Coronavirus: RNLI issues stay out of the water plea

By Colette Hume
BBC Wales News

  • Published
Penarth RNLI crew in the lifeboatImage source, RNLI
Image caption,
Penarth RNLI lifeboat crew, pictured before restrictions were imposed, have stopped all on-water training

One of Wales' busiest lifeboat stations has asked people to stay out of the water to protect the emergency services during the coronavirus outbreak.

Crews in south Wales have responded to three similar incidents at the same location since the lockdown began.

Penarth RNLI lifeboat operations manager Jason Dunlop said volunteer crews have stopped all face-to-face training to reduce the risk to crew.

"Clearly the most important thing is the safety of our crew," he added.

Instead of regular training at the lifeboat station or out on one of the two Penarth lifeboats, volunteers are using videoconferencing.

This week's session on knots was led by helmsman Owain Davies from his kitchen table.

Image source, RNLI
Image caption,
The crew have been called out to Sully Island on three occasions since the start of the lockdown

Mr Dunlop explained: "We've stopped all on water training and doing as much as we can over digital training. Navigation, their search and rescue training and communication training, which they can all do virtually.

"Fortunately, the RNLI train a lot through the rest of the year so our crews are ready to go.

"We've got members of the ambulance service, we've got police officers and we're all very proud of them and we're doing our best to support them."

The number of shouts crews around the Welsh coast are responding to is a lot lower than usual for the time of year, but not everyone is listening to the pleas to stay at home.

The Vale of Glamorgan coastline is home to one of the most powerful tides in the world, making it a hotspot for rescues - even during the lockdown.

In the first three weeks after the restrictions were announced, RNLI lifeboats were called to Sully Island three times to rescue people cut off by the tide, including a group of four people from Bristol.

"We need to try to encourage people to follow the government advice to look after themselves, to prevent calls to the emergency services so we can look after the NHS and save lives as well," Mr Dunlop added.

Image caption,
Stand-up paddle-boarding is the fastest growing water sport in the UK

Stand-up paddle-boarding is the fastest growing water sport in the UK, but in common with the majority of those who enjoy the water, the paddle-boarders are staying away.

Jim Brooks owns the Puravida Boardriders surf and board shop in Penarth and runs the local paddle-boarding club.

Image source, Jim Brook
Image caption,
Jim Brook says he has shut down his paddle-boarding club to avoid putting the emergency services under unnecessary strain

"As a club we have decided not to go on to the water because we feel it sets the best example, but also we don't want to put out friends in the emergency services, our good friends in the RNLI and the coastguard," Mr Brooks said.

"We don't want to put anyone under unnecessary strain. We just have to enjoy the weather in other ways - go for a walk, a bike ride, maybe spend extra time with the family."