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Postal Address: 17 Dean Street, Liskeard,
Cornwall, PL14 4AB

News from Boscastle

 

NEWS FROM THE LOOKOUT

 

We get the most interesting visitors.

Early in May a family who used to live locally came in to the Lookout. The son was in his late teens and was absolutely amazed to come into the building he remembered so well from his childhood. Apparently his parents had encouraged the children to walk up to Willapark by telling them there was a MacDonalds in the "White Tower". It was always closed.

The same day another family called to enquire about Lundy and came inside to look through the large binos. Whilst with us another couple arrived who were immediately recognised by the family as having been a teacher at the primary school the children had attended and still led only a few streets away from them in Surrey. Small world.

 The youngest Watchkeeper?

There can't be many other Stations with news like this- Ann Garrad who trained with her father John Sillick, had a daughter on 14th March. Congratulations all round and we can't wait for her first watch in about 2034.

Summer 2018

This time we have to start our regular report with the sad news that two of our best known  members have passed away.

Firstly ,Pat Day, well known to everyone in NCI Boscastle, one of our founding group and one of the very few people to hold a 15 year service badge. A regular on her Wednesday watches until only a year or so ago she was a source of knowledge to every new recruit, particularly to those from up-country, as she could answer any questions they might have about Boscastle, its peoples and peculiarities. We would never dare complain about the trudge from Forrabury to the Lookout in her hearing, after the rare occasions when she talked about her walking experiences.

Within a very short space of time we also lost our original Station Manager , Mike Morrell,who was closely involved in the development of the station from its first beginning until 2007, when he handed over the reins to John Davis. Mike had lead a fascinating life that included engineering, airlines, training and prison visiting as well as his involvement with the NCI.

 Current members attended both funerals to acknowledge the contribution that Pat and Mike made to the success of the lookout.

 Earlier this year we began a recruitment campaign by putting small posters on village notice boards, in shops, pubs and post offices around our area. The results have been better than we could have hoped with most of our trainers having a new student to introduce to the way we work.This has proved particularly important as we try to maintain watches in the evenings during the light months in the face of an ageing membership.

At the same time we made some changes to the way we keep in touch. Instead of  regular monthly meeting in uniform we have decide to meet every two months in civvies.

So if you see a strangely attired group straggling into the Cobweb it may not be another coach load of visitors but your local Watchkeepers.

 The fine weather has brought even more visitors to the Lookout than usual and so far this year we have welcomed interested visitors from Ottawa, Huddersfield, Munich, Ulm, Philadelphia, Boulogne and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Spring 2018

Typing this in anticipation of the coldest weather the county has seen for some time I realise just how much of an effect the weather has on our activities.

Summer visitors often remark how nice it must be to work on a headland with fantastic views out to sea, the fresh air and blue skies to enjoy while you ponder the changing colours of the tide ebbing and flowing.

 They’re never here in January or February when the wind is strong enough to remove spectacles or blow your hat over the cliff edge, and Standings Orders insist that Watchkeeepers travel in pairs on the way to or from the lookout.

 Although it’s not always the wind.

 You may remember, two of our number certainly do, that we were struck by Lightning on New Year’s Eve 2015.  Two years later to the day the following weather details were entered into our log:- Recorded Wind Speed - 88 knots (101.26mph) Outside Air Temperature - 0.2oC (31.4F) in addition the Watchkeeper on duty noticed ice on the windows and estimated that some 9 litres of water had come in through one of our windows during his watch.

 Perhaps the only weather effects that interfere with our duties are low cloud, mist and fog. When we can’t see Tintagel, Cambeak or even Meachard we are dependent on our AIS, Radar and VHF Radios to keep track of boats at sea, and walkers on the Coast Path are invisible.

 As we only usually see the people we are relieving or the ones who relieve us, Winter gives us a chance to socialise and catch up with people who are only names on the Rosters. This season we had a very enjoyable Christmas meal at the Farm Shop and a closely fought Quiz Night with our colleagues at the Stepper Point Lookout outside Padstow.  We won, so the honour of Boscastle was upheld.

 This also an ideal opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us over the last 12 months, particularly The Cobweb,The Napoleon and The Wellington for their generous contributions to our funds through a variety of fascinating activities.

 

Winter 2017

 The most popular activity up at the lookout in the last couple of weeks has been playing “Spot HMS Queen Elizabeth”.

We know she’s been conducting sea trials in the area and some of us have actually seen her, to others she’s just been a blip on the radar, a contact on the AIS system or a jealousy arousing entry in the log by the previous watch.As the biggest warship yet built for the Royal Navy she made a welcome change from our usual crop of potters, vehicle carriers, container ships and the occasional yacht.

 We were happy to provide car-parking service for the Beer and Musical festival even if it did mean interrupting a young German couple who had settled down to their breakfast in the parking field below the Farm Shop.

They were very happy to move their table and chairs, took our advice to go and enjoy some Cornish beer and music before returning in the best of spirits and offering a very generous donation to our funds.

Some of us were fortunate to  share a visit to the Met Office at Exeter organised by our colleagues at Stepper Point. We were shown how the advances in technology had improved forecasting around the world and learnt that a flight from Australia to South Africa would get its weather forecast from our Met Office. Interestingly the building itself takes advantage of our climate with solar panels and rain water harvesting.

 The major event has been the much anticipated installation of our new lightning conductor system. Unfortunately St.Ives Steeplejacks had a bigger job on their hands than they anticipated because the subcontractor who was due to drill the holes hadn’t taken the precaution to recce the site and finally realised that their self-propelled drilling rig couldn’t make it up to the Lookout.

