Broadcaster backs Coastwatch effort

BOAT-mad broadcaster and writer Paul Heiney has become the patron of one of Felixstowe's sea rescue services.

BOAT-mad broadcaster and writer Paul Heiney has become the patron of one of Felixstowe's sea rescue services.

Mr Heiney has agreed to take on the role for Coastwatch, which he says has a vital role to play in ensuring safety on the seafront and alerting emergency services to those in trouble on the water.

The group, which is part of a national chain of 32 observation stations around the country's coastline, is based at the top of the Martello Tower on the resort's south seafront.

A total of 31 watchkeepers keep a look-out from the top of the monument, manning it at weekends throughout the year, with additional shifts during the summer months.

They can see the whole of the bay from Cobbold's Point to Landguard, with a restricted view in just one place, near the funfair.

Mr Heiney, whose task will be to promote Coastwatch, said the need for people keeping a watch on those using the water and the beach was essential.

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“There is a lot to be said for modern methods of communications, computer systems and navigation for keeping watch on the sea, but nothing can replace the human eye ball in conjunction with the brain,” he said.

“For those of us who are water users, to know that in coastal waters like this, which are complex and potentially very dangerous, there are eyes watching us is astonishingly reassuring.”

Mr Heiney said in many ways the clock had been turned back a couple of centuries with the need for volunteers to keep a physical watch over the coast.

Those using the waters included some of the biggest container ships in the world, fishing vessels, hundreds of leisure sailors, as well as jet-skiers, sailboarders, and people on inflatables and in small boats, or walking or playing on the beach.

Station manager Keith Norgan said the station had just received Declared Facility Status from the coastguard to recognise its work and the role it plays in liaising with and assisting the emergency services in incidents.

Volunteers are needed to train as watchkeepers and people interested in finding out more about the role should call 01394 670808.

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