The Lookout today


The Team

There are about forty fully-trained volunteer watchkeepers at Polruan Station keeping the lookout operational every day of the year, except Christmas Day. There is also an active support group who do not carry out watches. In addition, there are usually several members under training at any one time.

How we keep Watch

When the station opened in 1998, it possessed a telescope, a chart, a pelorus, a telephone – and a kettle! Today a range of sophisticated technologies is available, enabling us to keep watch in a variety of ways in all weathers.

Visual Watch

Polruan Visual WatchOur core strength; sharp eyes are a requirement of every watchkeeper. Powerful tripod-mounted optics enable us to see shipping out to the horizon, about 19 miles away, while a x60 magnification spotting scope, lets us see every detail of a passing vessel, including the people aboard and whether or not they are wearing life jackets! 


Radio Watch

RadioA VHF scanner tuned to the marine frequencies, lets us hear vessels talking to each other within our sea area – you soon get to recognise voices, especially those of commercial fishermen. In addition we have two VHF radio sets, one of which is tuned to the coastguard frequencies, while the other is tuned to channel65 , NCI's own duplex channel.


Radar Watch

RADAR WatchThe station is equipped with a roof-mounted radar scanner – useful in fog or poor visibility, enabling vessels’ locations, courses and speeds to be quickly plotted. The radar can also identify approaching rain squalls long before they reach us.


Real-time AIS Watch

AIS WatchThe lookout hosts an AIS radio receiver for the Harbour Master and consequently has access to the worldwide AIS database. AIS – or Automatic Identification System – shows the position, course, speed and other information of vessels on a computer screen.



CCTVA camera mounted at St. Catherine’s Point covers the blind spot below the cliffs immediately below the lookout. You can see this view online by clicking on our Weather and Webcam page. (Not functional at the moment). Another camera shows the area in front of the lookout.


 Weather Station

 weather stationOur weather station transmits comprehensive meteorological data to our public website, updating approximately every 2 minutes. It is used regularly by local sailors, fishermen, walkers and the area’s National Trust Wardens. What’s more, weather reports from Polruan and certain other NCI stations are collated and used daily for weather broadcasts by BBC Radio Cornwall. NOTE The wind speed is not functional at the moment.


Storm Warnings

Storm coneThe station has taken over from the Harbour Master, the job of managing a storm cone – one of the few remaining in the UK. During daylight, if a storm is forecast, the cone will be hoisted onto the signals mast. At night the station displays lights in a triangular pattern, indicating a Northerly or Southerly gale.


Joint Exercises

JointexThe watchkeeping team are always keen to hone their skills, and so the station holds at least one ‘live’ exercise each year. This usually involves the Coastguard, the rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose, Fowey inshore (ILB) lifeboat and all weather (ALB) lifeboat, the Cliff Rescue Team, and local Fire Brigade, all working together to rescue ‘casualties’ quickly, safely and efficiently. It’s an opportunity for watchkeepers to manage a realistic life and death situation, but without the actual life and death part. Occasions like this are not just exciting, they are very important for developing skills, learning lessons in a realistic but safe environment and, importantly, gaining experience of working with other services.



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 and the NCI logos are Registered Trademarks of NCI.


General enquiries
0300 111 1202

Media enquiries
0845 460 1202

[email protected]

17 Dean Street, Liskeard,
Cornwall, PL14 4AB