 As St.Ives had been working on a job on Sark in the previous week they had the experience to adapt the installation and we should be safer than we were on 31st December 2015.

 

Autumn 2017

Typing this on one of the wettest Sundays we have had for some time  it’s easy to think where did Summer go?

Some of you may remember that we have been trying to extend our Watches beyond 16.00 this year and on 8th August  it proved worthwhile.

There were two people on duty that evening, an experienced, qualified Watchkeeper and an Assistant Watchkeeper reaching the end of her training, when at 18.40 they spotted  something orange moving with the waves on the rocks on Strangles Beach. There was nobody to be seen on the  shore, nothing had been logged in that area but the way the object flopped about  it could have been a deflated inflatable or life raft.

It didn’t merit a 999 call but it was reported to Falmouth Coastguard on their normal landline, giving as much of a description as possible. They decided it was worth investigating and asked Bude Inshore Lifeboat to investigate and Boscastle NCI to guide them to the object.

 At 19.58 Bude ILB reported that they had  identified the target as a trapped marker buoy,but on checking through the binoculars the Lookout realised that this was not the target object and contacted the ILB and Coastguard who asked for a more detailed description.They were told that the object was probably bigger that the lifeboat itself and at 20.15 a large orange fishing net was discovered .

 The coastguard did ask if the ILB would be removing the net but in view of it’s size it would have been both impractical and dangerous. 

Although it didn’t turn out be a collapsed inflatable, it might have been and at least the Coastguard were now aware of something that could be a danger to boats working inshore. At least, two Watchkeepers had had a chance to practise their spotting and plotting skills, as well as a rare opportunity to direct a Lifeboat in real time.

Everyone at the Lookout was delighted to hear recently that Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, had agreed to be the National Coastwatch Institution’s Royal Patron, particularly when you bear in mind that it all began in Cornwall in 1994.

Some other good news for Watchkeepers and their families alike, is that work will soon be going ahead to install a state of the art Lightning Protection system at the Lookout. Although the strike on 31st December 2015 had minimal effect on the Watchkeepers on duty, it did destroy all our electronic equipment and we appreciate the improved protection that the work by the National Trust should provide.

 

Summer 2017

 We all enjoy the way that evenings stay longer as we come into Summer, although by the time some of you read this the evenings may have started drawing in.

Apologies for introducing such a depressing thought so early on but “time “ is very much on our minds at the moment..

For example,  the days have been getting longer for our Watchkeepers  as we have been trying to maintain a watch later in the evening.

 Over the years our hours have remained constant,  09.00 - 16.00 in the winter and 08.00 - 16.00 from March to November. This has meant that we can be closing the lookout at a time when people are still tramping the Coastal Path, families with dogs and children are still exploring up at Willapark and kayakers and potters may be ploughing up and down offshore. Strangely enough, visitors don’t seem to be around any earlier on summer mornings than they are in the winter. It would seem that  a Boscastle breakfast is too good to hurry at any time of the year.

You may have noticed that we have always tried to stay open longer on Bank Holiday weekends and now we are trying to maintain a more regular early evening watch until 20.00. This will bring us into line with other NCI Stations who often have many more volunteers to call on.

It’s time for the Royal Cornwall Show and for the last few years we have shared a stand at with our colleagues at Stepper Point at Padstow and this year Charlestown, St.Agnes, Rame Head and Polruan will be joining us over the three days to give potential volunteers a wider choice of stations.

June 14th is a significant date for us this year as it is time for our  annual Declared Facility Status assessment, when our knowledge and expertise are tested to see that we are maintaining the standards necessary to play our part among  the country’s Search and Rescue services. Along with that we have now been authorised by the  Maritime and Coastguard Agency to read out the Inshore Waters Forecast to any vessel requesting it over Channel 65.

 

Every new member and every existing volunteer has committed themselves to devoting a specific amount of time to be one of our “Eyes Along the Coast” and now it’s time to recognize the hours that some of our members have given to the wider community at sea and ashore.

 

At our June meeting we will be awarding Long Service awards, three 5 Year Badges, one 10 year Badge and most unusually, three of the rare 15 year Badges will go toWatchkeepers from here in Boscastle. These three have been with us from the very beginning and their local knowledge has proved invaluable to those of us from further afield.

 

 

Spring 2017

At least this year didn’t start with the bang of the lightning strike that heralded the arrival of 2016. 

But we have had strong winds in plenty, some even powerful enough to bring one of our Watchkeepers to his knees on his way up to the Lookout.In the best traditions of the Bond films, although he was shaken he wasn’t stirred to resign.

Some of you may have noticed that when the winds are at their strongest we don’t fly our flags but a traditional  Storm Cone, point up for a  gale from the North, point down for a gale from the South. Unfortunately this quite a heavy piece of kit that has put a major strain on our mast and halyards and so we are investigating a simpler flag that will convey the message without the drama.

 However, the winter weather did give us the opportunity to enjoy our new integrated heating system which removed the ever present risk of scorched trousers that we suffered if we stood too close to its predecessor.

Even though we have more really local members than we have ever had, both as Watchkeepers and Supporters, it’s still a surprise to find that some of our numbercome from the other side of the A30 and live closer to Tavistock than Boscastle.

There’s got to be something that keeps them coming, whatever the weather.Knowing that you are doing something that could help others is obviously one reason,particularly for those of us not cut out to help in a Charity Shop, but it might also be the company.

 We have people from every background from engineers to educators, from pilots to policemen, artists to advertising and so there’s never a shortage of advice when it’s needed and we had the chance to catch up with people we don’t share a shift with at our annual Christmas dinner.This year it was at the Wellington and 31 members and guests had a most enjoyable evening. Some half a dozen members also attended last November’s Remembrance Day parade.

