safety advice and guidance for all water users – visit RNLI.org/safety