National Coastwatch Institution

I recently spent an enjoyable and informative couple of hours with the team at the St. Alban’s Head Lookout Station in Dorset, part of the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI).

The NCI is a voluntary organisation that aids in the preservation of life at sea. The station contrasted in almost every way with my visit to the Maritime Coastguard Agency at Fareham, where you can’t see the sea. The NCI makes use of radio, radar, electronic weather stations, the Internet and other technological aids, but its philosophy is more geared towards the Mark I Eyeball. As they say themselves,

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 surveillance.”

The photo above shows the ‘pelorus’ or ‘bearing ring’ used for taking the true bearing of objects at sea. Search though I did, I couldn’t find anywhere to plug it in.

The MCA may be high tech and out of sight of the sea, where the NCI is low tech and still keeps its eyes fixed on the blue stuff, but the two organisations share a few traits: they are both laudable, professional and part of a safer world for seafarers. I salute them both, but prefer the views that the NCI volunteers get.

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