Three of the Boscastle Cliff Rescue team, made an impromptu visit to the watch which gave us an opportunity to demonstrate out our facilities/capabilities, including our dedicated VHF channel. Channel 65 was awarded to the NCI last year and a national campaign is under way explaining its purpose to professional and recreational sea-goers alike.

We expect it get a lot more use as the summer begins in earnest.

 

Winter 2016

We started this year with a bang even if, technically, it was still December 2015. 

However, the lightning strike proved that it takes more than that to stop our doughty Watchkeepers from taking their turn up at Willapark as we didn’t miss a single watch..

Fortunately we haven’t been involved in any such serious incidents involving visitors,sea-goers or walkers this year, but we can’t tell what the winter will bring.

As in other years one of our main concerns has been keeping up our numbers as the pressure of work or simple Anno Domini affects our members so, once again we shared a stand at the Royal Cornwall Show with colleagues from other stations. Not only were we able explain what we do to more people but we managed to interest some potential Watchkeepers as well.In fact three new Trainees have just started their courses, which will help to keep our watches filled. 

As we are one of the organisations  involved UK Search and Rescue ourselves,  we need to understand what the other services can offer and how we can help each of them more effectively. That’s why two visits some of us were able to make were as important as they were interesting.

One was a visit to the new Rescue Helicopter facility at Newquay where we had a fascinating presentation on the new Bristow Helicopters that have taken over from the RN and RAF Sea Kings. The Sikorsky S92 that you might have seen in the air, with its distinctive red nose and tail and a white cabin section, can fly in all weathers and has the ability to fly 250 miles, winch for thirty minutes and return . All the Newquay pilots have done SAR operations at Culdrose and are required to be airborne within 15 minutes between 0800 and 2200 and 45 minutes between 2200 and 0800 although it is usually faster than that. With a maximum speed of 165 knots and the very latest mapping and routing electronics they are a great improvement on the Sea King which took its first flight in 1959. Strange as it may seem some retired Sea Kings are being sold off to face a new life as man caves and holiday homes!

 

The other fascinating visit was to Coastguard Operations Centre in Falmouth.  As our main purpose is to act as eyes and ears along the coast on behalf on HMCG it is important that as many of us as possible get the chance to see how they work, so trips like this are really treasured.We could see how they deal with a workload that covers watching vessels through the complications of the Channel Separation schemes in western waters as well as  responding to any emergency situations that may arise. We were just as impressed with the systems they can call on as we were with the new helicopters, and quite pleased that our own equipment is maintained to a similar standard.

 With no Food Festival  there was no call on us to man a multitude of car parks this year, but those members who did turn out for the Boscastle Beer and Music Festival found directing motorists into the one car park was quite as taxing.

 Six of our number were able to attend the Service of Remembrance this year and our thanks  go out to all those local people who have looked after our collection boxes and supported us at Quiz Nights and table top sales. 

This year we have decided to start our watches at 0800 from February rather than March, along with most of the other Stations in the county, as the two darkest mornings are well past. It will give us an opportunity to enjoy our new gas  heating system and may even result in some slimmer silhouettes as some of us decide our thermals are no longer necessary.

Now we are looking forward to our annual Christmas get-together and send seasons greeting to walkers and sea-goers alike..

 

 

Autumn 2016

You know what it's like when the boss drops in unexpectedly, you make sure you‘re in fact getting on with the job in hand and spare a nervous thought that they might ask a question that you can't answer to their satisfaction. We've all been there.

And that's what happened to two Watchkeepers in June.

Everything going smoothly and then there's a knock at the door and suddenly they found the visitor introducing herself was Lesley Suddes, our National Chairman, who just happened to be visiting Cornwall and thought she would drop by to say  "Hello" to some of the local stations. 

Happily for us she was delighted to be shown the work that had been done to recover from the lightning strike and was able to pass on compliments about the Lookout and the Watchkeepers to our own Station Manager. 

We also got the thumbs up from the assessors at our annual DFS inspection. DFS stands for Declared Facility Status and means that our equipment, training and knowledge are up to the standard required to be accepted as an essential part of the country’s Search and Rescue operations. Although we all have to complete a series of questionnaires each year that test our knowledge and judgement, there’s nothing quite like the feeling when a professional puts you on the spot with an impromptu question. John,Bob and Simon dealt with the questions with consummate ease and  the inspection was a success all round.

An important element in our training is the relationship with Her Majesty’s Coast Guard and the RNLI. That’s why we were delighted to have the chance to run an exercise with Port Isaac Inshore Lifeboat earlier in the summer. The scenario was that we had spotted two swimmers in trouble off Pentargon and called out the RNLI, a classic example of our role to Spot,Plot,Report.

Two existing lobster pots were chosen to represent the swimmers and we had to plot their positions on the chart, pass that information on and then direct the RNLI  to them, using the “Clockface” system when they came within range. We’d all done this as a paper exercise but doing it for real meant that we had to get things right first time, no chance to rub out your working and start again. We all learnt a good deal and look forward to exercises covering different situations in the future.

Summer 2016                                                                                          

It’s not always been easy to tell that summer’s coming at the Lookout and certainly the misty condition we had in May meant that the only people we could keep an eye on were those who had found their way up to us.

But at least they’d had the new  information board to look at on their way through the gate and would know we were only the most recent in a long line of people who kept a look out at Willapark.

We are now operating as efficiently as ever with the new kit installed to replace the items we lost to the lightning strike, thanks to a great deal of hard work by our suppliers, the National Trust and our own members.

