Today’s speaker was Richard Neale, Station Manager for the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) at their Woolpack Point Station, in the Deer Park close to Martin’s Haven. The National Coastwatch is an entirely voluntary organisation keeping a visual watch along UK shores. Each station assists in the protection and preservation of life at sea and around the UK coastline. Currently 50 NCI stations are operational and manned by over 2000 volunteers keeping watch around the British Isles.
Richard talked at length about the history of wrecks & rescues on the short stretch of dangerous coastline north of the Haven covered by their Watch and the changes that have occurred over the years to establish safety for mariners, boaters and those using the waters around Skomer Island. Whilst high technology and sophisticated systems are aids to improved safety, a computer cannot spot a distress flare, an overturned boat or a yachtsman or fisherman in trouble. Other vulnerable activities like diving, wind surfing and canoeing are made safer with visual surveillanceof volunteers.
NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are volunteers trained to deal with emergencies and to support the other rescue services, offering a variety of skills and experience.