Bantry Inshore Search and Rescue Association is a voluntary group set up to provide an emergency lifeboat service to the Bantry Bay community. The recently commissioned lifeboat, “St. Brendan”, is manned, managed and crewed by local volunteers.

BISRA was formed in 1987, after the tragic drowning of two young people in the upper bay area. The RNLI and the Department of the Marine were approached at the time with a view to putting an inshore boat in the upper bay but they felt that the lifeboats from Valentia and Baltimore covered the bay adequately. The local community felt that this was not good enough and set about establishing a rapid response unit to cover the area from Shot Head to White Horse Point.

A committee was established to fund the purchase of an inflatable boat and an outboard engine. Having done this the next obstacle was housing the craft. A 40ft container was purchased and located courtesy of Bantry Terminals Ltd. in the corner of Reenrour facing the strand. Constant upgrading and improvement of the service was seen as a priority, and the first boat was soon replaced with a rigid inflatable (RIB) complete with a 60hp outboard engine.

1987:The launch of Bantry Inshore Search & Rescue Association (Photo courtsy of Ian Vickery)

In order to achieve 24 hours coverage of the Bay a larger RIB was purchased in 1996, with two 60hp engines giving a top speed of 38 knots. Although Bantry Inshore Search and Rescue Association is a stand-alone organisation that is completely independent of the RNLI and other rescue services, the standards adopted were those of the then Irish Marine Emergency Services (now Irish Coast Guard) and the RNLI – although certain financial restraints prevent all of their practices being mirrored.

1996: BISRA’s second Boat with Container in the background.

The crew is made up of people living or working within Bantry town, although a number of shore crew and non-emergency members reside a little further out. All can be called upon at very short notice.

In 1999 the committee decided that the container that had housed the boats for 11 years was obsolete and if the service was to progress a great deal of work and money had to be invested in the construction of a purpose built boathouse and facilities. To this end planning was applied for in September 1999, and construction work began in December. The boathouse was completed and the boat re-housed in the new facility in June 2000.


1999: Construction of the first phase of the Boathouse         1999: BISRA’s “Boathouse Builders”

The new facility is located in the position of the original container with a slight incline out of the house onto a purpose built slipway. Launch is achieved by gravity and the boat can be waterborne in 10 to 15 seconds at any stage of the tide, from the decision to launch.

In order to maintain the policy of continued improvement for the service, a new boat was purchased in March 2002. The new lifeboat, – the first “St. Brendan” – was an ex RNLI Atlantic 21 design RIB which had been retired from the RNLI after twenty years service and completely refurbished when it was acquired by BISRA. More sophisticated than any of its predecessors, it was capable of dealing with marine emergencies in more severe weather.


2002: The first “St. Brendan”

The new craft placed greater demands on the Association in terms of housing the boat and crew training, and in 2003 work began on an extension to the existing boathouse to include a training and control room, and more recently, a crew changing area. Work on this was completed in 2004.


2003: Work begins on the training, crew changing area and control room.

Young people from the age of 16 are encouraged to become involved with the lifeboat, and at present a number of 16 – 18 year olds are proving to be valuable members of our crews. The association also develops and implements various annual Water Safety initiatives and programmes to teach young people of all ages the dangers associated with the marine environment. This also includes presentations to the local schools.

Funding for the Bantry Inshore Search and Rescue Association comes mainly from the people of Bantry and the surrounding areas, with an annual allowance from the Department of the Marine. To operate the station and maintain the equipment costs in the region of €25,000 per year.

In March 2003 a 15 foot Avon inflatable boat with a 40 hp outboard engine was purchased. This craft is capable of being road transported to areas inaccessible to the larger “St. Brendan”. Used for training exercises, it has proved to be a valuable asset, and has been used for several inshore rescues. It has also seen service as a safety-boat for other marine activities in the Bay area – for example, the Bantry Regatta and the Irish Water Safety Children’s swimming initiative.

2003: BISRA’s 15ft Avon (pictured here in July 2006 as sfety boat for the Irish Water Safety Swimming Classes)

In 2006 the committee took the decision to replace the Atlantic 21 with Bantry’s first brand new lifeboat. After considering several options from a number of boat builders, BISRA placed an order with Marine Specialised Technology in Liverpool, England, for an MST 750 Rescue craft. The new boat was delivered in December 2006 and following acceptance trials was put into service by BISRA on December 18th, and a new and exciting chapter in the history of Bantry Inshore Search & Rescue Association began. The new boat – also named “St. Brendan” – will continue the traditions established by her predecessors and set a new standard in safety and emergency response for BISRA.

2006: BISRA’s second “St. Brendan” and first new Boat – an MST 750 RIB.