Two recent events illustrate what we do.

On the afternoon of 18th May the Duty Watchkeeper spotted what looked like a deflated inflatable dinghy, orange with blue patches, being swept north east past Meachard on the flood tide. There was a West North Westerly wind blowing Force 6 with a moderate sea and a noticeable swell.

Although he hadn’t heard about any losses on the VHF, a call out to Falmouth Coastguardseemed prudent. The Coastguard tasked the Boscastle Cliff Rescue team and they climbed Penally Hill to take a closer look. In the event, Port Isaac’s Inshore Lifeboat was asked to investigate and our Watchkeeper agreed to stay on duty until the incident was resolved. The ILB was able to advise that the debris was not a dinghy but an orange and blue tarpaulin which could have wrapped itself around the props of any passing vessel.

Better sure than sorry.

Some years ago a Watchkeeper had to ask Falmouth Coastguard  to warn two yachts, who were heading at high speed towards the harbour, that they risked losing their keels if they continued on their course - and they were turned away.

The afternoon of 4th June saw a calm sea with visibility limited to about 3.5 miles- Cambeak was visible and you could make out the hotel at Tintagel but nothing much out to sea. So, with the previous incident in mind our Watchkeepers kept a close eye on a yacht that emerged from the mist and seemed to be making for Boscastle. It was under engine with its sails furled and two people visible in the cockpit.  

 As it was only two hours after Low Water and the harbour was dry beyond the outer Breakwater this was a matter of some concern. On this occasion it was clear that the skipper knew what he was doing as they anchored below us to wait for the tide to rise. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed that the yacht had bilge keels so would be able to sit on the seabed and eventually they rigged fenders and motored in and were seen tied up alongside later in the day. With access to the most recent Weather forecasts, accurate tide tables and some nautical knowledge we could see there was no risk involved, but a different forecast could have made all the difference.

 

 

Spring 2016

Flash, bang, wallop - what a picture!

But alas there was no camera around to catch the moment when the Lookout was struck by lightning on Thursday 31st December. 

The flagpole ended up some distance away in the gorse,there was a serious hole in the wall and the doorframe was splintered and twisted.

That was only the visible damage!

The  Wind Generator, CCTV, AIS, computer, chart plotter and wind instrument were nowhere near their best, the BT telephone line was seriously under the weather and sundry other bits of kit had given up the ghost.

Fortunately the two human occupants of the Lookout that afternoon survived to tell the tale, admittedly one sustained some damage when a commemorative plaque hurtled off the wall and clipped his knee and both were left with ringing in their ears.

Our valiant maintenance team were soon on the case and thanks to their efforts we didn’t have to cancel any watches although we were depending on the Mk I human eyeball, binoculars and a mobile telephone just like the old days.

 Amazingly, the company who make our wind generator shipped a new one from Germany within 48hrs, without waiting for payment, and that was up and running by the following Thursday.

Our landlords,The National Trust, our insurers, BT, and a crack team of local workers soon had holes filled and phones working so, apart from a few scorch marks and some obviously new paint and cement, the old place looks as good as new. At the time of writing the solar panels are not too happy and we have some issues with the more delicate electronics but they will be resolved before the season starts in earnest.

 In fact, the offers of help and support we received from different parts of the county were astonishing, ranging from individual donations to offers of spare instruments from other stations. And, as always, the backing we got from the Cobweb, the Nap, and the Welly and the people of Boscastle kept our spirits up in the strongest wind and the wettest weather.

 And it has been very windy and very wet so let’s hope for a brighter Spring and a dryer Summer this year and plenty of visitors for everybody

 

Winter 2015 

If it’s not tempting fate too much, we can look forward to our year’s end without any major incidents to report, although the weather has, on occasion, made us fear the worst.

 Not the wind because we are fairly well anchored in the Lookout, although our wind instrument has suffered sometimes, uniform hats have been lost and we have feared for some of the lighter members of the public who stray close to the edge when the wind gets above 40 knots. (46.0312 mph for anyone from up-country)

 

In fact there’s a simple way to see if the wind is  Force 6 (25.3171 mph) or above, because that’s the speed at which we take down our flags and hoist the Storm Cone. However, there have been times, like the third week in November ,when it was too windy even for that, so still best to check with the Met Office forecast.

 One serious issue that has been resolved this year is the blind spot by the harbour entrance that made it almost impossible to know if kayaks or other small vessels made it back inside safely. Quite naturally they hug the coastline below us and are often out of sight but our new CCTV System looking down on the entrance will stop us worrying quite so much.

 A fascinating talk from the Senior Officer in charge of the new civilian SAR helicopter service for Cornwall, based at Newquay, showed just what to expect from the Sea King  replacements, faster, almost certainly more comfortable but delivering the same standard of service we have come to expect.

 

There have been some changes to our organisation, locally as well as nationally.

Nationally  a new 5 year plan is being developed to establish new stations where they are needed, and provide a contingency fund to replace, repair or re-instate a station damaged by storm, fire or flood. Locally we have a new man at the helm as John Davis has stood down after 8 years as Manager. Hats off and many thanks to John for his hard work over the years although whether his new post as Treasurer will be less stressful is something we’ll ask him this time next year. His successor is Chris Evans a Chartered Engineer, who has been with us for six years, spending four as a Trainer and two as our Maintenance Officer. A trained civil pilot with 15 years in the RAF Reserve, he professed to know nothing about the sea or matters maritime, although anyone on watch with him would find his meteorological knowledge well above the standard we require.

 His relationship with our sometimes recalcitrant wind generator and the associated electrics has perhaps been closer than he would wish.

