A big 'thank you' from Derek Thomas MP
A team from the National Coastwatch Station at Bass Point on the Lizard were among a number of local groups to get a big 'thank-you' from St Ives and West Cornwall MP, Derek Thomas.
One of a series of similar meetings arranged in his constituency, the event at Helston’s Central MethodistChurch was specifically aimed at the many organisations run by volunteers which, according to Mr Thomas, play such an essential role in Cornish life.
Derek Thomas MP commented: “It was wonderful to be able to meet with a wide range of people who are united in their desire to give something back to their community. The National Coastwatch volunteers do a fantastic job in ensuring that in the event of an event at sea or along the coastpath, there is someone looking out for them for all 365 days of the year. Volunteers really are the backbone of our community - they are a forgotten army and I was very happy to put on an event at which I was able to thank the Bass Point team for all their hard work.”
Bass Point Station Manager, Peter Clements, said: “The people who man the lookout at Bass Point throughout the year are all volunteers who turn out in all conditions to help ensure the safety of those at sea and on the cliff paths. The public regularly show their appreciation in a number of different ways, and it’s also really rewarding to part of an event like this where our local MP also gives his thanks for the work we do.”
Quick thinking averts potential disaster
Quick thinking by a member of the National Coastwatch team at Bass Point on the Lizard could have prevented a yacht from grounding on the treacherous Dales – rocks that are submerged at high tide and which present a real hazard to marine traffic.
So when Watchkeeper Simon Sugrue observed a yacht heading on a collision course with the underwater reef – seemingly unaware of the danger ahead – he was forced to take immediate action.
As the vessel was not carrying an Automatic Identification System (AIS) beacon, Mr Sugrue was unable to contact the yacht’s skipper using the conventional VHF radio. So he took the only other course of action available in the circumstances and flashed the letter U – a morse code warning for “you are standing into danger” – using the station’s old but highly effective Aldis lamp.
Having come within ten boat lengths of the rocks, the yacht was then observed to alter course southwards shortly afterwards and continued safely on its passage to Falmouth.
“The advent of modern technology means that nowadays you are more likely to see an Aldis lamp flashing morse code messages between ships in a second world war film about the Atlantic convoys. But in the situation in which our Watchkeeper found himself it proved to be the right tool for the job and his quick thinking probably prevented a serious incident.”
Simon Sugrue – a former Master Mariner - is no stranger to the Aldis lamp, having started his seagoing career in 1950 when they were still in regular service. He said: “It was an interesting minute or so on watch, with the Aldis lamp in my right hand and the phone jammed in my ear with an open line to the coastguard, who wanted a running commentary on the unfolding situation.”
A Decade of Service
On 30th June, at a Buffet Supper, Watchkeepers from Bass Point on the Lizard gathered at Mullion Golf Club to honour Graham Perry, who has also served the NCI at Nare Point, for his 10-Year Long Service Award. Graham lives in Mawgan-in-Meneage.
The long service award was presented by Adrian Boaden, our Guest of Honour, representing the Goonhilly Wind Farm Community Fund. Bass Point Station was fortunate to be awarded two grants in 2016 totalling £6,000 from the Fund to improve the facilities at the Lookout Building
Adrian Boaden said: “The watchkeepers at Bass Point provide an important service to the walking and seafaring communities around the Lizard, often in the most difficult weather conditions. It gives me great pleasure in presenting this award to Graham Perry for his dedicated service. Bass Point Station is in the business of saving lives and I admire what they do.”
Bass Point Station Manager, Peter Clements, added: “It’s hard to run a lookout like Bass Point without the help and dedication of people like Graham. We are always keen to welcome new members to the team and anyone who is interested in becoming an NCI Watchkeeper should contact me by email – [email protected].”
Pictured below are Graham Perry and Adrian Boaden and Adrian with all the Watchkeepers present that evening
Bass Point Coastwatch Visit to RNAS Culdrose Meteorology Department
On Wednesday 1st February 2017, volunteer watchkeepers from Bass Point NCI were privileged to be hosted by the Meteorological Department of the Royal Naval Air Station, Culdrose, led by Senior Meteorological Officer, Lt Cdr Dan Mc Mahon, in the Control Tower. The Culdrose Met Team provide detailed forecasts for RN Aircraft out to 100 miles, critical for helicopter training and movements, as well as providing vital information for the National Meteorological Office at Exeter.
The visitors were given a superb briefing on how met data from local observations is managed and disseminated. As Bass Point Watchkeepers know only too well, local weather conditions in and around the LizardPeninsula are very changeable and it was good to learn how the Culdrose Team occasionally needs to contact local NCI Stations for immediate weather conditions.
In addition to visiting the Meteorological Department, the Watchkeepers were briefed at the top of the Control Tower, in the Visual Control Room, on how aircraft operations are managed, and saw the wider area air traffic control capability in ther radar room.
