Eyes Along the Coast
The Work of the NCI
NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. When people get into trouble, we are there to alert HM Coastguard and direct the appropriate rescue services to the casualty.
In 1994 when two fishermen lost their lives off the Cornish coast near a recently closed Coastguard lookout, local people decided to open and restore the visual watch. When the first station was opened at Bass Point on the Lizard, NCI was born. Today 58 stations keep a visual watch around the coastline of England and Wales, with more in the pipeline.
High technology and sophisticated systems such as radar and telecommunications have vastly improved safety at sea, but there is no substitute for a watchful pair of eyes. Accidents do happen and a computer or technology cannot spot a distress flare, an overturned boat, a yacht with problems, a water sports enthusiast in difficulty, children or adults in trouble, or possible pollution incidents. That is why our lookouts and watchkeepers are an important service provider to all those who use our coastal waters, footpaths and coastline.
Each station is manned by a team of fully trained and dedicated volunteers who keep a daylight watch up to 365 days a year. Stations are equipped with telescopes, radar, telephone and weather instrumentation as well as up to date charts. Close contact with the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) aims to promote stations to Declared Facility Status in order to become an integral part of the National Search and Rescue structure.
Watchkeepers come from all walks of life and offer a wide range of skills and experience. Full training ensures that volunteers reach the high standard expected by the NCI and HM Coastguard. Regular assessments take place at all stations and refresher training programmes are run to maintain standards and keep watchkeepers up to date with the latest legislation or improved operational procedures.
Watchkeepers are the eyes and ears along the coast, keeping a visual watch, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They remain vigilant at all times. Surveillance work is mainly routine but watchkeepers are trained to act in an emergency, report to the MCA and, if required, co-ordinate with our search and rescue partners.
A log of all water-based activities is kept during each watch and, when requested, weather conditions can be passed to yachtsmen and fishermen before they put to sea. Also with the new generation of web cams we can identify sea conditions for those who wish to check on the weather or sea state prior to doing any watersport activity, hopefully reducing the need for HM Coastguard response and RNLI callouts. During each watch other activities such as canoeing and diving etc are closely observed, as are bathers, walkers and climbers who use our shoreline.
Watchkeepers provide a vital link with all the emergency services and can provide an emergency contact point on land for both sea and shore users.