 Once again we were happy to look after the Car Parking for the Festival weekend and as delighted as anyone that the weather proved kind for the second year running.

Eight members were proud to be able to share the Remembrance Day Service at the Parish Church with the community of Boscastle this year.

So, our thanks to all those local people who have looked after our collection boxes and supported our table top sales. Now we are looking forward to our annual Christmas get-together at Boscastle Farm Shop and seasons greeting to walkers and sea-goers alike..

 

Autumn 2015

Well, at least we have seen some Summer this year and we were able to enjoy our Annual Barbecue at Mayrose Farm in June which is one of the few times we get to see each other. 

I’m not saying that it’s a lonely  life up in the Lookout as we try to be double manned as often as our number will allow, but you usually only see the people who have the watch before or after your own, never the others  so the BBQ is a chance to catch up with colleagues you haven’t seen for ages.

 

And there’s the added opportunity to take a quick swim in the pool which proved quite popular this year, and several Watchkeepers reported seeing Mermaids although as this was towards the end of the afternoon their vision might have been slightly suspect.

 

A talk from Damien Bolton, the Senior Helmsman and Trainer for Port Isaac RNLI helped us understand the resources available in our area.We learnt that they operate a D Class Inshore Lifeboat and cover the coast from Pentire to Crackington.

Most of their incidents involve  strandings , cliff falls and other problems close to the shore and they are trained to stabilise and evacuate any casualties using an RNLI designed assessment and treatment programme based on check cards.

However, they face similar recruitment problems to our own, with fewer qualified people working in the village and so able to respond immediately.  

Unfortunately the Summer also saw the loss of one of our long term Watchkeepers, Sue Wilson. Sue, together with her husband, joined us in 2004, keen walkers and sailors they had come across the NCI  at Portland while bringing their own boat west and had decided it was the ideal retirement occupation. During the ten and a half years she served the station she became the Training Manager and latterly a Trainer, introducing several of the current committee to life at the Lookout. She will be missed.

Summer 2015

 We do see some of the more interesting varities of human up on Willapark, ranging from Walker (Professional/International) with full expedition gear to Visitor (Amateur/Domestic)with a precautionary umbrella and a rain hat, but this year your correspondent had his first sighting of a new species.

A hard hat appeared to be bobbing about  just below the Southern edge  of Western  Blackapit looking out to Short Island. The hat vanished and then reappeared in a slightly different location . Now, we are there to provide support and assistance to land lubbers as well as sea-goers and fearing that this was an unfortunate kayaker compelled to climb the cliff to save themselves or report an accident so I went out to offer assistance and was greeted by  Rock Climber (Professional/ Expert) completed with ropes,carabineers and other specialist metal- ware. Not very complimentary about the quality of rock we stood on but very friendly and an interesting addition to our local flora and fauna.

That goes for our new four-legged friends and the seven of them  seem quite unfazed by passing humans and we  look foward to watching them interact with our other visitors during the summer season.

Our Wind Turbine has had it’s usual share of mishaps and  according to the supplier our turbine is subject to such severe conditions  that the hub shows the most wear that they have seen . This is believed to be because of the turbulent conditions above the lookout – highly variable and rapid changes in both wind direction and speed. In fact our German supplier has actually changed aspects of their design in response to lessons learned from the installation at Boscastle. Happy to help improve the breed!

Chris Keys gave our May meeting a really interesting talk about his duties as Harbourmaster and his local fishing experiences. We had the chance learn more about potting and ask if there was anything we could do to make his life easier.Everyone felt that now we had our own Channel 65 it would be easier for local boats to keep in touch with us and check on weather conditions outside the harbour.  

Spring 2015

 By the time you read this your daffodils should be in full bloom, fresh spring breezes should be starting to warm your frozen limbs and we would usually be reporting the lowest temperatures and highest winds that we have recorded over the winter.

But not this time.

As you are all aware, Coastwatch is a national charity and all of its watchkeepers are volunteers giving their time for free. However, every Lookout station is responsible  for raising its own funds to maintain the building and the equipment watchkeepers need for their vital role looking out for potters, pleasure craft, commercial shipping, kayakers, surfers, swimmers, walkers and liaising with the emergency services. This takes money and  in the past most fundraising has come from street collections and collection tins scattered around shops, cafes & pubs. This carries on, but now we want to add some new activities which people can enjoy and involve the local community

The watchkeepers at the Lookout will always try to make visitors welcome – provided that they are not involved in an incident. But to make a visit up to the Lookout a bit more interesting  we are having a few ‘Open Days’ when an extra watchkkeper will be on hand to meet visitors, talk about what we do,how we do it and show them around the Lookout (incidents permitting). This spring there will be open days between 11am & 3pm on Wednesdays: 8th April, 6th May, 27th May. Please do come up to the Lookout on one of our open days – we will try to make it worth the walk!

The Lookout is an iconic building and the Willapark headland has some fantastic coastal views – and our watchkeepers who, at this time of year, arrive at dawn and leave at dusk are ideally placed to capture them on camera. So, at the end of February all their photos will be put to a panel of judges; the best will be framed and put on display in the bar area of the Wellington Hotel in the last two weeks in March. We will then be holding a ‘Coastwatch Night’ at the Wellington Hotel on the evening of Monday, 30th March, to auction off the wining photos. Please put the date in your diary and come along to enjoy the excitement of bidding in an auction and possibly take away one of these spectacular framed photos!

 

 

Winter 2014 

The holiday season has finally wound down without any major incidents to report, a satisfactory situation, even if it does make for a less dramatic article than our readers may wish for.