Pictured in the photograph below are Lt Cdr McMahon with the visiting Watchkeepers from Bass Point Coastwatch inside the Meteorological Operations Room.
Joint Presentations: Falmouth Coastguard, the Lizard Lifeboat Station and Bass Point NCI
A series of public presentations took place on the Lizard Peninsula during November 2016, organised by HM Coastguard in Falmouth, involving the Lizard Lifeboat Station and Bass Point NCI. As far as is known, this is the first time that the three local safety at sea organisations have teamed together to deliver a combined presentation to members of the public. The talks covered the history and role of the 3 organisations leading up to the important issues that they currently face today, in the light of the fact that the Lizard Peninsula receives over 300,000 visitors each year.
The presentation by the Lizard Lifeboat Station charted how it is working with the local community to deliver the RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign ‘Respect the Water’. The campaign aims to educate those at risk of the potential dangers of water and ultimately halve the number of coastal drownings nationally. For HM Coastguard, led by Senior Coastal Operations Officer, Tom Ebbens, there is a campaign to recruit volunteers to join the three, Lizard-Peninsula-based cliff rescue teams. Volunteers did indeed come forward. We, at Bass Point NCI, have a continuous requirement to recruit new watch keepers and, in the outcome of the talks, 2 new volunteers came forward, so the exercise was well worthwhile.
Pictured in the photograph below, taken at the Paris Hotel, Coverack on 29th November 2016, are the presenters: Tom Ebbens, HM Coastguard (Centre) flanked by Jerry Marks of the Lizard Lifeboat Station (Left) and Robert Wright of Bass Point NCI Station (Right).
Bass Point NCI Visit to Newquay Search and Rescue Base
On 20th October 2016, nine watchkeepers together with some of their partners visited the Newquay Search and Rescue (SAR) Base run by Bristow for HM Coastguard. The Party was looked after by the helicopter crew on duty that day led by Captain Darren Manser.
This brand-new base has been operational since 1st January 2016, having taken over the SAR roles of 771 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose and 22 Squadron RAF at Chivenor, equipped with Sea King helicopters.
After a briefing, the Bass Point Party was shown around one of the two Sikorsky S-92 SAR Helicopters at the Base. These are modern aircraft, purpose-built for SAR, and have an impressive suite of avionics, surveillance technologies and communications. With 250 miles range to include 30 minutes over a casualty vessel, they are a third faster than the old Sea Kings they replaced. They have a rear ramp to off-load stretcher-borne injured and their pay load to lift personnel is limited only by the ability to pack people in to the fuselage.
It was heartening to learn that all the five air crews that provide 365 days a year coverage, 24 hours a day for 99% availability, are ex-Service personnel, with many years SAR experience from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Bristow.
New Chairs in the Watchroom
The Watchroom in the Lookout has been equipped recently with 2 new chairs. These were purchased with donations given in memory of our friend and colleague, Deputy Station Manager Alan Edwards, who died in April 2016.
Long Service Awards
Long Service Awards were presented at a special presentation evening at Mullion Golf Club on Friday 1st July. The presentations were made by Ian Fitter, Executive Commander RNAS Culdrose (the son of one of our watch keepers and pictured 2nd from right) and Peter Clements, Station Manager Bass Point (2nd from left). The awards were presented to Dave Gibbins (5 years service, left), Peter Sandford (15 years service, centre) and Robert Wright (5 years service, right).
Grant from Goonhilly Wind Farm Community Fund
Bass Point NCI Station received a generous grant from the Goonhilly Wind Farm Community Fund, which allowed us to carry out a 10-Year Electrical Upgrade in the Lookout Building. The work was carried out by Electricians from Hollands & Long Ltd of Helston in May 2016. There was no disruption to the operation of the Lookout during the upgrade. Peter Clements, Station Manager, said "We very much appreciate the assistance given by the Goonhilly Wind Farm Community Fund, which will improve greatly our capability of looking after those at sea and on the coast in sight of the Lookout.
Pictured below are Electricians working in the Lookout
The Great Big Cornish Gig Project
The Great Big Cornish Gig Project was an inspirational venture in which wounded, injured and sick Service veterans not only learned new boat-building skills in building a pilot gig at the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, but also faced the challenge and adventure of delivering the fruit of their labour – a pilot gig named “Valiant” - from Falmouth to the Isles of Scilly. At the Isles of Scilly, “Valiant” was handed over to the Help for Heroes Gig Racing Team, who then competed in the World Pilot Gig Championships.
