The Coastguard Cutter Vol5 No11


The Coastguard Cutter
November 07 Edition
Vol 5 No. 11.

"The Lady Margaret"


Hello Friend,

When a method of saving life by firing, by rocket, a line aboard a stranded ship from shore with a Breeches Buoy it was hailed as an extremely mobile piece of apparatus to be used by two men. Coastguard Stations were positioned to catch smugglers on nice sandy beaches. Many ships came ashore on rocky headlands and so the Rocket Apparatus Carts were introduced to carry the bulky and cumbersome equipment. these carts were sometimes pulled by men or horses for four or five miles in terrible weather conditions.


Rocket Cart.

Portrush Rocket Life Saving Company

Portrush Rocket Life Saving Company, who were volunteers under Coastguard management, used this Wreck Post on Ramore Head for their quarterly practice exercises (one of which was always carried out in darkness). With the post representing a ship’s mast, a Boxer Rocket (named after the military engineer Captain Boxer) could carry a line up to 200 yards from ‘shore’ to the team at the ‘mast’. A whip and whip block was pulled to the mast, then a hawser, i.e. a heavier rope, was secured to the whip and hauled to the post. This hawser was untied and secured to the mast above the whip block. When secure the Breeches block was hauled out to the ‘mast’. In a real situation the crew would then be pulled ashore, one by one. The exercise would typically last two hours, for which the members were paid.. Founded in 1822 as a branch of the Revenue Service, the coastguard was transferred to the Admiralty around 1856 and soon their 300 teams around the coast, including the one at Portrush, were performing more rescues than the RNLI, and by the end of the nineteenth century had saved 14,000 lives with their rocket, line and Breeches Buoy. Although this post survived only until the early 1930s, the Breeches buoy was used until 1988 when it was wholly superseded by the Sea King helicopter which is able to fly in bad weather.

Ref: “Old Portrush, Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway” by Alex F.Young.  p.48.


Isle of Wight Coastguards at practice Rocket cart drill.

Full size photos available on site in the photogallery.

Wooden plaque sent aboard by rocket line with instructions on use of rescue apparatus.

Melancholy Shipwreck. 1864.

Ardmore.CoWaterford. Monday.- At midnight yesterday the wind blew with full power from the S.S.E.. Between 12 and 1 o’clock the Coastguards observed a vessel in full sail bearing in direct from the east. They at once they hauled their ensign to the top of their flagstaff, but the tide being then scarcely half “in”, those on board the vessel were unable to run her in on the sandy beach, and (as it subsequently proved), being wholly ignorant of the locality, her head was turned to the rocky-bound northern side of the bay, and the result was as melancholy as it was rapid and disastrous.. The vessel became unmanageable , and was driven with fatal fury upon the rocks, no less than six persons falling victims to the boisterous waves. Coastguard, constabulary, and the inhabitants turned out to render what assistance was in their power.

The lifeboat and Manby’s admirable rocket apparatus were brought down as near as possible to the vessel, but it was found utterly impracticable to make the former in any way available, or, in fact to launch her at all. When the vessel struck she keeled over on her side, every succeeding wave, breaking her up in pieces. The Coastguard, under their efficient officer, Mr. Thomas Coveney, availed themselves to make a communication, with the aid of Manby’s apparatus, and in the very first attempt they were happily successful; but the poor fellows on board, evidently knowing nothing of its method of working, made no effective effort to attach the line properly to the vessel., and, though every conceivable signal was made to them from shore, it was all in vain, for in a short time the communication was completely broken off. With the ship breaking up providentially the mainmast and roundhouse kept together, and to it ten of the poor fellows clung with the energy of despair.

Six of the crew were, however, washed overboard- the carpenter, cook, a sailor and three boys. Another attempt was made to throw a line to the vessel with the rocket apparatus- happily again successfully, and by the aid of the rope the captain, mate, and seven of the crew were brought to land. One of the sailors threw himself overboard and caught a spar, on which he was washed in, having received only a few bruises. Those saved were at once carried up to the adjoining cottages of the villagers, who cheerfully assisted them by providing them with dry clothes, etc .The vessel was a 400 ton Maltese barque, the ‘Sextusa’ laden with Indian corn.The rescued sailors who lost everything belonging to them, were supplied with clothing by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Association, and will be forwarded by the society to some of the chief seaports.

Ref: The Times, London 3 February 1865.

Nautical  Terms

In 1740, British Admiral Vernon (whose nicknane was "Old Grogham" for the cloak of groghem which he wore) ordered that the sailor's daily ration of rum be diluted with water. The men called the mixture "grog". A sailor who drank too much grog was "groggy".


A small triangular sail set above the skysail in order to maximize effect in a light wind.