But sometimes the struggles to get our flags aloft in a Force 6 or to get them down after the previous watch was ill advised enough to hoist them in the first place, can provide enough drama for a Watchkeeper during the winter months. While the pleasure of standing outside in a squall to assess the wind speed on the anenometer is something we can only talk about when we are snugly back at home - with our next shift some days away.

 

Access to our own dedicated VHF Channel 65 is most welcome although it will take some time before seafarers are familiar enough with it to make use of it and there are continuing discussions about the qualifications needed to use it. Hats off to Chris Evans for his technical expertise in re-wiring and upgrading our installations to meet our new obligations.

 

After recording over 4 years and 100 meetings as well as many hours spent on watch Yvonne Monks , our secretary has finally stood down and her place will be taken by Phil Brown who hands over his role as Training Manager to Anne Langley. Sue Davis, our Fundraising Officer is also handing over the reins to Garry Benson although she will still act as a Collector in the summer months.

Our thanks go to all of them and to our Training Team who have produced a new edition of the Training Manual which will reinforce the knowledge and expertise we need to be an effective part of the UK Search and Rescue system

 

Seven members were proud to be able to share the Remembrance Day Service at the Methodist Church with the community of Boscastle in this significant year.

 

We were happy to do our bit for the Festival by manning the Car Parks as usual and even happier that we were able to do it in better weather than some years.

 

So, our thanks to all those local people who have looked after our collection boxes and supported our table top sales. Now we are looking forward to our annual Christmas get-together at Boscastle Farm Shop and seasons greeting to walkers and sea-goers alike..

 

Autumn 2014

 

 

In some ways it’s been a quiet time up at the lookout over the Summer months, in other ways it’s been as hectic a time as we have known.

 

Quiet, because we only had one incident to deal with when a local Potter had a fouled prop and we acted as a radio link between the Coastguard and the assisting vessel.  No  other boats or holiday makers on the coastal path have needed to call on our services, although the occasional kayaker or day fisher, bobbing about without a life-jacket has, kept us closer to the binoculars at times.

 

It’s within the NCI and our own lookout where things have been humming.

 

On a national level all Coastwatch Stations have been granted a licence to use a dedicated  Marine Radio Channel- Channel 65 - to improve communications with seafarers on a routine basis. From October 1st we will be able to pass actual weather and sea state conditions to those who ask for them as well as respond to requests for radio checks, information on tides, local hazards and charted anchorages. It will also let us talk to vessels too close in to the cliffs to get a signal to Falmouth Coast Guard.

 

To make sure we can use this new facility in the most efficient way the interior of the Lookout has been altered to give the Watchkeepers  better access to the VHF radios and other instrumentation that we can call on. This has included the installation of a third VHF set and new wind and recording instruments.

 

And the windows have been given new hinges to make sure the rain stays outside this winter!

 

Unfortunately three of our longest serving members have had to call it day as the walk up to Willapark takes its toll, and our thanks go to Keith and the two Danny’s for their service over the last ten years.

 

However we do have a new recruit in” Grandad” who works out of the Boscastle Artists Co-Operative  in the Wellington Old Mill and alternates with the Cornwall Air Ambulance as a very efficient fund-raiser.

 

Thanks go again to Jane Castling for the use of her garden for our Annual Table Top Sale.

 

 

Summer 2014

 

 

For a change we don’t have to start this report with comments about the ways that atrocious weather has influenced the view from the Lookout. However, this being Cornwall, you could be reading this in anything from monsoon conditions to a heatwave!

 

Saturday 28th June marked the 20th Anniversary of the National Coast Watch Institution and the occasion was celebrated at Bass Point, where it all started, followed by a service at Culdrose attended by all the Station Managers.

 

Only a week before on 18th June we were able to show just how useful it is to have us sitting up at Willapark when our Watch Keepers where able to help Falmouth Coastguard deal with a local potter with a rope around its propellor. Unfortunately, it was too close to the cliff to pick up the Coastguard  VHF messages so we were tasked with using our

own equipment acting as a relay between the vessels involved and HMCG in Falmouth.

In the end the vessel managed to free herself and continue on her way.

 

All our Watch Keepers have qualified to use VHF including our current batch of  volunteers in training.

 

A great deal of maintenance work has been taking place to try and make our windows really wind and water proof, and our trusty (sometimes!) Wind Generator has been back to Germany for repairs and an upgrade.  Our plans to cover the blind spots with a CCTV are continuing  thanks to a legacy from one of our former colleagues.

 

Most importantly, our ability to assess and act effectively and efficiently in dealing with an incident on land or at sea was tested by our annual DFS examination which included a simulated cliff rescue. We passed with flying colours. 

 

Some of us acted as Marshalls for the Raft Race and were amazed by the olympic efforts of the competitors and are looking  forward to the next one. 

 

As usual we shared a stand at The Royal Cornwall Show with our colleagues from Stepper Point and had the chance to explain what we did and persuade a few more people to become volunteers.

 

 

Spring 2014

 

I tried not to mention the weather but , to be honest, it’s been one of our main talking points since December as individual Watchkeepers regaled each other with tales of screaming winds and raging seas.

 

 Very unusually there have been two occasions when it was felt that we should close in the interests of safety. On 1st February it was felt prudent not to send anyone up to struggle across The Stitches, and on 12th February with winds already at Force 9-10 and a Force 12  imminent the afternoon watch stood down at midday.

 

Our Wind Generator had already given up the ghost in January and no sooner had the new parts been installed than it decided to part company with the Station roof on 12th 

February. It is a tribute to the level of expertise we find among our members that it was soon back in business. We were luckier than our colleagues at Lyme Bay - their Lookout was totally destroyed in a storm on Friday 14th!

