- Following an incident where a local trawler had to cut away its gear after a tanker came within 30 metres (a significant expense which no skipper would care to incur), our watchkeeper monitored an ‘intense’ complaint between the trawler skipper and Falmouth Coastguard (FCG). The skipper stated that there had been prior no radio contact from the tanker and that a warn-off to the tanker on VHF Channel 16 (the standard VHF radio Distress, Safety and Calling channel) had met with no response. Because we maintain a local VHF radio listening watch, our watchkeeper was then able to contact FCG and state that, although they heard the tanker call the trawler several times before the incident (with no response), the calls all appeared to be made on VHF channel 0. This is a private channel, specifically designated for use by UK Search and Rescue organisations, and certainly not one that a trawler would be expected to monitor. Whilst our watchkeeper hadn’t heard the trawler transmit the channel 16 warn-off, FCG confirmed that they did hear this. Thus, it would appear that the incident was caused, at least in part, by the tanker using an incorrect radio channel for ship-to-ship communications…one assumes that the tanker owners will shortly be receiving a significant bill!
- In a rough sea, with driving rain and gusting force 7/8 winds (honestly, not typical for Cornwall in the Spring!), a yacht in close vicinity to Gwennap Head, unable to make any headway, made a distress call to Falmouth Coastguard. Our watchkeeper, who had a visual on the yacht, contacted Falmouth to provide them with updated information on the situation, including details of logged vessels in the area which might be able to render immediate assistance. Falmouth then tasked the Sennen Cove all-weather lifeboat “City of London III” and the Coastguard rescue helicopter to the scene, whilst our watchkeeper monitored the situation and provided updates, as necessary. The lifeboat then escorted the yacht to safety in Newlyn harbour, and our watchkeeper and the helicopter were stood down. By maintaining a log of all vessels in our sector (especially those without AIS transponders), our watchkeepers are always able to provide rescue services with the details of any nearby vessel which might be able to render aid to a casualty should the situation demand it.
- Being on a very exposed headland, our watchkeepers are no strangers to the extremes of weather. Nevertheless, on the first day of spring, with a clear-blue morning sky, it was still quite a surprise for our duty watchkeeper (along with most of the UK) to receive a visit from ‘The Beast’….no, not the one from Bodmin but a howling blizzard from the Russian steppes! Whilst snow is, obviously, very common in the rest of the country (albeit, maybe not quite as late), down here in the far West of Cornwall, it is almost unheard of. In fact, my colleagues tell me that the last time we had any significant snowfall was around 30 years ago! Be that as it may, within a very short space of time, temperatures were well below zero and the local roads were becoming treacherous. Since there was a real danger of becoming stranded in the watch, our watchkeeper instituted the emergency procedure, closed the watch and attempted to get back home to a nice warm fire. Unfortunately, even in that short space of time, the road up the hill from Porthgwarra Cove had become impassable and our poor watchkeeper was forced to abandon his car and walk through the snowstorm to a [fairly!] nearby farm, where they took pity and offered him shelter, warmth and a cup of tea. Since the snow was still falling heavily a couple of hours later, they then – very kindly – drove him home in one of their four-wheel drive farm vehicles….where he discovered that the rest of Cornwall (not to say most of the rest of UK) was also in chaos. Any prospective watchkeepers will be relieved to know that a repeat of this most unusual (to put it mildly) occurrence is not expected for another 30 years
The storms which hit Cornwall during the first week of the new year brought gusts of up to 97 mph (see below) and big waves causing flooding, damage to harbour walls, cliff falls and travel disruption. However, the stormy weather also caused problems for Cornish wildlife, with dozens of seal pups found injured along Cornwall's coastline after being battered by the atrocious weather.
A passer-by reported to our watchkeeper that a seal pup was lying on the slipway of Porthgwarra Cove and ‘looked poorly’. In this case, the passer-by had done the correct thing and not tried to approach or interfere with the pup. Instead, our watchkeeper was able to contact British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) hotline and report the stranding.
BDMLR is an organisation dedicated to the rescue and well-being of all marine animals in distress around the UK. They are a voluntary network of trained marine mammal medics who respond to call outs from the general public, HM Coastguard, Police, RSPCA and SSPCA and are the only marine animal rescue organisation operating across England, Wales and Scotland. If you find a live stranded marine mammal, BDMLR should be contacted on their hotline (01825 765546 - Office Hours; 07787 433412 - Out of Hours) with the relevant information and they will then advise you on what to do, and will get a trained medic out as soon as possible
The New Year started 'excitingly' with visits from several big storms. Not too unusual for winter in Cornwall but Storm Eleanor has to get a special mention after our weather station registered a gust of 97mph when the storm hit, at 3am. Things had calmed down a bit by the time our watchkeeper went on duty at 7.30am; the wind speed had reduced to a mere 90mph....