We were really excited because we were going on a fieldtrip. Our class were doing a "Marine Project" and we were visiting the Dunmore East RNLI Station and the Air/Sea Rescue Centre at Waterford Airport.

We left our school early in the morning. It was a beautiful sunny day. We travelled to Dunmore East by bus. We talked all the way and some people sang.

When we arrived in Dunmore East the bus stopped outside the RNLI station on the pier. It is near the shipyard.

We met John; he is an RNLI member and was our guide at the station. He showed us the changing room first. We saw the screen where the emergency details are displayed. There is a notice board for training information.

We learned that the station has 24 lifeboat crewmembers. The first ten have their own bad weather clothing and the remainder have to share. The crew wear bright yellow overalls, boots and jackets when they're going to sea. They wear inflatable lifejackets with a built in harness so that they can be hoisted up into a helicopter during a rescue. They are all volunteers and only the mechanic is full time. The lifeboat usually goes to sea with a crew of eight but it can go with only five people.

We asked John some questions.

We learned that the lifeboat can travel at 25mph. Their last rescue was of a lone sailor, a girl from France whose boat capsized when it lost its keel. She was 50 miles off shore and it took the lifeboat 3 hours for the lifeboat to reach her. She wouldn't leave her boat because she wanted to save it so the lifeboat had to tow the boat back to Dunmore East. On the way her boat kept capsizing.

Mostly the lifeboat goes out in rough weather except maybe if someone gets injured on a fishing trawler. You have to be 17 years old to volunteer for the lifeboat. There are 2 ladies on the crew and one of them has a skipper's ticket. The lifeboat can carry 40/50 people in an emergency. The Dunmore East boat is a Trent class lifeboat so if it capsizes it can right itself again. It takes 4 yrs to train as a crewmember. Their last rescue was 6 weeks ago.

The nearest all-weather stations to Dunmore East are Kilmore Quay and Ballycotton. There are flank stations in Tramore and at Helvick Head. The Ladies Guild is very important because they fundraise for the station by having coffee mornings, sales of work and collections.

About 100 years ago a Dunmore East lifeboat capsized and a crewmember was lost. The Dunmore East lifeboat carries out about 24-30 rescues a year. The worst storm John could remember was in 1952. The crew never get seasick when they're working on a rescue. The lifeboat crew carry a pager that beeps when there is an emergency and a message tells them to assemble.

We watched a video about the lifeboats. We saw them rescue people at sea in stormy weather. It said there were 8 all weather lifeboats around Ireland. A Severn class boat costs £2 million and a Trent class lifeboat costs £1.5 million to build. 8 more lifeboats will be stationed around the Irish coast over the next few years.

We got some magazines. The RNLI has a special magazine for children called "Storm Force".

We visited the radio room. We saw the machine for paging the crew. There is have a VHF radio for talking to the lifeboat. The have a fax and computer. The computer is used for crew training using simulation programs.

We left the station and walked across the pier to the Trent class lifeboat. It is called the "Elizabeth and Ronald". We went on four at a time. We walked around the deck. We saw the hoist for lifting people out of the water. The boat has an anchor on each side. There were lots of seats in the cabin just like an airplane. We climbed the steps up to the bridge. We were able to see all around the harbour from there. The bridge has a steering wheel for steering the boat. There was a second steering wheel in the cabin.

It was nearly lunchtime so we said goodbye to John and we went to the park for lunch. We enjoyed exploring the park and running about.

Next we travelled to Waterford Airport. There we met Davitt, Tommy and Morgan the crew of the rescue helicopter. They told us about Alouette helicopter.

It's about 38 yrs old and very delicate so we had to be very careful. The Alouette has one engine and three blades. By law you need two engines for flying over a city. It can travel at 120mph and uses one gallon of fuel a minute. The Alouette can carry seven people. Morgan is the pilot, Tommy is the winch operator and Davitt is the winchman.

There is a QRB or quick release button at the end of the winch-line so the winchman can release himself for moving about a boat. The winchman wears a bosun's chair when he is going out on the winch. He usually carries a sling for hoisting people up to the helicopter. If it is a sea rescue he wears an immersion suit to keep him dry and warm. All the crew wear lifejackets for sea rescues. The Alouette always carries special emergency equipment like flares that give off smoke, strobes that flash at night, radio beacons so they can be located and air bottles to allow the crew to breath for 3-4 minutes underwater if the helicopter has to ditch in the sea.

Next we had to move back and take off our hats as they started up the helicopter. It was very noisy and windy as the Alouette took off. First the helicopter flew in circles around the airport. Then Davitt, the winchman was lowered down to the ground. He opened out a stretcher and put our teacher Mr. Kelly on it. Davitt strapped him onto the stretcher very tightly. If it were a real rescue at sea the winchman would first have to assess if the person needed medical attention. The winchman would have to decide whether to "stay and play" or "load and go". Next they hooked the stretcher onto wire and winched Davit and the stretcher up into the helicopter. It was very exciting to watch.

Finally they landed the helicopter and let our teacher out. We went back to the airport building and thanked the helicopter crew.

It was time to return to school.

We thought it was an excellent day. It was very exciting and we learned a lot.

We'd like to go on the fieldtrip again.

Ms. Creagh's 3rd class,
St. Mary's National School,
Ballygunner,
Waterford,
Éire.