 

On a calmer note there was an excellent Christmas dinner held for the first time at Boscastle Farm Shop which everyone enjoyed and we are looking forward to our annual quiz evening with our colleagues from Stepper Point at Padstow.

 

Our thanks go to Jane Castling, one of our longest serving Auxillary Members, who is hanging up her hat after more than 10 years working with our fund-raising teams.

 

We now have  six new members in training and for the first time we will be operating our own VHF training scheme to ensure that all our members meet the standards required by HM Coastguard.

 

  A Winter's Tale 2014

I did try not to mention the weather but, to be honest, it’s been one of our maintalking points since December as individual Watchkeepers regaled each other with tales of screaming winds and ragingseas.

 Very unusually there have been two occasions when it was felt that we should close in the interests of safety. On 1st February it was felt prudent not to send anyone up to struggle across The Stitches, and on 12th February with winds already at Force 9-10 and a Force 12  imminent the afternoon watch stood down at midday.

 Our Wind Generator had already given up the ghost in January and no sooner had the new parts been installed than it decided to part company with the Station roof on 12th February. It is a tribute to the level of expertise we find among our members that it was soon back in business. We were luckier than our colleagues at Lyme Bay - their Lookout was totally destroyed in a storm on Friday 14th!

 On a calmer note there was an excellent Christmas dinner held for the first time atBoscastle Farm Shopwhich everyone enjoyed and we are looking forward to our annual quiz evening with our colleagues from Stepper Point at Padstow.

Our thanks go to Jane Castling, one of our longest serving Auxillary Members, who is hanging up her hat after more than 10 years working with our fund-raising teams.

 

 

 The last of 2012

These days it’s hard to tell when one season stops and another starts but the calendar tells me that it’s time for more news from Willapark, so here it is.

Two recent events have shown just how useful a pair of eyes on the cliff can be. Back in September a member of the public had reported a twin masted yacht in trouble South West of Bude. As our watchkeeper had already spotted and logged the vessel in question as single-masted, we were able to pass useful information to the Coast Guard in Falmouth and the mobile unit at Bude. A close watch was kept on the yacht as it continued safely on to Padstow, At the end of October the paramedics called for the Air Ambulance to take someone with a broken leg at Tintagel Island. With the wind gusting Force 7-8, cloud down to about 1000 ft and heavy showers it was decided that a Sea King, Rescue 193, from RNAS Culdrose was better suited to the job. The Watchkeepers were able to give Falmouth Coastguard up to date weather information which was passed to the helicopter who decided to land and evacuate the casualty.

 Back in June we shared a stand at the Royal Cornwall show with our friends from the Stepper Point at Padstow which, even if it didn’t do a great deal for our funds, raised awareness of what we do and produced a few more volunteers

Closer to home we had a really successful Table-Top Sale, even though it had to be postponed several times because of the weather and our thanks to Jane Castling for acting as hostess one again.

For a change the rain kept away from the Car Parks during the Boscastle Festival but even so one of our volunteer parking attendants did manage to get stuck in the mud, broadening our incident management experience!

 In November we were the chosen charity for one of the Napoleon’s regular quiz evenings. Embarrassingly our teams managed to win first and booby prizes!

 Once again we were proud to attend the Remembrance Day Service at the Methodist Church.

 Although one or two more members have had to stand down as anno domini and the climb to the lookout have became more of a chore, our overall numbers look promising. Currently there are 56 members, 36 Watchkeepers, 4 Assistant Watchkeepers- a new rank for people who have recently completed their training, 5 Trainees and 11 Auxiliary Members.

 

One swimmer was lucky there were eyes along the coast

At 11.30 on Monday 28th June, John Andrews, the Duty Watch at Boscastle NCI Lookout  heard on the VHF Radio that Falmouth Coastguard had received a report of a missing swimmer off Strangles Beach between Boscastle and Crackington Haven. He had already seen that a  local boat, Sharicmar  PW104 was checking pots in the area just  off the Beeny Sisters rocks and, as that was easily the closest vessel to the casualty, he passed the information to Falmouth Coastguard. They requested Sharicmar search the area and at the same time Bude Inshore Lifeboat was launched with an estimated arrival at 12.05.  Sharicmar found the swimmer , a 57 year old male who had been in the water for nearly an hour, and pulled him  from the water and kept him on board until Rescue 169, a Sea King from RAF Chivenor arrived, lowered a medic on board and lifted the casualty to Bude Medical Centre all within the space of half an hour and before the ILB could arrive. Falmouth Coastguard called to thank Sharicmar and NCI Boscastle for their assistance and reported that the casualty was cold but otherwise OK.

Fred Siford

Sad news, Fred Siford who was one of the founder members of Boscastle NCI died on the 11th January 2010.

Fred was harbour master at Boscastle for many years and although not a watchkeeper for NCI he was instrumental in helping to set up the Boscastle station, and with the aid of our mascot Jasper he collected a substantial amount of funds for our station.

His funeral took place at Tintagel Church on the

18th January, where there was a large gathering to celebrate Freds life, including large contingents from Boscastle NCI and Coastguard Cliff Rescue team.

Fred will be sorely missed.

 

 

 

December 2009

The Christmas Dinner at The Bossiney House Hotel was a great success, the highlight of the evening being the Gentlemen's Paper Aeroplane Contest. Predictably and suitably it was won by our Technical Officer! The evening also saw the draw for the winning ticket  for our fund raising raffle which went to a supporter from Wadebridge. The framed picture by local artist, Helen Settrington, was delivered before Christmas.