The passage, from Falmouth to the Isle of Scilly, which took two weeks to complete in stages, was both perilous and hard going in the strong winds of April and not all the stages could be rowed. Nevertheless Bass Point NCI watched over the progress of “Valiant” from Coverack to Cadgwith on 4th April and from Cadgwith to Mullion Cove on 5th April 2016. Cape Cornwall NCI and Gwennap Head NCI oversaw the stage from Sennen to Tresco, Isles of Scilly, on 17th April 2016. Lt Cdr Mike Lynch, of the Project Safety Team, said “Safety throughout was paramount, and having the watchful eyes of the NCI stations with us all along the way was both a great source of comfort and additional confidence in the overall safety plan.”
Valiant Approaching Bass Point Escorted by the Lizard Lifeboat
Valiant Entering Mullion Cove Harbour
Obituary: Alan Edwards Deputy Station Manager
Alan Edwards played a key role in two Cornish NCI Stations - Nare Point and Bass Point, both on the LizardPeninsula – and there are many people who will recognise the huge contribution he made to these stations during his service to the NCI.
On retirement from his working life, Alan moved to St Keverne in Cornwall, where he bred pigs on a smallholding at Dean Point. Sadly his wife died a year afterwards and, in 2006, Alan became involved with the team that decided to open up a Coastwatch Station at Nare Point. His leadership efforts were outstanding and along with others in the “Black Gang”, as they were known, he restored Nare Point from a derelict, windowless, ex-MOD Torpedo Range Observation Post into a fully-functioning watch station. “Black Gang” was no exaggeration because, during the initial work there, the Team was covered from head to toe in filth. The Station opened in July 2007, with Alan as Station Manager. Alan was involved heavily too, in fundraising for the Station, giving talks to Women’s Institutes, many other organisations and selling the Station merchandise at these events.
Alan left Nare Point NCI in August 2008 and joined Bass Point the following month. He was a key member of the Station Training Team and became the Deputy Station Manager (Maintenance) in 2011. As a Trainer, he had a quiet, calm approach to teaching trainees – for those struggling to complete the wet log book; he’d explain “just write down what you see”. As a Deputy Station Manager, nothing was too much trouble: he was always available for advice at all hours of the day and he was a very strong supporter of the Management Team. He would have completed his 10 years service to the NCI this year and his 10-Year Certificate was presented to his sister after his funeral on 6th May 2016.
Alan Edwards 15th October 1944 – 6th April 2016
Alan Edwards Pictured at Nare Point NCI Station 2008
Boxing Day Surprise
Bass Point Station received a marvellous donation to their station funds when the Chairman of Helston and District Sea Angling Club, Steve Holyer, came to the Lookout on Boxing Day to present the Station with a cheque for £1,344. For various reasons, the Club is closing down and the remaining funds are being passed to the Station.
Steve Holyer, from Cadgwith, said that many members of the Club, who fished out of Cadgwith and other local harbours, were aware of the Watchkeepers keeping an eye open for them at the Bass Point Lookout, whilst they were fishing at sea, and that it seemed right to give something back to the Station as the Club closed.
Peter Clements, Station Manager, said that the Watchkeepers had enjoyed looking out for members of the Angling Club over the years and were extremely grateful for their generous donation. It will be put to good use to further the Station’s efforts to protect people around the coast.
Pictured below are Steve Holyer and Bass Point Treasurer, Peter Martin
771 NAS (Search and Rescue) Presents the Station with a Plaque
Watchkeepers and their guests gathered again at Mullion Golf Club on Monday 7th December 2015 for a Buffet Supper at which Lt Cdr Andy Watts from 771 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose presented the Station with a Squadron Plaque. This was to commemorate the professional association both organisations have enjoyed over the past 21 years. The Squadron hands over its Search and Rescue role to Coastguard Helicopters (run by Bristow Helicopters) at NewquayAirport next month.
Lt Cdr Watts said that 771 Squadron felt very reassured, whenever they were flying around the Cornish Coast, that there were stations such as Bass Point Coastwatch keeping an eye open for them and the situations they faced.
Pictured below are Lt Cdr Andy Watts with Watchkeeper Chris Trerise and Guest, Sam Lawson
Sue Wheeler's Sponsored Swim for the Station
Watchkeeper Sue Wheeler, from Lizard Village, raised over £1,700 for Bass Point by carrying out a sponsored swim from Cadgwith Cove to Kennack Sands on Saturday 19th September 2015.
Sue, a newly-qualified volunteer, carried out the swim, a length of about 2 nautical miles, in one and three quarter hours. She had been training for this swim for 12 weeks. Asked why she joined as a watchkeeper and why she wanted to do the swim, Sue said that she was keen to do something locally, loved watching the sea and was inspired by the role of the Bass Point Station. She said that she enjoyed swimming and thought it was a good way to raise money and awareness.
Sue said that she wanted to thank her husband Rob for his personal support, her safety boat skipper, Thurstan, and his crew, Badger, both from Lizard Village, and all the generous people who sponsored her.
