16th September 2019. Every year the National Coast Watch Institution’s station at Porthdinllaen has its ‘Declared Facility Status’ re-assessed. Having this status means that the station can continue to work with other Search and Rescue organisations such as Her Majesty’s Coastguard (HMCG), The RNLI, and the Police etc.

As well as checking safety standards and paperwork, the Assessor observes the operation of a routine watch at the station. This usually involves keeping a careful look out for anyone in need of assistance on land or sea around the station. However, this year’s ‘observed watch’ was significantly busier than usual. The routine opening of the station had gone smoothly when HMCG transmitted a distress call over the VHF radio. A yacht had something entangled in its propeller in Bardsey Sound and, although the situation wasn`t life threatening, were there any other vessels in its vicinity? The watchkeepers duly logged all this information and later listened to a radio conversation between the yacht and the Pwllheli Lifeboat.

Next a second Coastguard distress message was heard concerning three people seen in the water. As they were not in the Porthdinllaen area the information was just logged and a listening watch maintained. This distress message was soon cancelled. A few minutes later a gale warning, for The Irish Sea, was transmitted over the VHF radio. Then the phone rang in the station. It was Holyhead Coast Guard who told the Watch Keepers that the yacht was making its own way from Bardsey Sound to Porthdinllaen. When it came into sight around Porth Ysgaden could they monitor its progress and keep the HMCG informed? Eventually, the Coastguard decided to launch the Porthdinllaen All Weather Lifeboat and tow the yacht back. Watchkeepers had the interest of seeing the lifeboat’s impressive high-speed departure and much slower return journey when carefully towing the yacht and assisting it to a mooring.

So ended a more than usually busy watch for the volunteer watchkeepers. The Assessor stated he was completely confident to recommend that Portdinllaen NCI should retain their Declared Facility Status. Ray Waters from NCI Porthdillean said “Obviously, all involved with the station were delighted with the result. All we need now is a few more Watchkeepers so that we can extend the time we are able to be the ‘Eyes along the coast’ for Portdinllaen’s inhabitants and visitors”.

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Currently 56 NCI stations are operational and manned by over 2600 volunteers keeping watch around the British Isles from Fleetwood in the North West, through Wales, to the South and East of England to Hornsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire. 

NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are trained to deal with emergencies offering a variety of skills and experience, and full training by the NCI ensures that high standards are met.








The words National Coastwatch Institution and Eyes Along the Coast, together with the NCI logos are Registered Trademarks of NCI.


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