With over 600 tickets being sold we managed to raise more than £500 towards the funds we need to maintain the Station.

Many thanks to those who bought tickets and to those who sold tickets for us and our very best wishes to you all for 2010.

Round up Novembe 2009

Not so many walkers to log this Summer, and with the spells of wet weather that wasn't too surprising, but we were still on hand to help when we were needed. An ambulance was organised for an injured walker on the Coastal Path, Coastguard asked us to lookout for a missing person, later found without injury, we gave reports on an unidentified object on Strangles Beach and our Manager John Davis  was called out one night to help the Boscastle Coastguard Team investigate reports of flares in the sky. They turned out to be Chinese Lanterns sent up from the Youth Hostel! It may seem like a quiet Summer but the training goes on, just in case.

We were happy to help during the Boscastle Festival, in spite of the amount of rain that fell in the parking field, and managed a good turnout of members for the Remembrance Day Service.

This year we do seem to have had more success in attracting lady watchkeepers and they currently make up over 40% of our strength including five of our Trainers, the Deputy Station Manager,Treasurer,Training Officer,Rostering Officer and Fund Raising Officer. So if any local gentlemen want to even up the numbers we'd be happy to hear from you.

Now we are looking forward to our Christmas celebration and some quieter weather, we registered 80.1knots (92 mph)of wind on 14th November and that can make the walk up to the Lookout very interesting!

23rd May 2009

Two more trainees passed their final tests this week with flying colours.

Congratulations John and Chris.

19th May 2009 

Now  we are really into Spring and Summer with it's attendant cast of visitors can't be far away. 

Already we have had Peregrines gliding effortlessly past our windows and seen Gannets diving just north  of Short Island. But as usual, the weather  has been changeable with a morning watch coming on with glorious sunshine  sparkling on silver seas while the afternoon watch are trying to work out if they can get back to their car without getting drenched by the squally showers they can see coming in from the West. But as they say, "If you can't take a joke...."

Two recent events have shown that we've finished one year and started another at the lookout.

The first was our AGM where John Davis was able to report another successful year.

In the last 12 months the Lookout has been  given a face-lift inside and out, with a lot of the work done by members. The new timber windows were fitted by professionals, and we have all now had the benefit of  a drip and draught-free environment!

In spite of the work on site and the disruption it caused, we still managed to keep the station manned in case of emergency  and found enough volunteers to cover  all  but two  of the extra evening shifts we hoped to provide on Summer Bank Holidays.

Socially we had  an enjoyable barbecue at Mayrose even if the weather was against us, and some impromptu swimming provided an additional highlight or two! A sparkling Christmas dinner at the Napoleon Inn, and a "competitive" get together with our colleagues from Stepper Point proved equally popular.

During the year we  had 22 volunteers interested in training to become Watchkeeper. Of these  three decided it wasn't for them,  one started and then had to move away, six are currently under training, three are waiting to start and nine are now fully trained Watchkeepers.Which, despite losses due to members moving away or other commitments, means we've managed to slightly increase the number of qualified Watchkeepers.

Our aim is to have every Watchkeeper trained to use the VHF radio and seven members completed their courses successfully last year, bringing the total number of current members who are radio operators up to 31,and more will be attending courses in conjunction with Stepper Point next month.

All told we have over 40 full Watchkeepers on the strength at the moment as well as  seven auxiliaries and  six trainees.

Finally we have just passed our annual Declared Facility Status  assessment which means that we have met the standards expected by HM Coastguard. 

Although we've trained a lot of excellent new members in recent months we always welcome people from the area as Watchkeepers or Fundraisers.

You ‘ll find contact details on the web site.

 

16th September 2008

More wildlife sightings today than some of us have seen in a month of watches.

It began first thing with a seal spotted to the West of Meachard, closely followed at 09.15 by a pod of dolphinsand then, to cap it all, a large dorsal fin that could only have belonged to a Basking Shark

15th August 2008

You would expect the recent wet weather to keep the walkers away, but the moment the sun comes out they appear from wherever they’ve been sheltering and the cliffs are a riot of coloured waterproofs in every direction.

Visitors to the Lookout this year have come from as far away as Norway and Germany  as well as Australians and Canadians with connections to the county. Those of them  lucky enough to be with us on Thursday 14th August caught sight of a school of dolphins down in Western Blackapit.

Our new locally made  double -glazed wooden windows  have already proved that they can keep out  70 knot winds, as well as the cold and rain. Quite a test for August! In addition our wind instruments are now directly linked into the radar and a new Barometer and Max/Min Thermometer  mean our weather reports are now more accurate than ever.

The social calendar continued with a highly enjoyable Summer Barbecue at Mayrose Farm,where some 40 Watchkeepers, family and friends took grateful advantage of the opportunity to carry on under cover when  things got too much outside. 

 

30th July 2008

Summer season is upon us, when the sun shines! The farmer has been out making hay on The Stitches. There has been quite a few visitors boats out, as well as our resident ones, and it's good to see the gig out too. A dozen plus dolphins were spotted playing just off the lookout on Sunday.

Refurbishment is going well at the lookout, some internal re-fitting due to start on the 4th August, then it will be overalls and paint brushes on the 31st, inside and out. So the tower will look smart again.

Hope you are enjoying the fine weather when it is here, and don't forget the sea is very powerful and unpredictable, so take care and stay safe.

1st July 2008

Hi folks, well the news is that the new NCI website is now up and running.

The station is in the process of being refurbished after 5 years of operation, new windows "that we are promised wont leak as the old ones do" are made, and will be installed in the next few weeks, the new anemometer is being finally installed, and the flag pole has new brackets and will be re-erected in the next week.

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