Peter Clements, Station Manager, said that he was absolutely delighted that Sue had carried out the swim and that the Station was very proud of her. He thought it was particularly noteworthy that Sue had disdained a wet suit for an ordinary swimming costume. Even in September, the sea in KennackBay is very cold. Well done Sue!
Pictured below is Sue Wheeler, in purple shorts, with friends and supporters before her swim.
Presentation of Long Service Awards
Watchkeepers and their partners gathered at Mullion Golf Club on Friday 26th June 2015 for a presentation of long service awards.
Station Manager Peter Clements from Perranarworthal welcomed Lt Cdr Andy Watts of 771 Naval Air Squadron (Search and Rescue) as guest of honour. Lt Cdr Watts presented 10-year awards to Joan Kearsley of Coverack and John Symons of Crowntown. Robert Beeman of Constantine received a 5-year award. Two other watchkeepers, Peter Martin and Tony Flynn, were due also to receive awards, but were away on holiday. Andy Watts was presented with a picture of a Sea King Helicopter passing over Bass Point Lookout drawn by Watchkeeper Tony Phillips-Smith of Ashton, who creates the annual Christmas Cards for the Station. Andy Watts said it quite rightly acknowledges the close affinity between the two organisations. He said it would have a fitting and very prominent place within the Squadron and within the future display that RNAS Culdrose will create to honour and recognise the work of 771 Squadron.
Watchkeeper Robbie Wilson from Ruan Minor was asked to cut a 21st Birthday Cake. Robbie Wilson is the only original volunteer watchkeeper left from those who re-opened the old HM Coastguard building at Bass Point in 1994.
A special presentation of a bouquet of flowers was made by Senior Watchkeeper Christopher Trerise from Camborne to Di Newall of Perranarworthal. Christopher said that Di Newall telephones the Station lookout at 8:00 am every morning of each day of the year without fail to make sure that the Watchkeeper has reached the Lookout safely via the South West Coast Path.
Below. Lt Cdr Andy Watts (Left) with Joan Kearsley, John Simons and Robert Beeman.
Below. Lt Cdr Andy Watts with the Sketch drawn by Tony Phillips-Smith.
Below. Robbie Wilson cuts the cake watched by Station Manager Peter Clements
Below. Christopher Trerise presents flowers to Di Newall
The NCI celebrated its 20th Anniversary at a lunch at the Royal Naval Air Station, Culdrose on Saturday 28th June 2014. The event was organised by Peter Clements, Station Manager of NCI Bass Point on the Lizard, and his team, the first station to be established.
Some 40 past and present members of the NCI, including Station Managers from all over Cornwall, led by the NCI Chairman, Alan Richards, were joined by the Chairman of Cornwall Council, members of HM Coastguard Falmouth, HM Coastguard Cliff Rescue Teams from Mullion and Porthoustock, the UK Border Force and the Cadgwith Fishing Fleet together with their wives and partners. Daphne Skinnard, Deputy Lieutenant of Cornwall, was the Guest of Honour.
The Celebration began with a Service of Thanksgiving in the Naval Chapel of Peter and Paul, led by the Revd Brian Swabey and the Revd Tim Wilkinson RN. Lunch was taken in the Wardroom of HMS Seahawk.
At the lunch, long service certificates were awarded to several NCI Members, including Robbie Wilson from Ruan Minor, who was awarded the first ever 20-year certificate being the only original member left from those who started at Bass Point in 1994.
Pictured below is Peter Clements, flanked by Daphne Skinnard and Robbie Wilson with Bass Point Watchkeepers past and present.
Representatives of all the NCI stations in Cornwall gathered in Truro on 3rd August to be presented with the Queens award for voluntary service vy Lady Mary Holborow, the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall.
July 2010On Monday 26th July the Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Tim Thornton, visited the National Coastwatch Station at Bass Point on The Lizard. He was welcomed by the Station Manager, Peter Clements, Training Manager, Mick Lawrence, and Duty Watchkeeper, Alan Edwards.
During his visit the Bishop showed a keen interest in the Stations's electronic and communications equipment and quite by chance witnessed what would have evolved into an actual rescue operation when an inflatable dinghy was spotted being blown out to sea off Kennack Sands. Happily it was soon ascertained that there was nobody on board, and it was last seen heading for France at a steady 2 to 3 knots.
On leaving Bishop Tim congratulated everyone concerned with the running of what he described as an invaluable service.
On 21st July the Station Manager, Peter Clements, went to Buckingham palace to receive the Queens award for voluntary service behalf of the station.
Pictured below, from left to right, are Alan Edwards, Senior Watchkeeper, Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro, Peter Clements, Station Manager and Mick Lawrence, Deputy Station Manager.