Fleet Revenue News


The “Melampus” 1904.

The “Melampus”, cruiser, Comm. E.G.H. Gamble, is at present in Lough Swilly recruiting for the Royal Navy and drilling Coastguards.



Ref: The Times, England 28 October 1904.


UK CG NewsCoastguard News from England

Gallant Conduct of the Coast Guard at St. Andrews. 1840.

Rescue of a brig and 13 men.- We have had several opportunities upon remarking on the prompt and successful efforts of Lieutenant Cox and his Coast Guard in rescuing a vessel and men from from death and destruction, but on no occasion has the intrepidity and judicious conduct of this humane and highly meritorious officer been more signally and happily evinced than on Friday evening last. Six vessels were labouring all day in the bay, and now and then trying to take the harbour, were deterred by the heavy swell that rolled. It was indeed, a most wonderful scene, and witnessed by hundreds of spectators. At this period the life-boat was seen making its way most majestically “taking the rough billows by the tops”. It was the undaunted Lieutenant and his crew, with the addition of a few strong and fearless fishermen, resolved to save from a watery grave, or themselves to perish in the noble attempt. A brig had been observed for a considerable time in danger near the mouth of the bay. Captain Cox at once estimated the danger and at about 4 o’clock he and his crew were seen in the bay, nearing the poor vessel which on account of the ebb tide, was now every instant in danger of striking the bottom., Their approach, however, was not perceived by the captain or crew till they were close upon them, and the effect which the discovery had upon all on board may be more correctly imagined than it can be expressed. With great care and no little risk, the ship was at last conducted into the pool, or deep water and the life-boat lay alongside of her till the following morning. The vessel proved to be the ‘Isabella and Ann’, of Aberdeen, James Hutchinson, master. The crew amounted to twelve. We earnestly hope that a subscription will be set on foot for a piece of plate, suitably inscribed, to Captain Cox, a very meritorious officer. (Fife Herald)

Ref: Freemans Journal 2 January 1840.

Watching the Coast. 1914.

To the Editor of The Times. Sir,- I receive many offers of assistance to watch the coast. This is already adequately provided for, but I would ask the gentry round the coast to visit and assist if necessary the wives and children of the Coast Guards, many of the latter being at sea. Owing to the isolated positions of many of the coast Guard stations and the probable dislocation of local traffic and food supplies, some of the women and children, and even the men (who are not on rations, but get a money allowance in lieu0, may be hard up for food. Assistance in the direction I have indicated would be of immense service.. Yours faithfully,

A.M. Farquhar, Admiral Commanding Coast Guard and Reserves, Naval reserves, 58, Victoria St. S.W. Aug.9.

Ref: The Times, London 11 August 1914.

Coming in December Edition.

Bits and Pieces. 





The saving of life has always been a prime consideration by people living by the sea. They united with Coastguard Officers and fishermen, at great risk to their own lives, at times of shipwreck and saved men, women and children from the turbulent and hungry seas. This tradition will always remain with us. Teaching our children to know and beware the dangers of the sea has to be foremost in our minds. A letter by one of our long-time readers is posted below and highlights boat rescue and lifesaving. Also Brian's photos of the equipment on his website are well worth looking at.

"Have just read your October edition of the Coastguard Cutter which I always find most interesting. I notice that the next edition will contain information on Rocket carts, I have the one from Crosshaven with the original equipment ( 1864) fully restored and in full working order. This is regularly exhibited and demonstrated at Vintage rally’s, schools and regattas in the County Cork area. It is primarily used to promote water safety, children are given the opportunity to experience "Being rescued by Breeches Buoy” by being pulled along the Jackstay in the original Breeches Buoy. With water safety literature each one gets a certificate stating that they were rescued by Breeches Buoy to remind them re water safety. Also on display are some quite rare items used by the Coastguards which I have “Acquired” and indeed purchased from various sources and I have now about 95 percent of the equipment originally used.

There were Three modified sets of Breeches Buoy rocket sets issued from 1860 until April 2003 (in Ireland), the second set came circa 1953 until circa 1980, this set replaced the old hemp ropes and timber blocks with man made ropes, Tufnell and stainless steel blocks, it old Boxer rocket was replaced by the Schermuly 3” Coastguard rocket. In circa 1980 this was still carried on the original horse drawn cart. In circa 1980 the “Lightweight pack” replaced this and Coastguard trailers replaced the carts and wagons, these were withdrawn with the breeches buoy equipment in April 2003. I have in my possession all three versions in full working order and the second version is regularly demonstrated over the moat from the castle walls to the road at Charles Fort Kinsale each September during the military re-enactment weekend. You can access the images by looking at my website."

Regards Brian.

Captain Brian Smith

Bluewater Training

Inniscarra, Co Cork



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